Last week I stopped in to talk with Carol Schmook and Ken Jupiter, whose plans to put a 10 kW windmill on their property at the corner of Baker Hill Road and Mount Pleasant Road came to a sudden halt at last month's Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. NYSERDA, the state authority that provides funding for solar and wind installations, requires a building permit for their projects, which required a zoning variance, which led to the conclusion that the Zoning Board can't presently issue such a variance until the Town Board passes a law.
While the Town Board ponders an alternative energy ordinance (which the Town Attorney apparently dislikes for non-legal reasons), these folks, who've paid a $6000 deposit to Renovus Energy, are stuck.
Renovus does warn on their site that:
unless you are prepared to be very patient waiting for permits and approvals for your wind turbine, don't even think about contacting us. It will only end up being a waste of your time and ours. To date, our experience has been waiting periods of between 6 months to one year from signed Purchase Agreement to an installed, grid-connected, operating wind turbine.
Obtaining the necessary permits from "authorities having jurisdiction" (AJHs) will be the most time-consuming and frustrating step in the process of design, permitting, installation, commissioning and ongoing maintenance of a small wind project. AHJs include: local planning and zoning boards, local building department and code enforcement office, electric utility, NYSERDA project reviewers (NYS SEQR requirements) and possibly others.
Even with that warning, though, I think everyone was surprised to find that Dryden currently has no mechanism at all for approving these, especially given that windmills are already operating at a few places in the town.
They want to put the windmill on a tower in this forested area, over 150 feet from anything else.
The windmill would be a Bergey Excel, a common turbine for residential use that can produce 10 kW when there's 29 mph of wind. They shared the technical data with me, including a noise test report (203KB PDF), information on its (lack of) impact on birds (52KB PDF), and a letter from Audubon Society of California supporting the use of small-scale windmills (50KB PDF).
Renovus also has a set of pictures of local wind installations in various places that provide some idea what these look like. This windmill would use net metering, feeding power back into the grid when it generates more than the house itself uses. Given the seasonal nature of wind, it will likely feed as much power to the grid as the house uses from the grid during off-seasons. Break-even for the project is estimated at 15 years.
Schmoock and Jupiter seem willing to wait, if frustrated by the delay. They described the windmill as:
fitting well with retirement. We can't avoid property taxes, but can avoid electrical bills. We would like to stay and keep paying taxes.
They had been hoping to put up the windmill this summer, to take advantage of fall's higher winds, and have been sending letters to neighbors explaining their plans (59KB PDF) along with an approval letter to Renovus (56KB PDF) that they need to collect from their neighbors in order to proceed with NYSERDA. So far, all of their neighbors but one have sent approvals.
I'll admit that this all seems strange to me. Putting up towers of any kind seems like an activity that the Town should regulate, but currently telecommunications towers are heavily regulated while ham radio towers aren't regulated at all. These windmills aren't the schoolbus-on-a-stick giants that generated so much resistance for Cornell last year, but much smaller devices that aren't nearly as visible. The town's known of windmills going up earlier in other places, but suddenly it's become a problem.
Hopefully the town will move quickly on this.Posted by simon at May 5, 2006 7:12 AM in Mount Pleasant , energy , planning and zoning