By Ashley Onyon | The Recorder | Oct 24, 2021 | www.recordernews.com
GLEN – The Planning Board is asking developers of a proposed wind turbine project on Reynolds Road to increase the planned setback distances from neighboring properties, but developers say that could result in a greater disturbance to wetlands and the removal of trees.
Borrego Solar is seeking approval to construct a single 4.3-megawatt wind turbine on approximately five acres of leased land out of a roughly 191.6-acre parcel located at 411 Reynolds Road.
The turbine would be approximately 640 feet tall when the blades reach their highest point constructed on a concrete and rebar foundation of roughly 10 feet deep and 40 feet wide. The foundation would largely be located underground with a small exposed pedestal where the turbine is connected.
Camie Jarrell, of GHD Consulting Services, informed the Planning Board on Thursday the exact design for the foundation would be engineered based on site and soil conditions as part of the final building permit application.
A crane pad would additionally be constructed at the turbine site for use during installation. A permanent gravel access road leading to the turbine would be located off of Reynolds Road. Both are typically installed on 13 inches of compacted subgrade depending on soil conditions.
A temporary truck route circling around the turbine would be installed for construction purposes, along with several temporary staging areas for materials and turbine components. These temporary spaces would be restored to grass following installation.
Construction would create roughly 1.16 acres of impervious surfaces across the site based on the currently proposed plan. The project would involve the removal of trees across approximately 4.41 acres and the disturbance of an estimated 0.24 acres of wetlands.
However, the exact layout of the project has not been fully determined and the Planning Board on Thursday encouraged the developers to increase the setback distance of the turbine relative to neighboring properties.
The town currently has no zoning laws regulating wind energy projects. The board is reviewing the project based on existing state guidelines and municipal code from similar communities in the region.
Town Engineer Douglas Cole, of Prime AE, has recommended the town require a minimum setback for the project of 1,500 feet from residences with the wind tower to be located no less than 1.5 times the total height of the wind turbine or 500 feet from property boundaries and public roads. The recommendation follows regulations over wind projects in Duanesburg.
Brandon Smith, of Borrego Solar, asked the Planning Board to consider reducing the minimum setback requirement from property boundaries and public roads to 1.1 times the height of the turbine, pointing to regulations of surrounding communities as generally falling somewhere between the two numbers.
“A 1.1 setback is what we would propose to the board is a more appropriate setback for the site,” Smith said. “It allows a better siting of the turbine on the property.”
Factoring in potential grading to bring the total estimated height of the project at its tallest to 650 feet, would mean a minimum setback of approximately 750 feet would be required at the lower level multiplier requested by Borrego.
Increasing the setback distance, Smith argued, would push the project further towards a wetland area on the property, increasing the potential disturbance. The extra distance would also involve the additional clearing of trees, Jarrell said.
Planning Board Chairman Tim Reilly described the lower level setback as “shallow at best,” saying the broader threshold would help provide a safe perimeter around the project. The distance suggested by the board would require a minimum setback of about 975 feet.
“Should anything happen, that would give it that surge space in between boundaries and anything that fell,” Reilly said.
Residents George Galeazza and Frank Farina, during the public comment period, similarly expressed concern over the potential danger posed by shorter setbacks if something went wrong, pointing to the potential for falling ice after a winter buildup or a catastrophic malfunction causing a portion of the structure to fall.
Planning Board Secretary Sandra Hemstreet noted the project developers previously reported the device would have ice sensors that would immediately stop the turbine in the event of an accumulation.
Beyond the potential for increased setback distances to raise the level of environmental disturbance of the project, Smith said site constraints contributed to the design for the project. Sharp turns in the access driveway must be avoided to ensure the large turbine components can be driven to the installation site. The limited flow of wind through points in the town has further dictated siting plans.
“There are really no other locations in town for a turbine to be able to be put up. This is kind of one of the only parcels that are large enough and also within these wind resources,” Smith said.
Due to the limited availability of sites to support wind projects in the town, Smith suggested the board need not worry about setting a precedent for future projects by allowing the reduced setback requirement.
Reilly said adjustments to the plans during the review process could be made to reduce the setback requirements taking into consideration the site specific environmental conditions, while pushing the developers to increase the currently proposed distances.
“I’m not saying that you have to get to the 1.5, but I would appreciate some due diligence looking to increase it,” Reilly said.
Following the meeting, Reilly confirmed the Planning Board has already been discussing possible amendments to town law to incorporate regulations for solar projects, which he indicated would likely seek to set a minimum setback of 1.5 times the height of turbines.
Reilly, who is currently running unopposed for town supervisor, said he plans to formally direct the Planning Board to develop recommended zoning laws at the beginning of next year. Current Town Supervisor John Thomas is not seeking re-election.
Smith and Jarrell agreed to review the site to look for options to increase the setback distance from the current proposal before the next meeting.
Any shifting of the project site will impact to some degree the visual impact study that must still be completed examining the viewshed from neighboring properties and significant town sites to be identified by the Planning Board and the potential of the turbine blades to create a shadow flicker. Impact studies related to noise, wildlife, birds and bats must also be conducted.
Smith acknowledged that due to the height of the turbine and its proposed location on an elevated area in the town there will be limited screening options for the project.
“To set your expectations for wind, unlike solar for example … you can’t really screen a 600 foot structure. But to get an understanding of kind of the magnitude and the location of where it is going to be when you’re driving along the road that could help the board,” Smith said.
A decommissioning plan has already been developed for the project taking into account the removal and disposal of all project components at the end of the useful life of the turbine, which is typically around 25 years.
The plan anticipates materials from the turbine would largely be sold off as salvage. The total cost of removing the project components and restoring the land is estimated by Borrego at $211,200.
The developer would be required as part of the approval process to obtain a surety bond to be held by the town to cover the cost of decommissioning to protect against abandonment. The estimated cost of decommissioning would be recalculated and the bond amount adjusted accordingly over the life of the project.
No fencing or other security measures are proposed around the site of the self contained wind turbine featuring components that can only be accessed through the interior of the structure. Smith indicated his willingness to install a security gate along the driveway to limit unauthorized site access.
The only action taken by the Planning Board on Thursday was the approval of motions formally receiving the special permit application from Borrego and declaring the board lead agency over the review process.
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2021/10/26/wind-turbine-proposed-in-glen/