No benefits, only negative impacts of the proposed wind turbine – The Daily Gazette

GLEN – Residents say they were not fully aware of the plans and impacts of a proposed wind turbine in the city before a public hearing on the project this week, while raising objections to the developer’s failure to prepare renderings illustrating what the over 600-foot-tall device would look like to neighboring houses as requested.

The public hearing on Borrego Solar’s application spanned more than three hours on Thursday as developers answered questions from the Planning Council and increasingly dismayed residents.

Borrego Solar is seeking approval to build a single 4.3 megawatt wind turbine on approximately 5 acres of leased land on a plot of approximately 191.6 acres located at 411 Reynolds Road. The turbine would be around 640 feet tall when the blades reached their highest point.

Michele Wadsworth was not entirely sure before meeting the location of the wind turbine in relation to his home on more than 100 acres of land on Severin Road adjoining the project site. In the end, she was certainly worried about the impacts the project would have on her property.

“I was hoping to see something tonight that would make me say it’s not that bad,” said Michele Wadsworth. “Coming here tonight I didn’t realize where it was, I’m pissed off.”

The turbine is located over 1,500 feet from existing homes in the area with a minimum setback from neighboring property lines of 1.1 times the height of the turbine, approximately 704 feet, to create a buffer zone in the unlikely event that catastrophic failure would cause the device to collapse. .

The planning council requested in October that Borrego move the turbine on the property to increase the setback distance of the boundary lines to 1.5 times the height of the device.

However, the proponent noted that the relocation of the project site would result in the location of the turbine closer to homes and would require more tree removal. Under these circumstances, the board indicated last month that it preferred the developer to maintain the previously proposed 1.1 setback distance.

Reviewing the project documents submitted to council, Shelby Wadsworth found that the wind turbine’s setback distance from the boundary with its mother’s property was less than 1.1 times the height of the structure.

THE DOCUMENTS PROVIDED

Borrego Solar’s Doug Strong said the distance was wrong, saying the development team would review and correct the documents. But, resident Boddy White asked how the city can trust the developer to complete the project if the submitted documents contain errors.

“There shouldn’t be any mistakes,” he said. “This is what you guys do.”

Residents whose homes are located near the wind turbine site have made it clear that Borrego has only provided “representative” photos of 10 locations in the city displaying scale renderings of the turbine for demonstrate the visual impact of the project.

Images from some vantage points show the turbine partially obscured in wooded areas or with the blades fully exposed above the treeline, while in others the aircraft was clearly visible standing across open fields .

Residents objected to the photos apparently being taken on a cloudy fall day, softening the image of the white turbine against the gray sky. However, the developers noted that they were taken after the leaves had fallen, giving a better idea of ​​what the project would look like under the most extreme conditions.

The biggest sticking point with nearby homeowners was the developer’s failure to meet their specific request for renderings showing the visual impact of each of their properties. Strong said Borrego had just learned of the request and it came too late to include the individual properties when a photographer was dispatched to capture images for the renderings.

However, board secretary Sandra Hemstreet noted that the request was in fact made at a previous meeting.

In an effort to keep residents happy, project engineers created scale renderings showing the turbine in neighboring houses using images from Google Maps. But, the pixelated images did not include vegetation, and residents said the renderings appeared to have been “taken from Mars” more than from their homes.

Residents further expressed dissatisfaction with the results of a sound modeling report that found there would be a sound impact about a mile from the turbine, although the sound decreases with distance from the device. The nearest houses would be subjected to outside sounds of around 40 decibels described as a soft whisper from 3 feet away. The sound would be even smoother inside, the developers said.

NOISE AND LIGHT

However, some properties adjacent to the project site could be subject to sounds of up to 50 decibels equivalent to the noise of a dishwasher operating in the adjoining room. This includes parts of Michele Wadworth’s property where she said her family will one day consider building homes for their children.

“Two generations have lived on this property, I was hoping for three or four. I’m not comfortable with it, ”said Michele Wadsworth.

Strong minimized the impact of the noise, saying the turbine would only create sound if there was enough wind for the blades to spin. Wind noise could obscure or drown out the sound of the device, he said.

