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GE eyes wind power project

A landmark wind turbine just shy of 400 feet high on the General Electric property off Interstate 890 was described Tuesday to the Rotterdam Planning Commission.

The Capital Region’s first industrial-sized wind turbine will eventually provide about 3 percent of the plant’s energy needs.

The enormous turbine will extend 397 feet from the tip of its rotor to the base of a 250-foot tower, according to plans. GE will construct it near where the Navy test facility once stood, about 800 feet away from the access road running parallel to Interstate 890.

“This is a brand new project that hasn’t ever been done in the Capital Region,” project development manager Ty Remington told commission members. “The town symbol is the windmill and I think this ties quite nicely into that image.”

Remington said the turbine would generate about 2,300 megawatt hours of electricity each year. He said the electricity will be used to power the company’s Renewables Global Headquarters.

The turbine will be equipped with a wind sensor that can determine the optimal direction to face the rotor. The rotor can move in a full circle for a total of nine complete turns before automatically unwinding itself.

At some point, the company plans to build a visitors’ center near the turbine. Remington said the turbine would also be a showpiece for wind energy.

“It kind of sets the stage for new renewable energy projects in the area,” he said.

The proposed turbine will be nearly identical to one GE constructed at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Massachusetts. Dubbed the “Zephyr” by the resort, the tower produces about 33 percent of the total electricity used there and cost about $3.9 million.

Company officials said the project in Rotterdam will be considerably less difficult to build, given the flat topography of GE’s sprawling 628-acre plant and its location near a major highway. The project was tentatively set for completion sometime by summer 2009.

The project will be the first to face scrutiny under a wind energy ordinance now being drafted by the town. Town Planner Peter Comenzo said the new law will likely be adopted before the commission’s review of the turbine project is completed.

Remington said GE was aware of the draft ordinance and had been making plans in anticipation of its being ratified. For instance, he said, the company has already determined it can build turbines on only a sliver of its property due to the setbacks proposed in the law.

“At most, you could get two or three more,” he said. “But at this time, there are no plans to build more.”

GE officials are planning to show a video demonstration of the Jiminy Peak turbine during the commission’s meeting in July.

Commission members were generally receptive to the proposed turbine. Chairman Lawrence DiLallo said the project would provide an excellent model for other renewable energy efforts in the area.

“It’s a very exciting project,” he said. “I know both county and local officials are very in favor of this project.”

By Justin Mason
Gazette Reporter

Daily Gazette

18 June 2008