Wind turbines get turn to power Hudson Valley homes; Philipstown man gets OK for turbine to cut emissions amid concern over Hudson scenery
Sometime this spring, the Hudson Highlands skyline will look a bit different.
On the east side of the Hudson, peeking above the trees on the thickly wooded mountains that loom over the river, a sharp eye will spot something new: a wind turbine.
James Gleick, an author and Philipstown resident, is having the turbine installed next to his home, which is nestled on a ridge a few miles north of the Bear Mountain Bridge in Garrison. The turbine, its three windmill-like blades cutting a 23-foot diameter in the wind, is expected to provide about half the electricity Gleick’s house uses.
“We’re concerned about climate change and thought we should do what we can to use the wind blowing by us,” he said recently.
In making the simple but relatively expensive change, Gleick will become one of the first, if not the first, homeowner in the Lower Hudson Valley to install a residential wind turbine on his property. His proposal to put a turbine atop a 152-foot tower in an area long celebrated for its scenic beauty and environmental activism provoked a debate more familiar in communities to the north, where such devices are more common.
Gleick’s application to Philipstown’s zoning board for a variance – required for any structure taller than 40 feet – took 11 tense months to win approval.
The Philipstown review process, which concluded in the fall, ultimately led the town to impose a six-month moratorium on new wind turbine applications so it can develop a comprehensive policy for handling such requests.
“My biggest concern has always been visibility,” said Michael Leonard, outgoing president of the town Planning Board and incoming member of the Town Board. “Most people who have moved to the town probably don’t want to see a lot of these along the Hudson.”
Leonard also questioned whether turbines are an efficient means to generate energy in a region where winds are inconsistent.
The Hudson Highlands Land Trust, which opposed Gleick’s project, made a similar point in a recent letter to the editor. Land Trust Executive Director Andy Chmar also said the height needed for such structures in this area to try to capture those winds “would have the potential to significantly affect the scenic integrity of the Hudson Highlands.”
Renewable energy generation at the residential level is not the only way for homeowners to reduce their fossil fuel consumption,” he said. “Energy conservation is likely to prove even more effective.”
The towering structure in Philipstown, which will be erected over the next few months, won’t power the house directly. It will feed energy to the general power grid. Gleick’s electricity bill will be reduced accordingly.
Gleick said his system will cost about $85,000. Roughly half that amount will be offset by state and federal grants and tax credits. Nonetheless, it’s an expensive way to shave an energy bill and slash emissions.
Hudson Valley Wind Energy, the Pine Plains-based company setting up Gleick’s turbine, has installed a handful of turbines in Dutchess, Columbia and Ulster counties, where lots are bigger and zoning is less restrictive.
Still, turbines have proven divisive even in more rural settings. Residents in Ancram, in southern Columbia County, were livid when four turbines in the area began making loud, disturbing noises described variously as sonic booms and hovering helicopters.
Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin said once the manufacturer made adjustments, the noise complaints became less frequent.
“Our experience has not been good, mostly because the expectation was they would be silent,” Bassin said of the turbines. “They are, 99 percent of the time.”
Visually, he said, the turbines haven’t been a problem.
Joe Crocco, who works as an architect in Armonk, erected a turbine on his alpaca farm in Millerton. He said his turbine, one of the four in or near Ancram, generates about one-third of the power the farm uses and cuts his electric bill by about $100 a month.
The noise hasn’t kept him up at night, he said, and he’s pleased to think that by tapping the wind’s energy he’s reducing his carbon footprint.
Asked whether he would recommend the wind turbines for others, he hedged.
“If you don’t have a good, steady breeze, it’s not going to work,” he said. “It’s not for everybody. It’s site specific.”
In Garrison, Gleick thinks he’s got a good site, largely because it’s windy.
He said he doesn’t think his turbine will be easy to see and doubts anyone – he has no close neighbors – will be able to hear it.
“It’s not a good way to save money. It’s just something we could do – break even and do our part to slow the use of fossil fuels,” he said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding