The town of Saratoga plans to spend the next six months updating planning and zoning rules to accommodate wind energy.
“Not to stop the technology,” Town Supervisor Tom Wood said Monday. “I’m a believer in the technology.”
As Saratoga plans, an international wind company said it can in fact bring the equipment it needs for a large-scale wind project to a mountain near Lake Desolation.
But it’s just that the rural town’s land-use rules make no provisions for wind generating equipment. Wood said the town recently turned down an application for a relatively small household or farm-sized wind turbine.
“We just didn’t have anything in the rules to address it,” he said.
He’s most concerned about how far back from the property line the town should require owners to place their turbines. He’s also worried about noise generated by the blades as they turn.
“But we certainly don’t want to stop the development as wind as a resource,” he said. “I’m all for it.”
According to Web sites of companies that sell small-scale wind-power equipment tower heights vary from at least 30 feet high for small turbines with an 8-foot-sweep to 80 to 120 feet for larger setups.
Contrast that with the commercial wind farm Airtricity has proposed for a mountain ridge near Lake Desolation in the town of Greenfield. The Irish firm has proposed 25 turbines each capable of generating enough power for 750 to 1,000 homes by itself.
Each tower for the Lake Desolation project would be 240 feet high – three times higher than the Wise Insurance Building in Saratoga Springs. The turbine blades would be 70 feet long, as long as a tractor-trailer. The capsule, or spot in the hub of the turbine that contains the generator, is the size of a school bus.
The company had been worried that it couldn’t get the trucks and equipment up windy roads that lead to the site.
Monday, Airtricity Vice President Doug Colbeck said a study done with the help of turbine-maker General Electric Co. revealed no “fatal flaw” that would block transportation.
The next step, he said, is to put up a weather tower, a tower already approved by the town of Greenfield, on the site to gather wind data. So far, the company’s been going according to maps predicting conditions in the area.
“We need to find out what’s really happening,” he said. “So we hope to put that up before October. Then we’ll sit back and watch.”
Colbeck develops wind-power projects all over the northeast. He said a town on Long Island has passed local rules governing household-sized wind power setups. A Delaware County town has virtually blocked wind-power project through zoning, he said.
Michael Valentine of the Saratoga County Planning Department said he knew of no Saratoga County towns that have wind-power zoning. As it stands now, a landowner would go to the town or city building inspector and it would be up to that inspector to determine what site-plan and other approvals would be needed.
At the Environmental Expo held at the Saratoga Springs City Center this year, wind-power salesmen told people they’d need a piece of land at least large enough so that if the tower fell over, it wouldn’t hit anyone else’s property.
By Jim Kinney
13 August 2007