HARTSVILLE – It may have taken a few months, but dissenters against a Hartsville resident and an Alfred State professor’s plan to put a small wind turbine on his property arrived at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.
Hartsville resident Matt Lawrence and Matt Vanderbrook, senior project and sales manager at Sustainable Energy Developments, Inc., attended the meeting for another discussion with Town Supervisor Mike Muhleisen and the board.
Lawrence said he provided “succinct but thorough” responses to some of the items Muhleisen had mentioned after speaking with the town attorney.
One of those responses included evidence from NYSERDA via United Wind – the company setting up a turbine lease with Lawrence – that they would not offer an installation grant if the tower for the small wind turbine had a height of 80 feet.
Lawrence previously told The Evening Tribune that a 10-kilowatt turbine installed on a 140-foot tower would produce 14,509 kilowatt hours of energy, which would qualify him for a $39,509 installation grant.
“The grant will not be funded at all for an 80-foot tower,” Lawrence said.
“United Wind is sort of the funder of this project,” Vanderbrook, whose company is hired by United Wind to install turbines, added. “Otherwise, I don’t think this project happens. Essentially, they’re not going to do a project if the wind turbine is at 80 feet. They don’t have the economic incentive to proceed with that project.”
Vanderbrook said that the Burgey wind turbine that Lawrence plans to put on his property is one of only two that United Wind and SED would encourage, due to its approval by both the Interstate Turbine Advisory Council and the Small Wind Certification Council.
“We’ve installed 50, 60 wind turbines,” Vanderbrook said. “Thirty of them are Burgeys.”
Lawrence also provided an economic analysis on how the turbine would affect his family’s budget and estimated that his family would save $21,000 on its electric bill, based on the usage of 16,000 kilowatt hours a year.
Residents later took umbrage with the fact that Lawrence intended to use the turbine to cut his electric bill, noting that others pay the same rate and don’t pursue an alternative route.
Muhleisen pointed out that if the production of the turbine exceeds 110 percent of Lawrence’s usage, the turbine would then be ineligible for the grant.
“Right now we’re projected to produce 89 percent of our household use,” Lawrence said. “But, you know, it could be really windy this summer.”
“Or your usage could go down,” Muhleisen replied.
Lawrence also offered revised sound data from two NYSERDA publications instead of the data from Texas he used in last month’s meeting.
According to his data, ambient sound in New York is 40 decibels and the Burgey produces 42-49 decibels at distance of 200 feet. The NYSERDA data he presented noted that the sound drops by six decibels as the distance doubles.
“We’re 600 feet from the newest property line,” Lawrence said. “What that means is the edge of our property line will be 30 (decibels).”
“I would just mention that the shorter the tower is, the higher that level’s going to be,” Vanderbrook added.
Muhleisen asked for the tree line height on Lawrence’s property. Lawrence said the tree was a red oak, which can reach a height of 80 to 140 feet. Lawrence assumed a height of 80 feet in his data.
“If you’re basing your statistics on an estimate, is it going to be a factor?” Mulheisen asked. “I’m not questioning your ability to do math. What I’m asking is to calculate height, did you use the distance from the site location or the distance from the road?”
“If you’re standing at the intersection, and you’re looking at the tree height,” Lawrence replied. “You’re looking at the trees at a certain angle. If you look at 80 feet and you know the distance from you to the turbine or the turbine to the trees, you know exactly at what height the turbine tower is going to be. The same height as the tree.”
In closing his statement, Lawrence stressed that he’s not fronting a large company – rather, Lawrence is simply representing his family.
“We’re just a regular family,” Lawrence said. “This is all that this installation is. It doesn’t set a precedent other than another Hartsville resident to do some really thorough investigation and justify their requests. That’s the only precedent that should be set here tonight. We want to be good neighbors. We talked to our neighbors, we sent letters to our neighbors.
“We don’t want this to be a contentious issue at all and that’s why we provided the data about sound and safety, etc. to try and convince you that this is something that’s positive, that’s forward-looking. It has real economic benefit to a family that lives in your town … We’re not going anywhere. We’ll take care of it.”
Residents then asked Lawrence why he didn’t go with an alternative method other than wind energy.
“Why didn’t you consider solar?” Larry Newhart asked. “Is it no comparison?”
“We did look into solar,” Lawrence said. “This is a couple-year process. My wife and I have been looking into these technologies. Maybe if we were looking at it today we would look more at solar, but we’ve contacted several wind companies and a lot of these companies that do leases and installs will do both, like (SED) is an example. From our side, it just seems windier up there than sunny.”
“Solar doesn’t bother a neighbor,” another resident replied. “Wind generates a lot of noise. We moved up here because it’s peaceful. We loved the air. My son worked on one. He told me how loud they are. What’s wrong with solar?”
The board ultimately decided to table a motion until next month’s meeting.
Councilman Duane Howe wanted to keep the comments he heard from citizens in mind while fellow board member James Perry wanted to insure he had a correct understanding of the sound data.