County planners urge Yates to allow new Met tower

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 August 2016 at 12:16 pm
Dan Fitzgerald of Apex Clean Energy

Photo by Tom Rivers
Dan Fitzgerald, senior director of development for Apex Clean Energy, addresses the Orleans County Planning Board on Thursday.

ALBION – The Orleans County Planning Board is recommending the Town of Yates issue a variance and allow construction of a nearly 200-foot-high meteorological tower at the northeast corner of West Yates Center Road and Route 269.

Yates currently has a moratorium on wind energy projects, including Met towers. The Town Board will have a public hearing 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 8 at the Town Hall to consider if the town should allow a variance from the 180-day moratorium.

The Town Board will review the application for the Met tower from Apex Clean Energy at a later meeting if the board decides to give a variance from the moratorium, Town Supervisor Jim Simon said.

He told county planners the moratorium is simply “a timeout” to give the town more time to update its local laws for siting wind energy systems and Met towers. The town has already passed a local law for turbines. The 600-foot-plus turbines proposed by Apex Clean Energy would need setbacks of a half-mile, according to the new town law.

Dan Fitzgerald, senior director of development for Apex, said the meteorological tower will help the company site the project, which could include 70 turbines in Yates and Somerset. The Met tower would measure wind speed and consistency. Apex would also like to have microphones on the tower to help study the bat population, he said.

Most of the turbines are planned for between Lower Lake Road and Route 18, with some south of Route 18 as well. Fitzgerald said a series of Met towers will help to pinpoint the locations to best capture the wind. That information will be released to the public after the company gains the wind strength data from the Met towers, Fitzgerald told county planners.

He said the moratorium from the town delays the company from gathering that information, and giving the public a more precise plan for turbine locations.

Fitzgerald said the Met tower is a temporary facility for up to three years and should be considered separate from the larger Lighthouse Wind project.

The 17-member Planning Board voted for Yates to give the variance. The board’s vote is an advisory opinion. Gary Daum and Ed Urbanik from Yates both abstained from the vote on Thursday.

Planners said the Met tower is the most effective method for measuring wind strength with no other viable alternatives to getting accurate wind data. Apex, as part of its application through Article 10 with the the state’s Public Service Law, needs to provide wind measurement data, planners said.