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Yates councilman has valid concerns about turbine height and impact on Niagara Falls base

Posted 7 February 2017 at 2:10 pm

Editor:

I am writing to confirm the points made by John Riggi in his editorial dated December 21st which was so rudely and inaccurately contravened by Howard Pierce on January 25th.

When Apex Clean Energy first spoke publically about the proposed Lighthouse Wind project, a tip height of 570 feet was referenced.  In July 2015, Taylor Quarles, current project manager, mentioned the “proposed 60 to 70, 570-foot turbines” in the Lockport Union Sun & Journal. The Buffalo News included in a July 2016 article that Apex “referred to a possibility of a turbine tip height of 615 feet and said it was studying heights up to 650 feet.” At a meeting I attended with other representatives of SOS in May 2016, Apex’s consultant, Dave Belote, mentioned a height of 654 feet being used for the Department of Defense preliminary assessment.

I was a member of the Town of Somerset’s Wind Energy Committee which began meeting in July 2015. Mr. Dan Fitzgerald, then Project Manager for Lighthouse Wind, made a statement before 11 other members of that committee (which included John Riggi), the Town engineer, and various audience members, that a specific height for industrial wind turbines should not be included in any new laws. He stated that until the time of the application, Apex would not be committing to any specific model since technology is continually changing.  Mr. Fitzgerald did say, however, that the tallest possible turbine available at the time of application would be used. This would allow the company to reach the most wind possible since the higher the altitude, the more wind available.

North American Windpower published an article in September 2016 which announced the addition of two new turbines to GE’s 3MW Onshore Wind Portfolio. These wind turbines are available with hub heights up to 539 feet. Add to this a blade length of 200 feet, a conservative figure considering the blades being manufactured today, and you now have an industrial onshore wind turbine reaching 739 feet.

As for the comment by an official at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station stating this proposed project would not have an impact on the base, I’d like to include the actual quote from the Buffalo News dated 10/23/2016.  Col. Joseph D. Janik, operations group commander for the 914th Airlift Wing, was interviewed, not the base commander as stated by Mr. Pierce.

When speaking about the KC-135 mission and “asked if he thinks the new planes make the wind turbines a nonissue for the air base, Janik replied, ‘at this time, with the new mission, yes.’”  So, this refers to only one specific mission, which has recently moved to the base.  Barry Rhodes, chairman of Cassidy & Associates, Apex’s lobbying firm which employs David Belote, states on the firm’s website that bases need to look at 5 years and 10 years in the future, and “don’t focus on what today is.”  Sage advice from Mr. Rhodes, whose firm represents many bases across the country.

Yates Councilman John Riggi has his facts straight and is looking ahead. The proposed Lighthouse Wind project and the future of NFARS both have political dimensions and if local residents value their communities’ economy and environment, it is time to make their voices heard.

Pamela Atwater

President of Save Ontario Shores