Schenectady County

Towns consider wind farm law

Wind farm projects may be some time away in Schenectady County, but planners in both Princetown and

Wind farm projects may be some time away in Schenectady County, but planners in both Princetown and Rotterdam are considering regulations for them now.

Officials from both municipalities are planning talks about potential regulations for wind energy development projects. The topic came up last month when Reunion Power, a Vermont-based project development service, proposed building a 197-foot temporary meteorological tower in Pattersonville.

Company officials indicated the proposed tower would monitor wind at a 1,300-foot elevation near an existing cellular tower off Crawford Road. At its widest point, the tower would be 8 inches in diameter. It would relay wind data to the company via satellite connection, town officials said.

Reunion executive Steve Eisenburg said the proposed monitoring station is only the first step in a very long process that may or may not yield a project. He said determining the level of wind in an area is a key elements before any project advances.

“We’re just cracking this open to see if it’s feasible,” he said this week.

Even if the Rotterdam Planning Board approves the test tower, Eisenburg said, Reunion wouldn’t build it until the spring. He said the company would then monitor data and trends at the site for at least a year before making a determination whether to proceed with any project.

But the concept of a wind farm on the outskirts of town prompted Rotterdam officials to investigate a local law regulating these. And because the area proposed for the monitoring station is near the border with Princetown, Rotterdam officials invited those officials into the discussion.

Wind tower regulations are also being explored in Duanesburg. Supervisor Rene Merrihew said the town will likely adopt regulations patterned after several towns in New York already contending with large wind farm proposals. She said the time seemed right, considering the town is already reviewing its comprehensive plan.

“It’s a good time to get something on the books,” she said Thursday. “We’re in a rural area conducive to wind.”

Though no formal wind farm is proposed in Schoharie County, Reunion Power is studying possible sites in the towns of Fulton, Jefferson and Richmondville. All three towns are in the process of developing ordinances to regulate commercial wind projects.

Proposed regulations in Richmondville have been met with significant criticism; opponents argue the towers should be built thousands of feet away from residential areas. Reunion has suggested building 28 wind turbines on the Warnerville hills between Richmondville and Fulton.

Reunion has already helped develop a pair of large wind farm projects in Minnesota and Iowa, according to the company’s Web site. The company operates 147 turbines in Lake Benton, Minn., which generate roughly 107 megawatts of energy; in Storm Lake, Iowa, Reunion generates about 80 megawatts at a farm with 107 turbines.

In New York, the company is a partner in a project that would erect 10 wind turbines on Gore and Pete Gay mountains in Warren County. Reunion was also attempting a 24-turbine project in the town of Cherry Valley in Otsego County; setback rules imposed by the town effectively blocked the project as originally planned.

Rotterdam Town Planner Pete Comenzo said commercial wind tower development brings with it issues including performance standards and setbacks. He said the only local ordinance now governing wind turbines is the town’s cellular tower law.

This ordinance allows the development of towers in the town’s agricultural and industrial zones. Though there is no maximum size in the ordinance, towers cannot be located any closer to an adjacent property than the distance equal to the tower’s height.

“It’s something that has come up recently and it’s certainly become a hot topic not only in the Capital Region, but in New York and the country as a whole,” he said.

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