County Planning Board backs tougher wind energy law in Yates

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 April 2016 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Gary Daum, a Yates resident and a member of the Orleans County Planning Board, discusses Yates’ proposed moratorium and a updated law on wind energy facilities. The Planning Board supported the proposals by Yates.

YATES – The Orleans County Planning Board is supporting the Town of Yates in revising a nearly decade-old local law on wind energy facilities.

The previous town ordinance from 2008 caps the height of turbines at 420 feet. Apex Clean Energy wants to build up to 71 turbines in Yates and Somerset that would be between 490 to 620 feet in height to the top of the turbine blade.

Yates isn’t proposing a height restriction with the new law, but instead would require setbacks from residences, roads, municipal boundaries and other public use areas 4.5 times the turbine height. With turbines at 620 feet, the setbacks would need to be more than a half mile.

“This would effectively be a ban on turbines,” Dan Fitzgerald, project manager for Apex Clean Energy, told the County Planning Board on Thursday.

Apex submitted 13 pages of comments about the local law.

Jim Simon, the Yates town supervisor, said town officials aren’t trying to ban turbines.

“This law wasn’t written for a developer,” Simon said. “This law is written for our town and for our people.”

Dan Fitzgerald, project manager for Apex Clean Energy, shares his concerns about the Yates proposed law. The meeting on Thursday was held at the Carlton Recreation Hall.

The Planning Board said the new regulations are more rigorous than the 2008 law, as they should be because the latest-generation of utility-scale turbines “rise to much greater heights than those envisioned when Yates’ current law was adopted.”

The bigger turbines involve deeper foundations, longer shadows, farther ice throws, greater visibility, and more reasons to analyze potential impacts on birds and wildlife, the Planning Board said.

“It’s still evolving,” said Planning Board member Gary Daum, a Yates resident. “It’s about people and innovation and new things.”

The revised Yates law expands the findings section from 10 to 24 items, with the developer required to analyze ambient sound, background sound, weighted sound pressures, shadow flicker and tower height, and many other issues.

The town also will require a transportation plan for construction of turbines to assess potential damage to local roads and bridges, and mitigation of traffic congestion with movement of turbine materials.

Yates also will require developers with wind energy facilities to complete reports and analysis from the projects on groundwater, geotechnical, flora/fauna, cultural/historical/architectural/, wildlife, blade throw, stray voltage and aviation.

Planners noted that the strength of the local laws for wind turbines is currently unsettled given that the state leads the process through Article 10, with a state siting board voting on the projects.

Yates also is seeking a six-month moratorium on wind energy conversion systems. That moratorium will give the town time to pass its revised law and also incorporate revisions into the Yates-Carlton-Kendall Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, as well as the town’s comprehensive plan.

Apex officials said they thought their project should be grandfathered in and not be subject to the moratorium. Apex has been meeting with landowners in Yates about the project for 22 months, said Taylor Quarles, development manager.

Apex hasn’t submitted a formal application for its project. It is seeking a second meteorological tower to assess wind strength. That tower wouldn’t be able to go up until after the moratorium.