HARTSVILLE — After a lengthy discussion regarding the issue, Hartsville Town Supervisor Mike Muhleisen and the Town Board Wednesday night decided to table a decision on a small wind turbine generator.
Town resident Matt Lawrence and Matt Vanderbrook, project manager at Sustainable Energy Developments, were brought before the board to discuss a review of Lawrence’s request completed after the town consulted an attorney.
One sticking point was the fact that Lawrence requested a variance from the town’s wind law in plans to build a 140-foot tower. The law dictates that a tower can be no taller than 80 feet high.
“This is one that we’ve really had to look at,” Muhleisen said. “We previously communicated that that was a significant variance and there was a possibility of having your project good to go or with a lesser hub height.”
Mulheisen also questioned some of the arguments made in the application, several of them he felt to have insufficient data to back up.
“When you make statements and don’t provide the data to substantiate those statements, we can’t make a ruling on that,” Muhleisen said.
However, he remained hopeful that the town and Lawrence could come to an agreement for a small wind turbine generator that pleases both parties.
“Everyone on this board would really like to see this happen,” Muhleisen said. “It might not be within this particular contractor’s scope, but I know down in Pennsylvania there’s turbines with 20-kilowatt towers at residences so the technology’s available. Unfortunately, the project as you presented before is outside that scope.”
Mulheisen recommended that the board initially deny the project as presented before the discussion due to the flaws in its argument, such as using data found in Texas regarding sound production and applying it to a situation in New York.
“Sound works the same in Texas as it does in New York so if you’re measuring decibels or sound pressure from different distances, really the difference is elevation or air density,” Lawrence said.
“It’s not,” Muhleisen replied. “The differences in sound would be ambient. In order to make a comparison, say you’re in a large Texas plain, OK? There are no forces that are going to add to background noises compared to what a tree might … The data’s available.”
Lawrence added he wouldn’t own the tower on his property, but would instead lease it with help from a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant. A condition of that grant requires the wind turbine generator to meet a low power requirement.
“The reason that we have the height specified is that we do have dollars and cents there,” Lawrence said. “At that height (140 feet) with this turbine, we can produce as we predict about 14,000 kilowatt hours per year. If we tell NYSERDA we can do that and we can only do that at that height at that location, we can put up that turbine.”
Muhleisen countered by saying the data regarding a 20-kilowatt turbine with an 80-foot tower could be found by visiting the NYSERDA website.
Lawrence claimed that he was not producing power “for the grid” and that he and his wife would not be able to afford building a turbine under the town’s specifications.
A few moments later, Muhleisen was planning to bring the proposal up to a vote before Lawrence and Vanderbrook asked if the board could table the issue until they could provide a plan with better data.
“We would all benefit from all of this information being provided up-front,” Muhleisen said. “However, we probably need to do this in the form of a public hearing … the information is not good, the information is lacking.”
“The advice from our attorney is that we wouldn’t be doing our duty if we were to grant this the way it is,” Town Councilman David McEvoy added.
However, Lawrence said he had contacted his neighbors twice about appearing at meetings in support of his proposal and wasn’t privy to doing it a third time.
Muhleisen said he would continue to communicate with Lawrence and his wife as well as opening a line of communication between Lawrence and the town attorney.
“As town officials, you said your primary function is to look out for the health, safety, and welfare of community members,” Lawrence said. “I respectfully request that you ask yourself for each of those three (proposals), which one are you going to deny? I think if you look at those three components – health, safety, and welfare – we’re going to get you the data that you need and we’re going to be very thorough, just like we have been.”
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