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Jefferson County Planning Board questions the safety of wind turbines

Jefferson County Planning Board member Clifford J. Schneider worries about the day when a wind turbine spins out of control and throws pieces of equipment all over the place.

Mr. Schneider, a former Cape Vincent town councilman who opposes wind turbine projects, told his fellow county Planning Board members on Tuesday that he became more alarmed about such a thing happening after a personal wind turbine on County Route 7 in Cape Vincent began spinning out of control during some high winds in October.

His comments came up during a discussion of some village-wide zoning amendments that the Dexter Village Board is considering to regulate small, noncommercial wind turbines. The zoning changes include language that wind turbines should have a property setback of 1½ times the turbine’s height, so a turbine would never fall into a neighbor’s yard.

But that’s not good enough, Mr. Schneider said before voting against the proposed amendments. Although they were approved 8-1 with Dexter Village Planning Board Chairman John D. Doolittle abstaining, Mr. Schneider argued successfully that comments should be forwarded to Dexter to consider because it’s “a public safety issue.”

“They can come apart” if the turbine fails and spins out of control, Mr. Schneider said, adding that’s what happened with a 200-foot-tall turbine in Europe a few years ago and pieces flew as far as 1,600 feet away.

“It’s something that you should look at,” he said, encouraging that the setbacks to be increased.

Part of the problem: requirements are not stringent enough to have engineers install wind turbines, he said. He also said the whole story never came out about some turbines outside Lowville that had some problems “with their tips.”

Mr. Schneider said he tried to contact the manufacturer of the Cape Vincent turbine that malfunctioned back in October to see what may have caused the problem.

At the time, the 92-foot turbine’s owner, Roger D. Alexander, said he was testing it on his 35157 Route 7 property but would not comment further.