Article

Powerful change in wind - Towering turbines bring income for some, clean power for state, but some say costs too high

For those who live among the towers, the consequences of the development are palpable. The construction required building new roads and widening existing ones to make room for oversize vehicles. Hundreds of workers moved into town or stayed in trailers on the job site during the summer rush. The rural landscape was transformed into an industrial setting. Where stands of poplars and fields of corn and hay covered the plateau, the smooth lines of the light gray towers and steady rotation of the rotors now define the view. And the noises changed. The unobstructed wind has always been the dominant sound on the plateau. Now, the whoosh of the wind is mixed with the hum of the machines and a mechanical whomp of the blades turning.

LOWVILLE -- Perched atop a steel tower, Sterling Zack gives directions on a hand-held radio to a crane operator 265 feet below. From the ground, he is just a blip leaning over the edge. At his eye level and a few yards away, the rotor assembly of a wind turbine hangs motionless above the snow-covered Tug Hill Plateau.

Each of the three blades is longer than the wing of a Boeing 747. On this rare windless day Zack's job is to direct the rotor into place and climb between the blades and into the nose cone to tighten the bolts that will hold the assembly together.

The windmill will turn the energy of the wind into electricity.

Developers and environmental groups bill the emission-free power from Tug Hill as a source of electricity that can help stabilize energy prices and reduce acid rain, greenhouse gases and dependence on foreign oil, as well as generate income for New York.

Across New York, more than 5,000 megawatts of windmill projects are proposed. Current operating limits of the power grid allow for only 3,000 megawatts to be constructed, according to a report by New York Independent System Operator. The Guilderland-based nonprofit... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
LOWVILLE -- Perched atop a steel tower, Sterling Zack gives directions on a hand-held radio to a crane operator 265 feet below. From the ground, he is just a blip leaning over the edge. At his eye level and a few yards away, the rotor assembly of a wind turbine hangs motionless above the snow-covered Tug Hill Plateau.

Each of the three blades is longer than the wing of a Boeing 747. On this rare windless day Zack's job is to direct the rotor into place and climb between the blades and into the nose cone to tighten the bolts that will hold the assembly together.

The windmill will turn the energy of the wind into electricity.

Developers and environmental groups bill the emission-free power from Tug Hill as a source of electricity that can help stabilize energy prices and reduce acid rain, greenhouse gases and dependence on foreign oil, as well as generate income for New York.

Across New York, more than 5,000 megawatts of windmill projects are proposed. Current operating limits of the power grid allow for only 3,000 megawatts to be constructed, according to a report by New York Independent System Operator. The Guilderland-based nonprofit administers the state's wholesale electric market.

Reaching that mark would require more than 1,900 towers scattered across the state.

The first 120 towers of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm started spinning this month, more than quadrupling the state's wind power capacity.

This summer, another 75 windmills will be added to the site. When all 195 are in motion, they will produce more than 320 megawatts of electricity, or enough for some 250,000 to 300,000 average households, the Independent System Operator says.

The developers of Maple Ridge -- the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi -- chose the Tug Hill Plateau for its steady southwest winds off Lake Ontario. The breeze accelerates across the site like a river at the lip of a waterfall as it drops over the eastern edge of the plateau and into the valley that separates Tug Hill from the Adirondack Mountains.

Its owners, PPM Energy, based in Portland, Ore., and Horizon Wind Energy of Houston, will have invested $380 million in the project.

For those who live among the towers, the consequences of the development are palpable.

The construction required building new roads and widening existing ones to make room for oversize vehicles. Hundreds of workers moved into town or stayed in trailers on the job site during the summer rush.

The rural landscape was transformed into an industrial setting. Where stands of poplars and fields of corn and hay covered the plateau, the smooth lines of the light gray towers and steady rotation of the rotors now define the view.

And the noises changed. The unobstructed wind has always been the dominant sound on the plateau. Now, the whoosh of the wind is mixed with the hum of the machines and a mechanical whomp of the blades turning.

