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Wind plan breezing along - Second test mast proposed for Gore Mountain energy park

What this basically means, he said, is that a final project application and plan cannot be submitted to the Adirondack Park Agency until the research is done and the company knows exactly where windmills would need to go and why.

JOHNSBURG -- The letters are steadily stacking up in Jim McAndrew's office.


As vice president of strategic projects for the Barton Group, he's received many written expressions supporting the Barton Mines Co. proposal to build 10 windmills on the northern side of Gore Mountain.
Letters have come from the Warren County Board of Supervisors, the Essex County Board of Supervisors, the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors and even the international environmental group, Greenpeace.

"Given the stark urgency of global warming, Greenpeace believes that the presumption should always be in favor of renewable energy projects, unless there is specific evidence of environmental harm," Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando said in a letter posted on www.adirondackwind.com.

"Therefore," he continued, "after careful review, we endorse the Adirondack Wind Energy Park."

For McAndrew, the organization's backing is welcome and logical.

"We're certainly interested in having support from environmental groups, and it seems like a natural fit since (wind power) is renewable energy," he explained.

Before this $30 million project becomes a reality, however, Barton must continue to conduct research to prove its old... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

JOHNSBURG -- The letters are steadily stacking up in Jim McAndrew's office.


As vice president of strategic projects for the Barton Group, he's received many written expressions supporting the Barton Mines Co. proposal to build 10 windmills on the northern side of Gore Mountain.
Letters have come from the Warren County Board of Supervisors, the Essex County Board of Supervisors, the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors and even the international environmental group, Greenpeace.

"Given the stark urgency of global warming, Greenpeace believes that the presumption should always be in favor of renewable energy projects, unless there is specific evidence of environmental harm," Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando said in a letter posted on www.adirondackwind.com.

"Therefore," he continued, "after careful review, we endorse the Adirondack Wind Energy Park."

For McAndrew, the organization's backing is welcome and logical.

"We're certainly interested in having support from environmental groups, and it seems like a natural fit since (wind power) is renewable energy," he explained.

Before this $30 million project becomes a reality, however, Barton must continue to conduct research to prove its old garnet mine site is suitable for a wind farm.

The weather-monitoring mast for which the company is seeking approval, for instance, is crucial to making this determination.

This 50-meter-tall piece of equipment contains five anemometers to measure wind force and velocity, McAndrew said, adding it's also equipped with temperature and direction sensors.

If the Adirondack Park Agency approves the mast when it discusses the request again in March or April, it will be the second such structure to grace Barton's property. Together, the two masts would paint a much clearer picture of the site's wind-farm potential.

"The single mast, which has been up for about two years, only tells us about one spot," McAndrew said.

Two masts, he continued, would tell the company much more about the amount of harvestable wind on the mountain.

This data is also important for a second reason.

"Until we obtain and analyze and verify our hopes via the information we obtain through scientific testing of the wind, (the) design and economic evaluation cannot proceed," McAndrew said.

What this basically means, he said, is that a final project application and plan cannot be submitted to the Adirondack Park Agency until the research is done and the company knows exactly where windmills would need to go and why.

Concern over birds

Wind, though, isn't the only aspect of the Adirondack environment Barton Mines has to study in order to erect the turbines and submit an official proposal.

Birds, whose flight paths may cross tower blades with unfortunate results, must also be considered.

McAndrew is well aware of this and is willing to hire a contractor to conduct radar bird studies should the State Environmental Quality Review Act process require it.

"In general, wind projects should avoid areas where overflights by migratory birds concentrate," he explained. "We have no reason to believe this would be the case at our location, but expect that the study will be required to rule out that possibility."

John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council is not so sure birds won't be negatively affected by 10 windmills on a 1,700-acre plot of land.

There's reason to believe that Barton's property is "good habitat for Bicknell's thrush and Swanson's thrush," he said. "These two tropical song birds -- their entire existence depends on undisturbed mountain summits in the Adirondacks."

This is the case, he continued, because the thrushes breed and nest here before migrating south to places like the Dominican Republic.

The birds' northern homes are even more important to the preservation of the species, because their homes in the southern countries are shrinking.

Habitat loss there is a real concern, Sheehan said, which is why "we want to make sure every place we have these birds in the Adirondacks is kept."

Sheehan and his colleagues at the Adirondack Council are also worried the about the greater impact a wind farm would have on feathered fliers just simply passing through.

In Europe, under mountaintop windmills, "they're literally finding piles of dead birds," he said.

Woody Widlund, a North River resident who lives between Barton Mines and the Siamese Ponds Wilderness, disagrees that this threat is as real as it once was.

"The bird problem has been pretty much solved by redesign," the environmentalist said. "At one point, the towers were latticework and the birds would just land in them" and collide with the blades during takeoff.

"Now though, they're solid, and there's no place for birds to rest," he added.

Visual blight?

Widlund also disputes the Adirondack Council's argument that windmills would be a visual blight.

"These towers would be visible from as far away as Vermont," the Adirondack Council's Sheehan said, and their existence would defeat a policy long held by the Adirondack Park.

"In 1924, the state banned billboards and off-premise signs," he continued. "You even need special permission for buildings over 40 feet high."

The windmills, by comparison, would be about 400 feet tall with a blade extended.

If the giant pinwheels go up outside the park, however, the Adirondack Council is happy to support the green power source.

"We're happy to see a couple hundred go up in Tug Hill," Sheehan said. "All of these will be visible from inside the park, but we have not objected to this."

The council hasn't objected because the towers went up in a very agrarian landscape with barns, cornfields and silos, he said. Tug Hill isn't "a wilderness setting and, frankly, I think people expect to see something like this there."

A fraction of that famous Adirondack view, however, is something Widlund is willing to sacrifice if it will save the mountains he's been hiking for 45 years.

Because of fossil fuel emissions from power plants in the West, "half the lakes are dead, and red spruce is essentially gone," he said.

"We have to get started" on wind power, Widlund added adamantly. "I don't like the dead red spruce. I don't like the dead lakes."

This fierce support of the Barton Mines project has prompted Widlund to do more than speak out. He's also acting out, through the bumper stickers people are smacking on their cars.

His stickers, inspired by the black and yellow "Ski North Creek" stickers of 1940, have been placed in local stores and chambers of commerce. The bold, bright words bear legends like "Wind Power & North Creek, NY -- Perfect Together."

So far, Widlund has given away 1,500 stickers.

Source: http://www.poststar.com/sto...

JAN 23 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1049-wind-plan-breezing-along-second-test-mast-proposed-for-gore-mountain-energy-park
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