Wind farm developer offers up answers to big questions
Credit: BY KEITH WALTHER, Vista Publisher/Editor | The Vista | May 19th, 2016 | vistanewspaper.com ~~
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Harry Snyder, Development Manager for Apex Clean Energy, was kind of enough to provide some answers to questions that The Vista posed to him recently.
Here is Snyder’s responses to questions regarding the proposed Crab Orchard Wind project:
Vista: Can you provide a picture of the area without the exact locations of turbines?
Snyder: We tend to avoid sharing project boundaries for projects that are still underdevelopment. Though the majority of land needed for the project is under lease, we are still working to optimize our turbine layout. Since these are ongoing business negotiations, we want to respect our partners in these transactions.
Vista: What is the general location of the project?
Snyder: The project is located on Millstone Mountain above the limestone quarry in Crab Orchard. Modern wind turbines can rotate 360 degrees to face prevailing wind direction. The FAA points presented in The Vista do not provide a precise representation for the number of turbines, or the precise location, but do provide a good idea for the general area we are assessing for suitable locations.
The statement that we’ve ‘increased our project boundary’ is not correct. As we’ve explained at every public meeting, we have more than 7,000 acres under lease because that number represents the parcel size of the land we are evaluating. That 7,000 acres represents the envelope within which the project fits. Of that land, roughly 1,800 acres is suitable to be included within the project’s footprint. For example: In order to obtain 10 acres worth of land suitable for turbine siting, we sometimes have to sign a lease on 100 acres.
Of that 1,800 acre project boundary, less than 12 acres will be covered by turbines and associated access roads, as each turbine requires just 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 an acre of land to operate. There will be some additional clearing for roads and operations, collection lines, and maintenance facilities, but all told, the project will permanently impact no more than 40 acres of the total 1,800 acre project area.
Vista: What dangers might there be to wildlife?
Snyder: Wind energy emits no harmful emissions, uses almost no water, and generates no harmful toxic waste. Wind is a clean and renewable resource. Wind is also safer for birds and other wildlife than many other industries and infrastructure, especially when taking into account carbon pollution and other emissions avoided because of wind power.
As part of our development process, Apex coordinates with state and federal wildlife agencies to avoid or minimize wildlife impacts. Though birds do occasionally collide with turbines, modern wind turbines are far less harmful than vehicles, power lines, buildings, and communication towers.
The State of the Birds report, a joint report of the National Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among other groups, estimates that housecats and building windows combined kill roughly three billion birds a year while wind turbines are responsible for fewer than 250,000 bird deaths a year.
For comparison, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that roughly 220,000 ducks were harvested in Tennessee alone during the 2014 hunting season.
It’s this track record of safety that has earned wind the support of national environmental groups like the National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and others.
Vista: Will sounds from the turbines be heard in certain areas of Fairfield Glade?
Snyder: One of the suggestions coming from our community meetings was that people wanted to better understand the potential for noise impacts in Fairfield Glade and the surrounding community. While we typically model sound for homes located within the project footprint, we decided that we would take a broader approach in response to these concerns.
Members of the Fairfield Glade Community should expect to learn more about turbine noise during community meetings in the late May or early June timeframe.
We are in the process of finalizing the study and plan to present the findings at the next community meeting. However, we have received some initial data that indicates the decibel level measured from the closest point in Fairfield Glade (Horse Stables) is 35 dB. This is the difference between the sound of a quiet bedroom at night (30 dB) and quiet library (40 dB). Once additional information has been collected, we will share it with the community during our meetings in late May/early June
In terms of the sound, claims that infrasound from wind turbines directly impacts the inner ear or cause other negative health impacts have not been backed up by credible scientific evidence.
Some have claimed that infrasound below the human audibility threshold of 20 and 20,000 hertz can cause health issues. In fact, we are exposed to infrasound from both natural sources, like wind and waves, and manmade sources, such as cars, trains and appliances, every day. Multiple literature reviews, including those conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Health, the State of Oregon, the Australian government, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have arrived at the same conclusion: that there are no negative health impacts caused by inaudible infrasound from wind facilities.
Vista: Will specific benefits will there be to Fairfield Glade?
Snyder: Locally, Crab Orchard represents an investment of up to $130 million that will create jobs and generate a new long-term source of revenue for the county. Researchers at the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy studied the project and estimates that Crab Orchard Wind will generate $27.3 million in economic output for Cumberland County during construction and create roughly 111 jobs.
Over the long term, the project will produce $1.4 million in annual economic output for the county and host seven permanent jobs. This is on top of the estimated $362,000 in annual tax revenue Cumberland County is expected to receive in new property tax receipts.
For residents of Fairfield Glade and all of Cumberland County, this represents an entirely new stream of revenue for essential government services like first responders.
In addition, as one of the largest taxpayers in Cumberland County, Crab Orchard Wind presents an opportunity for the county to grow the tax base without the need for increased government services. This revenue will help Cumberland County maintain its low property tax rate, which is what attracted many residents to the area in the first place.
Editor’s Note: Apex Clean Energy has announced that it will be holding Open House events at the Fairfield Glade Community Club Center on June 1st from 5:30 to 8 P.M., and again on June 2 from 8 A.M. to 12 P.M.
They will also be holding Open House meetings on those same days in Crab Orchard. The times for those meetings will be announced later.
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