County planners back two 633-foot-high turbines in Shelby

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 July 2022 at 5:06 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Planning Board on Thursday voted in favor of two 633-foot-high turbines in Shelby.

Borrego Solar System Inc. is proposing the two turbines on South Gravel Road in an apple orchard owned by the Smith family. Town Supervisor Jeff Smith recently retired as an apple grower. His family’s property is proposed for the two turbines. He is recusing himself from any votes or official discussion about the project.

The County Planning Board recommended that Shelby approve a special use permit for the project and also OK the site plan.

The two turbines would each have a capacity to generate 5 megawatts of power. The turbines would disturb 11 acres of land. The turbines would peak at 633 feet in height, and that is from the ground to the top tip of the blade. The ground to the main hub is 363.7 feet with the blades at a total diameter of 479 feet. Because of the height of the turbines, they will need to be lighted for Federal Aviation Administration standards.

The project includes a 20-foot wide access road, and that road will need to cross a stream. A battery storage system isn’t part of the project.

Borrego, the project developer, plans to keep existing trees around the edge of the property to act as a noise and visual buffer. Borrego presented visual studies that show the turbines would be very prominent on Route 63, and also would be visible from the Oak Orchard Elementary School and Glenwood Avenue canal bridge near Main Street.

A shadow flicker study was conducted at 166 locations. Borrego said the maximum light flicker will be 19 hours, 34 minutes a year, or just over 3 minutes a day on average.

Borrego in a noise analysis report said the sound decibels will range from 28 to 43 dBA, which falls within the sound category for quiet rural nighttime to small town residence.

The County Planning Board recommended that Shelby submit the proposal to the U.S. Department of Interior for its review about whether the turbines pose a risk to migratory birds and bats. The project would be close to the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

County planning officials said construction of the project would result in some traffic delays when the long blades are being delivered. Once the project is constructed, there will be minimal traffic to the site, planners said.