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Wind turbine expert returns to zoning hearing

Tuesday’s hearing on the proposed Broad Mountain Power wind turbines atop Broad Mountain in Packer Township before Packer’s Zoning Hearing Board was lightly attended, with about 50 residents present in the Weatherly Area Middle School cafeteria.

The subject this night was wind turbines, and the speaker was University of Colorado professor Roark Lanning, who is also assistant vice president of renewable energy at WSP USA in Boulder, Colorado. Lanning was an early participant in these hearings, and his testimony was cut short during his first time here.

Since Lanning had already been qualified as an expert, the evening began straightaway with discussions about windmill types.

Attorney Bruce Anders, representing over 200 opponents to the project, was particularly focused on whether the five 452-foot-tall turbines are considered to be the “industry standard.”

Lanning’s answer was nuanced, saying the units were state-of-the-art in 2016, but in 2019-20, the standard is for the taller turbines such as the 656-footers that will occupy 16 of the pads of the proposed development.

Getting deeper into such an answer, the reason the taller turbines are the new standard is that they generate more electricity. While it might be possible to generate the same amount of power with the smaller units, turning faster, those would require a custom order, and more maintenance. The five 452-footers proposed for this project have already been bought.

This session was the shortest so far, lasting not much more than an hour.

The zoning hearing board meets again this Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m. The expert on the stand will be Robert Miller, project manager of Broad Mountain Power, who has also spoken before, in April. Miller will speak about company policies and the project status.

After Thursday, the zoning board hearings will continue on Oct. 29. Dates in November will be confirmed at Thursday’s meeting. A list of those planning to testify in opposition to the proposal during the future meetings is being prepared.