FARMINGTON – An Oregon company won approval Wednesday to build a quarter of the 24 wind-powered electric generating turbines in its proposed South Chestnut Windpower Project.
The Wharton Township zoning hearing board approved a special exception and building setback variances requested by Atlantic Wind LLC for six turbines on Skyline Drive.
The board also ruled that another request for a special exception for an electrical substation and an interconnection facility on Kirby Road was not needed because they are permitted under the township’s zoning ordinance.
Hearings on the petitions were held in November and December.
All the property is zone for agricultural use. The ordinance permits wind energy facilities in agricultural zones with a special exception.
Setback variances were requested for two of the five turbines that would be built on property owned by Neil Brown of Acme because they would be about 500 feet from Skyline Drive and the ordinance requires a 610-foot setback.
The turbines would be built two tracts owned by Brown and one tract owned by Harry and Sandra Sutton of Smithfield. The substation and interconnection facility, which would feed power from the turbines to the power grid, would be built on a parcel on Kirby Road owned by Norman and Emma Gleason of Farmington.
The board’s approval included a note that tax records indicate one of the Brown’s parcels might be in Springhill Township. If so, the board approval for the turbine on that property would not be effective.
The Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board scheduled a hearing on Atlantic Wind’s petition for a special exception for the 18 other turbines in Georges and Springhill townships for Jan. 30.
Gary Verkleeren of Atlantic Wind said he was pleased with the Wharton Township board’s decision.
“It’s a good step for the township and the county. It’s a sign of progress. I think it will be a bright spot for the county,” Verkleeren said.
He said construction would start this summer and the turbines would be operational by the end of the year.
If all 24 turbines were built, they stretch across 31/2 miles of the mountain ridge off of Skyline Drive.
They would generate 50.4 megawatts of power: Enough for 17,000 homes. They would also offset 80,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide emission from coal-fired power plants, company officials said during the initial hearing in November.
Each of the turbines, which are 406 feet tall including the blades, generates 2.1 megawatts. The power would be sold to Allegheny Energy.
Each turbine produces 45 decibels of sound, which is less than the 55 allowed by the ordinance, according to one of the board’s findings of fact.
Atlantic Wind will lease the land for the turbines from the property owners for 20 years and the turbines will be decommissioned when the leases expire, according to a board finding.
The company said it would establish a decommissioning escrow fund. The property owner would retain the escrow and salvage value of the turbines if the company does not remove them after the decommissioning, according to a board finding.
By Steve Ferris
24 January 2008
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