MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Planning Board could be making a precedent-setting decision at today’s meeting regarding the proposed amendment to the Ball Hill Wind Energy Project.
RES, the company behind the wind parks project in the towns of Hanover and Villenova, has submitted applications to both town boards for an amendment to the project, which asks for turbine heights of 599 feet, taller than any land-based turbines in the country. Tonight, the planning board will make a decision regarding their recommendation for the towns. Villenova’s town board will also vote tonight on the proposed amendment.
Joni Riggle of Sinclairville has written to the planning board regarding the unprecedented turbine heights, which she refers to as a “human experiment,” as no land-based studies have ever been conducted on turbines at 599 feet. According to Riggle’s research, the tallest turbines in the country stand at 574 feet in Maine, and the nearest receptor residence is 3,552 feet away, which is more than three times the required setback that RES proposes (1,000 feet).
In her letter to the planning board, Riggle said that RES has never disclosed the fact that there have never been land-based wind projects in the U.S. with turbines at this height. She wrote, “I am concerned about the herd mentality evident with these wind projects. Our inexperienced towns just adopt what other towns are doing, assuming it must be okay (under the wind lawyer/company persuasion) without thoroughly studying all the ramifications and issues.”
Area residents’ concerns include increased shadow flicker, cell phone and satellite TV interference, bat/bird mortality and greater decommissioning costs, among other things. Of particular concern to many are the lower frequencies and infrasound of larger turbines. According to the environmental impact statement posted on www.ballhillwind.com, the sound level impacts of the 29 proposed wind turbines and the two proposed generators do meet the towns’ noise limit, even though they will be audible.
The town of Hanover sets a noise limit of 50 decibels, which, according to Figure 3-1 of the Sound Level Assessment Report, is equivalent to a dishwasher running in the next room or “quiet urban daytime.” The study concluded that “due to the nature of wind turbine noise and the relative background sound levels in the area, noise from the project is likely to be audible at times at some of the closest residences.” However, the study goes on to say that “a vast majority of the time, nominal sound levels from the project are likely to be significantly less than those predicted in this analysis, which are based on worst-case conditions.” There are currently no federal community noise regulations applicable to wind farms.
Riggle said turbines of the proposed 599-feet height have only ever been erected offshore, miles from residential communities. According to RES’ response to questions raised at the Villenova public hearing about the economic benefit, “The taller turbines will increase the economic competitiveness of the project, and its likelihood of success in bringing benefits to all parties. In addition, increased energy production from the turbines translates into higher Wind Energy Lease royalty payments.”
Riggle concluded her letter to the planning board, stating, “Never forget, the town board’s mission and pledge is to protect the health, safety and welfare of every resident…Permitting untested, unprecedented, 600 ft turbines designed for off-shore use is irresponsible and will violate this grave responsibility.”
The county planning board meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. today in the Gerace Office Building Legislative Chambers in Mayville.
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