2008-06-19 / Front Page

Island wind turbine sites narrowed down to three

By Michaela Kennedy

Open space designations, deed restrictions and "shadow flicker" forced six of 10 properties off the list of considerations in the preliminary phase of the wind energy feasibility study. Site possibilities could change again if additional fatal flaws emerge, the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee determined at its June 10 meeting.

Consultant Dan Mendelsohn of Applied Technology Management presented a draft of data tables for the 10 sites originally chosen for scrutiny by the wind committee. The comparison of details included property size, ownership, wind speed and calculations of an annual average output of power. He also provided maps illustrating potential layouts and the number of maximum turbines that could be installed on each property.

Mendelsohn reported that each turbine researched by the consulting team was large enough to produce four times the town's electricity consumption. "They're big," he added.

Square footage of the sites determined their capacity to hold 80-meter tall turbines with a 70-meter blade spread, according to Mendelsohn. He calculated that a minimum of 11 acres would be required for each turbine, to ensure safety from potential breakage as well as flickering patterns. Shadows cast by a rotating turbine blade were annoying when under the turbine, he explained.

Committee member Robert Bowen pointed out that coastal sites did not need as large an area since the water could be part of the fall zone. He also advised looking at position possibilities within each site. Restrictions from Coastal Resources Management Council, however, still needed to be explored.

Committee chairman Don Wineberg warned about the possibility that CRMC might not allow the development so close to the shoreline. "The 200-foot buffer is there for a reason, to keep development away," he said.

One map showed an estimated maximum number of turbines that could fit on each site. Beavertail, which emerged as one of the top three sites, might be large enough to accommodate up to five turbines, according to the consultant. Although Taylor Point and Fort Getty have significantly less acreage, they were also listed as top sites eligible for further evaluation.

A distinct difference in production was evident with more turbines. "The initial output of money is enormous, but it is much more economical," Mendelsohn said. "You start putting back into the grid much more quickly, and you're able to generate a profit more easily."

Mendelsohn brought up questions that residents typically ask concerning wind turbine development. Considerations are whether the project would have economic, visual or green benefit. Most people think about developing an economic method that would outweigh the inconvenience of installing the structures. "Unfortunately green is last," he added.

Committee member William Smith suggested that reduced taxes might be a result, adding strength to the argument of economic impact.

Mendelsohn said the tables and maps offered a coordinated approach to selection of the final three sites to choose for detailed analysis in the wind energy feasibility study.

The preliminary documents showed itemized limitations of the six sites eliminated from the list. Fox Hill Farm and Dutch Island were restricted as conservation areas set aside for wildlife habitat. Fort Wetherill, Battery Lane and the school grounds, all limited in space, threatened shadow flicker that would fall on populated areas. Watershed farms, as well as Fox Hill Farm had deeds that restricted development.

The committee agreed that shadows created from turbines would be a heavily-weighted factor. Beavertail appeared to have the least flicker impact.

An additional cost consideration would be connection lines to the public electrical grid. "We are looking for proximity to transmission lines," Mendelsohn explained. As detailed on the data sheet, Battery Lane was two miles away from an inter-connect location. He called the site "a poor choice."

Another concern for turbines might be long-range radar issues with the Federal Aviation Association, Department of Defense and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. "The three radar systems want to keep channels clear, and turbines can interfere," the consultant warned.

Roads are also a problem, Mendelsohn reported. He suggested exploring more sites. "National Grid has a right of way across all roads," he said.

After a general review of the available data, Mendelsohn said that Dutch Island was a remote area and would cause less interference than other sites. "If the state doesn't mind, it may still be in the picture," he added.

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