"The impact and the benefits are carried very much locally," said
Patrick Doyle, one of the initial developers of Maple Ridge Wind Farm.

Because New York is a home-rule state, the closest town governments make the decision on if, how and where these projects are developed, with the state providing guidelines and examples of regulations.

"Ultimately, it's a town of 2,000 people that decide," said Bill Moore, who has been working on the development for six years.

Moore and Doyle joke that the main skill of their job is the ability to stand in cow manure while talking to landowners about the feasibility of constructing wind farms.

PPM consultants are working across the state for their own projects, while the Long Island Power Authority is looking for proposals to build an offshore wind farm along the island's south shore. In the Adirondacks, the Barton Mines Co. is looking to put up towers on the backside of Gore Mountain.

Critics of both projects say the benefit of clean energy does not outweigh the cost of a marred view.

Early opposition to wind farms cited the number of birds killed by the spinning rotors. More recent attention to siting of projects, a better understanding of bird behavior and changes in blade design have drastically reduced bird and bat kills.

Horizon Wind Energy just got its application accepted for the construction of a 200 megawatt wind farm just south of the Canadian boarder in the town of Ellensburg.

By far, the biggest challenge for wind developers is finding willing landowners and city or town governments willing to live with the turbines.

On Tug Hill, landowners were promised between $6,000 and $9,000 in annual income for each turbine built on their property, depending on the amount of electricity produced and the market for it.

The federal government pays 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour produced by wind, and last year the state signed agreements with wind developers to pay an additional 2.2 cents for each kilowatt-hour of clean power.

The subsidy is part of Gov. George Pataki's push for 25 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources.

Each turbine costs about $1.8 million including construction and takes approximately one acre of land, including the access road. In comparison, an acre of corn is worth about $250.

Residents living within 1,000 feet of turbines that are not on their property will receive annual payments ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than a $1,000, depending on the number of towers.

Betsy and Kyle Burbank live in the middle of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm on a 250-acre hay farm. From their front porch, they can see three towers on their neighbor's property. Behind their house are four other towers.

After touring a smaller nearby wind farm in 2003, the Burbanks agreed to allow towers on their property.

Betsy Burbank said her three boys of elementary school age have each claimed a tower to pay for their college education. The fourth tower will be for the baby on the way. The boys are home-schooled and will often watch the towers, chiding each other if their particular tower is turning and making money while one of their brother's is not.

No doubt the money will help, Burbank said, but the heavy traffic of summer construction kept her from letting the boys ride their bikes.
Burbank said she could not hear the roars when she is inside her home, and the hum becomes a background noise often drowned out by the gusts of wind.

"It's like the noise the refrigerator in your house makes," she said.
Across the plateau, the chief complaint of the project was the rushed construction.

Before the wind farm, the plateau was best known for its snowmobile trails connecting to a statewide trail. Tug Hill is famous for deep snow, a long winter and unobstructed routes.

Construction of the access roads blocked some of those trails, and the crews ran out of time to smooth out high spots, which are difficult for snowmobiles to pass over. The early season plowing postponed taking the sleds on the roads.

"They just weren't neighborly," said Gordon Yancey, owner of the Flat Rock Inn, a popular bar in the middle of the plateau. "It's not going to stop guys from riding. It just destroys the sleds."

Yancey does not receive money from the towers and says he can't stand them: The rotors sound like helicopters, the towers are ugly and he does not like to live surrounded by giants.

During typical winters, the bar's parking lot is packed with more sleds than cars and the patrons often stay late into the night.

In the summer, the widened roads were heavily oiled, Yancey said, covering passing vehicles with an orange slime. The company paid to have vehicles cleaned, if residents submitted the appropriate paperwork.

This summer, the crews and trucks return for the second phase of construction, and there is talk of more towers in a third phase at some later date.

"We've hardly started," said Moore.

Source: http://timesunion.com/AspSt...

JAN 30 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1116-powerful-change-in-wind-towering-turbines-bring-income-for-some-clean-power-for-state-but-some-say-costs-too-high
back to top