Residents were unconvinced, including Michele Wadsworth who said her family spent much of their time outside in a pond on their property near the boundary with the project site. The calm nature of the surroundings drew them to the city in the first place, she said.

Residents were once again concerned about the results of the shadow flicker modeling prepared by Borrego. The rotation of the turbine blades can cast a shadow causing intermittent changes in light that vary depending on the distance from the device, the weather, the location of the sun and the time of year.

Although there may be intermittent changes in light outside the turbine shade, the shadow flicker phenomenon is more pronounced inside when the shadow cast by the turbine blade can make the natural light inside fall momentarily into the shade before the position changes and the shade dissipates before snoozing.

The study found that only three existing structures will be affected by the flickering shadows. An affected property on Lang Drive is expected to experience shadow flicker for approximately an hour and 20 minutes over the course of the entire year. The most affected structure where shadow flickering is expected to occur for almost 20 hours a year is a barn on McDuffie Road.

The third building that is expected to be hit is Michele Wadsworth’s home, where it is estimated that the flickering shadows would occur for around 12 hours and 25 minutes each year. When asked how to combat the phenomenon, the developers suggested curtains as the simplest solution, noting that the flickering of the shadows would only occur in rooms where the windows face the project.

Michele Wadsworth said her house had no curtains because she “lives in the middle of nowhere”.

THE COST IS GREATER THAN THE PROFIT

Residents overwhelmed by the potential impacts of the project questioned its proposed benefits. Strong highlighted local tax incentives for the school district and county, an approximately 10% reduction in electricity costs for residents who subscribe to the community solar project, and a host community benefits agreement the developer will enter into. with the city once the plans are approved. This will likely include recurring payments to the municipality over the life of the project.

Homeowners nearby estimated at best that they would save $ 20 per month on their energy bills if they signed up for the project, while their properties would be forever impacted if the turbine were built.

“I’d rather pay National Grid $ 20 more,” one man shouted.

Although she has indicated her willingness to make sacrifices if the wind turbine has any benefits for her neighbors, Michele Wadsworth said there will be essentially none. She expressed concern that the project would result in the installation of more wind turbines in the city, which would have an even greater impact on residents if the project was approved.

“If any of them increase, we’ll see a lot,” said Michele Wadsworth, comparing the situation to the rapid growth of solar projects in the city.

Borrego suggested that the single wind turbine may be the only wind power project capable of being built in the city, due to the limited availability of sites large enough that are located in a current of wind strong enough to support the devices. .

Nonetheless, planning council member Susan Whiteman expressed similar concerns about the lack of benefits for residents who will ultimately be affected by the project.

“I think we ask a small number of well-established families, who have built their homes, who like to live here and have chosen to live here and we ask them to take a benefit that really won’t come back. for them, and I don’t think that’s a job we should be doing, ”Whiteman said. “I don’t like asking residents to carry a burden that I wouldn’t take on myself. “

Strong expressed compassion for the concerns of residents, while saying, based on his experience in the industry, that residents’ fear and anxiety about the impacts of wind projects is generally much worse than reality once built. .

“I don’t take this lightly, I understand. I have been doing this same kind of project throughout my career. We come to this community with a different type of project, ”said Strong. “The benefits are real. There are financial benefits. We haven’t talked about environmental benefits because some don’t believe in them, some think they’re marginal. But there are definitely environmental benefits.

With additional renderings of the visual impacts sought by residents and a study regarding the impact of the project on wildlife still pending, the planning council finally agreed to keep the public hearing on the project open until the next one. meeting on January 20. This will give residents time to comment and new board members a chance to familiarize themselves with the project.

“There is a lot to consider and I hope people come out and make their voices heard,” Whiteman said.

Planning Council President Tim Reilly, Vice President Rosalie Farina and Whiteman will be stepping down at the start of the new year when they are sworn in as City Supervisor and City Council members respectively. The trio will take part in planning board activities one last time to consider three nominations for potential board members at a special meeting on December 29.

Contact Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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