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Wind turbine demonstration site raises concern for nesting herons

Lane Johnson said the great blue herons that perch on and near his property in Bell Acres are like an annoying little brother that you wish would go away, but you also feel obligated to protect. ...he spoke during a public hearing Monday night against the proposed erection of a 60-foot wind turbine that would go up about a half-mile away from the herons' nesting spot -- or rookery -- because it might endanger the birds.

Belle Acres neighbors worry windmill site will endanger birds

Lane Johnson said the great blue herons that perch on and near his property in Bell Acres are like an annoying little brother that you wish would go away, but you also feel obligated to protect.

"Every night it sounds like they're killing babies out there," Mr. Johnson said of the noises the birds make from their nests, high in the trees along Big Sewickley Creek Road.

That said, he spoke during a public hearing Monday night against the proposed erection of a 60-foot wind turbine that would go up about a half-mile away from the herons' nesting spot -- or rookery -- because it might endanger the birds.

"Don't do it," Mr. Lane told Bell Acres council members. Council is considering whether to issue a conditional use permit to a group of local businesses that want to create a showroom of sorts for three alternative energy products on an 80-by-80-foot piece of property at the intersection of Turkeyfoot and Big Sewickley Creek roads.

More than 50 people, some sitting on tables or standing at the back of the room, crowded into the Big Sewickley Creek Volunteer Fire Department for the hearing.

A majority just listened, but a handful of opponents... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Belle Acres neighbors worry windmill site will endanger birds

Lane Johnson said the great blue herons that perch on and near his property in Bell Acres are like an annoying little brother that you wish would go away, but you also feel obligated to protect.

"Every night it sounds like they're killing babies out there," Mr. Johnson said of the noises the birds make from their nests, high in the trees along Big Sewickley Creek Road.

That said, he spoke during a public hearing Monday night against the proposed erection of a 60-foot wind turbine that would go up about a half-mile away from the herons' nesting spot -- or rookery -- because it might endanger the birds.

"Don't do it," Mr. Lane told Bell Acres council members. Council is considering whether to issue a conditional use permit to a group of local businesses that want to create a showroom of sorts for three alternative energy products on an 80-by-80-foot piece of property at the intersection of Turkeyfoot and Big Sewickley Creek roads.

More than 50 people, some sitting on tables or standing at the back of the room, crowded into the Big Sewickley Creek Volunteer Fire Department for the hearing.

A majority just listened, but a handful of opponents came prepared with arguments and questions about the Alternative Energy Center's intentions.

The Alternative Energy Center is a partnership of Vox Energy Solutions, of McCandless; Jet Industries, of Ellwood City; and Metal Foundations, of Ambridge.

The group wants to sell wind turbines mostly for personal/residential use and offer solar panel arrays for larger clients such as wind farms in Arizona, said Karen Foltz, of Vox Energy.

To help show clients what its finished products look like, the consortium wants to create a showcase area that includes a trailer, the 60-foot turbine, a somewhat different and smaller 15-foot model and a 15-panel solar array.

While the two turbines and the solar array will produce a small amount of energy, that's not the group's goal, said Joseph Restelli, project manager.

"It's a test demonstration site," he told the crowd. The group chose the Bell Acres spot because "... it's where we live," Mr. Restelli said.

Gary Reinert, owner of Metal Foundations, also owns the property where the proposed demonstration area would be built.

Also, Ms. Foltz said, it's a good halfway point between Vox in McCandless and the others in Beaver County. The property is zoned light industrial and is located near a concrete plant, junk yard and sewage treatment facility. The heron rookery is also nearby, on the border of Economy and Bell Acres and is home to dozens of visible nests.

Despite the public's concerns for the herons' safety, the state Game Commission on Sept. 1 issued a report stating the proposed demonstration area would pose no danger to the birds.

The commission did suggest the consortium "maintain a 100-foot buffer along the Big Sewickley Creek to protect [the] quality of water in [the] stream in order to maintain wetlands and the foraging areas for herons." The commission also suggested the group avoid construction during nesting season between Feb. 15 and Aug. 15.

In addition to worrying about the herons and other issues, such as how the demonstration area will look, opponents are also concerned about the noise the turbines will make.

Mr. Restelli said the sound level of a similar 35-foot wind turbine in Economy measured from 25 feet away was about 39 decibels. The noise level in the meeting room when he asked for quiet was near 40 decibels.

In general, anything exceeding 65 decibels would be considered a noise disturbance, according to Bell Acres' noise ordinance. Mr. Restelli said he doesn't expect the consortium's wind turbine to be any louder than the one in Economy.

Regarding general noise issues, Councilman Chris Abell said he spoke with Economy's police chief and learned there had been no bird kills or noise complaints near that borough's turbine.

In addition, Mr. Abell said he visited residents who live near that turbine and spoke with people who walked past it and nobody complained about the sound.

Some audience members, though, dismissed the measurements in Economy and said the group should provide information to the borough regarding low-frequency noise emissions, which can't necessarily be heard but can still affect humans and animals.

Resident Keelie Garbee said she'd like to see more research on low-level frequency sound emissions at the turbine site and asked council to consider the implications of allowing wind turbine construction without an ordinance governing such structures.

"You're setting a precedent," she said.

Richard Kulbacki, who spoke in favor of the demonstration area, pointed to the other commercial ventures in the vicinity and said, "I would rather see a wind turbine down there than another asphalt plant or junk yard."

Council has 45 days to decide if it will approve the conditional use request and whether to impose restrictions on the project. The next council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the fire hall.


Source: http://www.post-gazette.com...

OCT 15 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/22660-wind-turbine-demonstration-site-raises-concern-for-nesting-herons
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