Lighthouse Wind is requesting approval from the Town of Somerset’s Planning Board for two special-use permits that would allow for the placement of meteorological towers on two private properties for data collection.
The data collected would allow Lighthouse Wind to determine the viability of its proposed wind turbine project in the town.
The proposed towers would be temporary structures and be up for three years or less, according to Drew Silverman, energy assessment manager for Lighthouse Wind.
Silverman is a meteorologist who has been working in the field for eight years and been involved in the placement of more than 275 towers over his career. He serves as Lighthouse Wind’s energy assessment manager for its eastern region.
The towers are used for the collection of meteorological data such as temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure and wind direction. This data is gathered with instruments such as anemometers, wind vanes, thermometers and air pressure sensors, Silverman said.
Currently, Lighthouse Wind has erected two towers. One is in Somerset on Lower Lake Road across from the Golden Hill State Park entrance, and the other is in Yates near the intersection of Marshall and Lower Lake roads.
In addition to gathering valuable meteorological data, the existing towers have also been equipped with sensitive microphones that are used to measure bat species and passage rates at different heights.
The towers have been “successfully operating” in the proposed project area for over a year now. And in an effort to gather more information, Lighthouse Wind has been working with the Somerset Planning Board for more than six months in an effort to install two more temporary towers, according to Taylor Quarles, development manager for Lighthouse Wind.
The developer is looking to place the towers on two local residents’ properties within the Town of Somerset. One is in the back of 7469 W. Somerset Road and the second in the back of 8746 Lake Road.
“We have the full cooperation of the landowners where these towers will be installed, and appreciate their support throughout this process,” Quarles said.
The additional towers will allow the developer to determine wind variations across the site.
“The data from the existing towers has confirmed a strong and consistent wind resource in the area,” according to Silverman. “Having towers sufficiently interspersed within the project area provides a solid database of wind information across the project site.”
The data will be combined with topography and ground cover information. That data will be used to accurately predict expected wind speeds at different locations and heights, as well as to allow for safe and efficient siting of turbines, an accurate prediction of power production of each turbine, and data-driven operational protocols throughout the life of the project, Silverman added.
The planning board has worked closely with Lighthouse Wind through the application phase to make sure that all regulations and safety concerns have been met.
To accommodate those concerns, Lighthouse Wind informed the board that both towers would be installed on private land and set back from adjoining parcel lines by at least two times their height. They do not require a concrete foundation and can be installed in less than one day.
To meet the board’s considerations regarding air and ground safety, Quarles said that the towers will be equipped with night vision goggle compatible lighting, have high visibility marker balls at two elevations on all of the outermost guys wires and be painted in alternating bands of aviation orange and white.
“These safety measures designed to identify and light the towers were reviewed and approved by Mercy Flight and found to be sufficient,” Quarles said.
In addition to the tower paint itself, the guy wires connecting the tower to the ground will be marked with high visibility yellow sleeves at ground level to ensure they are clearly visible and to provide an additional safety measure.
However, planning board members were concerned over one thing. An individual who is snowmobiling in the winter season may get injured by the ground-level guy wires, if they are not aware of them or cannot see the protective sleeves due to the snow level.
Lighthouse Wind informed the board that that would then be a case of trespassing. However, board member Krista Atwater responded saying that “it doesn’t matter, it happens all the time.”
Many residents spoke out against the approval of a special use permit for the meteorological towers, saying that they were only the first step leading up to the proposed wind turbine project.
Resident Cathi Orr said, “Let’s not separate the chicken from the egg and look at this as what it really is,” when addressing the overall purpose of the towers.
Silverman said later that the towers are to accurately predict expected wind speeds at different locations and heights, as well as allow for safe and efficient siting of turbines, an accurate prediction of power production of each turbine, and data-driven operational protocols throughout the life of the project.
However, Somerset’s engineer Drew Reilly reminded the board that although the towers are used to collect data, the board is not approving the larger wind turbine project, but only temporary meteorological towers.
Board member Norman Jansen addressed the difficulty of making a decision of approving or opposing the special use permits due to the thin line between the towers and the overall proposed project.
“They are separate, but they’re not, but they are, but they’re not,” he said.
The planning board is reviewing the application and will address the special use permit further at the 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1 meeting.
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