LIBERTY, NY – The benefit of the proposed Liberty Wind project is that a large wind turbine would result in a significantly reduced electricity bill for the Liberty Central School District (LCSD) and thereby possibly save taxpayers some money.
Anne Larsen and Malcolm Brown have been promoting the project since at least June 2014. They have given presentations in front of the LCSD, the Village of Liberty and the Town of Liberty and have met with generally receptive audiences.
They and their colleagues have determined that the best possible location for the proposed turbine would be in the Fireman Park on Revonah Hill Road, where there is sufficient wind to make the project work.
The members of the Liberty Fire Department would have to vote on the project before it could go forward, and Larsen and Brown visited the Liberty Firehouse on January 7 to explain it to a contingent of about 30 firefighters and a few others from the community.
The firefighters who spoke were opposed to the project for a number of reasons. Pat Killian said that large windmills generated a radio frequency signal that would interfere with emergency communications coming from a tower that is situated about 3,000 feet from the proposed site. He said, “If somebody keys the mike, if the chief is saying ‘bail out of the building,’ and it doesn’t go through, then people are going to get killed.”
Larsen, who with Brown was a key player in the operation and construction of two municipally owned wind turbines in Hull, MA, said the Hull turbine is located close to Logan Airport in Boston, and when studies were done to see if that turbine would interfere with the communications at the airport, no problems were found. Further, the airport has installed a number of mini-turbines on the buildings of the airport itself. Brown added that there are two large turbines on Deer Island, which are adjacent to the airport.
Another firefighter said acceptance of the turbine would mean the firefighters would give up their park.
Larsen said one of the turbines in Hull is located within 200 feet of a high school football field and within a few hundred feet of the school itself and there have been no problems. She said it is located next to a place where people go to see the sunset, and “no one has stopped going there.”
Further she pointed out that the two turbines in Hull have been operating for a combined total of about 20 years, and there have been no lawsuits filed, nor have criticisms come to the town’s public health office, regarding the turbines during that time.
Part of the proposal involves paying the fire department a lease payment for the land used that would begin in the area of about $4,000 per year, moving upward at a 2% annual escalator rate through the 30-year length of the lease.
One firefighter accused the couple of trying to “scam” the firefighters by talking about the money they could make. That led to a discussion about how Larsen and Brown would benefit from the project. Larsen said they promote sustainable energy projects because they believe in them, and they have spent their own money on the project, along with several thousand dollars’ worth of payments and contributed pro bono work from a Georgia Tech wind engineer. They said they would not make any money on the project.
Another concern raised was that the turbine would kill large numbers of birds. Larsen responded that National Audubon Society and the Massachusetts Audubon Society have endorsed wind turbines as a viable source of alternative energy.
A concern about lightning strikes and exploding turbines was also brought up. Larsen said the incidence of catastrophic failure of turbines was very low. Brown said one of the Hull turbines was struck by lightning once; it was repaired and put back on line within weeks. During Hurricane Sandy, the Massachusetts turbines came back up to peak output eight hours after they had gone into self-protective shutdown mode, Brown added.
John Nichols, who is on the LCSD board and is also an assistant chief of the fire department, who said he would welcome a wind turbine near his home, said the members of the department would have a meeting addressing the matter at some future date and would vote on the issue. The tone in the room suggested the turbine was unlikely to be accepted.
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