The Fallsburg Planning Board will consider granting a special permit to Sullivan County Community College to build a 250-foot tall wind turbine, despite vocal opposition at a public hearing last week.
This is the second proposed turbine project at the Loch Sheldrake campus to come before the board in recent months. Along with an existing geothermal heating system, the turbines are part of SCCC’s push to use clean energy sources.
The latest proposed turbine would likely produce about 1.3 million kilowatt hours a year, enough to supply at least a third of the college’s electricity, according to Henry duPont, a wind energy consultant with Lorax Energy Systems who is working on the project.
But some local residents aren’t so eager to see this shade of green. For them, the anticipated noise of the latest proposed turbine outweighs the environmental benefits.
“I would suggest that the purpose of the campus is to educate students,” said Deborah Chandler, a South Fallsburg resident and former SCCC professor.
Chandler and a handful of other Fallsburg residents complained that the noise would distract students and employees, in addition to causing a nuisance to neighbors. Engineers on hand for the hearing, however, countered the concerns raised.
Two models are being considered for the propeller turbine, which would be built about 150 feet behind the main campus building, above the geothermal field. One proposed model has three blades, the other has two.
Because the two-bladed turbine would be slightly louder, engineers cited its noise levels. The center of the blades would record a decibel level of 99, on par with a chainsaw or subway. On the ground 328 feet from the turbine, the decibel level would be 43, which falls between the noise levels of a whisper and normal conversation, at 30 and 60 decibels, respectively.
“Some people compare it to the sound of the surf in the distance,” duPont said at the public hearing. Responding to concerns that the turbine could be heard inside the college’s library, he added, “You won’t be able to detect it whatsoever behind a pane of glass.”
That didn’t satisfy Alice Walter, whose property abuts the college 2,400 feet from the proposed turbine site.
“The college can’t tell me not to keep my windows open,” Walter said.
The Planning Board requested an elongated report of the turbine’s environmental effects, which will be evaluated before the board takes further action.
By Michal Lumsden
4 January 2008
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