GALLATIN – This southern Columbia County town has closed the public hearing on an application for a zoning variance that would allow construction of a 135-foot-tall wind turbine at Buckwheat Bridge Angoras. But a decision on the controversial proposal is not likely for at least another month.
The hearing was closed June 10 by Richard Humphries, acting chairman of the town Zoning Board of Appeals. A variance is required for the wind turbine because the town zoning law sets a height limit of 75 feet.
The application for the variance was filed by Dr. Daniel Melamed, a urologist, who owns Buckwheat Bridge Angoras, a 200-acre farm at 111 Kozlowski Road. He raises angora goats and Cormo sheep at the farm and wants to put up the wind turbine to generate electricity that would augment the power needed to operate the farm’s solar-powered spinning mill, where mohair and fiber from the animals are processed into wool and yarn.
The wool and yarn are farm products sold along with socks made from the materials.
Melamed says he needs more power than is supplied by his existing solar panels to operate the mill on a more full-time basis. He has said adding solar panels is not an option.
To achieve the minimum 10-mph wind speed necessary to generate the electricity he needs, as well as to qualify for a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) grant and keep the turbine operating efficiently, Melamed’s wind turbine needs to be 120 feet high at the hub, which is what he proposes. The turbine spins and generates current when wind strikes its three blades, each of them 15 feet long. As each blade reaches the top of its arc, the full height of the apparatus would be 135 feet above the ground.
On-site wind data provided by Melamed has been analyzed by the town’s engineering consultant, Ray Jurkowski of Morris Associates. The data support the height and wind speed requirements presented by Melamed, Jurkowski told the board.
The consultant also said the wind turbine would not generate noise greater than “ambient” levels: 50 decibels during the day and 40 decibels at night.
In answer to a question from town resident Ira Levy, Jurkowski said it is possible an on-site wind speed test at a height of 75 feet height might also measure a 10-mph wind speed.
Bob Somers, manager of the Farm Land Protection Unit at the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, said NYSERDA, which has “set up the safety standards and done the research,” calls 10 mph “the break-even number.”
At wind speeds less than 10 mph, “it will take 20 years to pay back the system, and that would not be advantageous,” Somers said.
He said NYSERDA relies on wind information from a private company called AWS True Wind Data, which he said is more accurate than on-site data. AWS data is based on measurements taken over many years by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency commonly referred to as NOAA.
The state Department of Agriculture and Markets supports the wind turbine application, but people who live near the proposed turbine site expressed a number of concerns, including:
* The structure will attract lightning.
* Sun reflecting off the spinning blades will create a flickering effect in their houses.
* Noise generated by the turbine will be amplified by the surrounding terrain.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will begin deliberating the wind turbine application on June 24, when a 6:30 p.m. workshop session is slated with Jurkowski and special counsel Robert Fitzsimmons.
The public is welcome to attend that session but will not be allowed to comment.
By Diane Valden
Special to the Freeman
15 June 2008
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