Apex Lighthouse Wind officials spoke with the Niagara County Board of Health on Thursday to address sound and health concerns about the proposed wind turbine project in Somerset.
Apex hopes for the project to be a 201-megawatt initiative, placing 58 to 70 wind turbines – which may be as tall as 620 feet in Somerset and neighboring Yates in Orleans County.
A final turbine model has not been selected for Lighthouse Wind, said Dan Fitzgerald, senior development manager for the Apex project. The final model cannot be selected until the results of further studies and analysis is completed, which comes after the preliminary scoping statement was released to the public Nov. 23.
It’s been said the turbines would be set back from residences at a standard 1,500 feet and kept at 45 decibels in order to protect residents against sleep deprivation.
Rob O’Neal of Epsilon Association Inc. said with low frequency sound it would take at least 27 decibels in order for the sound to be audible.
Currently, in one of the proposed locations, wind speeds reaching 3 miles per hour already give off a 42-decibel low frequency and at 7 miles per hour, it jumps to 52 decibels, according to O’Neal.
Therefore, he said without the wind farm project, some of the areas would still endure low frequency and infrasound.
In a study done by Health Canada in 2014, no correlation was found between wind turbine noise exposure and either self-reported indicators of health such as sleep disturbance, migraines, dizziness, hypertension or any measure of quality of life; or objectively measured indicators of health such as blood pressure or resting heart rate, according to Dr. Chris Ollson of Ollson Environmental Health Management.
Each turbine will require the use of lubricants, which can cause harm to the environment if it were to leak. A 3-megawatt turbine would require about 53 gallons of oil. However, Apex says it has come up with a prevention plan in order to reduce risk to the land.
Each turbine will be monitored with a supervisory control and data acquisition system which is monitored locally and remotely 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally, the turbines will be built with drains and plugs that will keep any leaked fluids out of the environment, Fitzgerald said.
The turbines would be connected via underground collection lines to the Kintigh substation, according to Fitzgerald.
The project, which is estimated to cover 20,000 acres with each turbine taking up half an acre, is estimated to provide clean, renewable power for approximately 53,000 average New York homes, he said.
The next step in the project’s timeline is for the comment period of the preliminary scoping statement, which must be completed by Jan. 6.
The comment period will allow for municipalities and members of the community to review the 200-page document and make any comments regarding it. These comments can include, concerns about setbacks, turbine height and any studies which community members would like Apex to conduct, said Dahvi Wilson, senior manager of public affairs for Apex Clean Energy.
Somerset Supervisor Dan Engert said that he, the Somerset Town Board and hired experts are adamantly reviewing the document and making comments as they go along.
Engert and the town’s attorney will be having a review where consultants will present what studies need to be done and which ones must be strengthened and so forth, he said.
“It is very difficult to really determine the best studies in certain areas when they don’t give us any information, when they don’t tell you the size of the turbines where the turbines will be located and that type of thing,” Engert said. “It’s a game where you get to the door and then you get to the next door and then the next door. They keep you off-balance throughout the whole process and it’s intentional frustration to basically get us, so we just get frustrated and go away and that’s not going to happen.”
After the comment period is over the comments will be read and mediated by a hearing examiner at a state level, Wilson said.
At this point, Apex will be able to begin conducting studies on the project area around a one-mile buffer area, as well as a five-mile buffer area which will be utilized for various studies. A 10-mile buffer will be used for visual studies.
While the proposed project is ongoing, state Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, has been adamant in calling for a state environmental quality review to study the impact a project of this scale will have on the community.
Ortt said he has advocated for greater local involvement by moving siting decisions away from politicians and bureaucrats in Albany and giving it back to local officials, he said in a press release.
Similarly, state Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, who represents Orleans County, shared his sponsorship of two bills aimed at increasing public input on local projects and strong opposition to Article X. That’s in order to give the local population greater representation in decisions that affect their community.
Save Ontario Shores will be holding a public meeting in order to provide information to the public about the Apex industrial wind turbine project and the preliminary scoping statement.
The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Barker Fire Hall, 1660 Quaker Road.
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