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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 4, 2010

Weighing wind’s worth

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Before its meteorological tower in Knox comes down this October, Helderberg Community Energy is hoping to erect one in nearby New Scotland.

If the two towers can collect information in tandem for a few months, members of the group can extrapolate the data from each to form a longer-range picture of the potential for wind energy on both sites.

“It’s all about the relationship between the two towers,” Dave Strong, of Sustainable Energy Developments, told New Scotland’s zoning board recently.  He appeared with Gerald Lenseth, vice president of Helderberg Community Energy, who wants to put the new tower on his Pinnacle Road property.

If they can correlate the information from the two towers, it would be like having four years of data already for the New Scotland location and future data for the Knox location.

In October of 2006, Helderberg Community Energy built a tower on Middle Road with a permit for 18 months, said Russ Pokorny this week.  He and his wife, Amy, are hosting the 165-foot tower.  They’ve gotten two extensions — one for 18 months and another for 12 months — but won’t be able to keep it up past October because, Pokorny said, neighbors at the last public hearing complained about the view.

They’d like to keep it up for longer, he said, but they’re satisfied with four years of data.

The group has found that the wind-power yield in Knox is “certainly not on the high side,” Pokorny said.  It’s probably medium to low, which means that large-scale companies that have to make a certain profit margin wouldn’t be as interested in developing wind turbines as a local group, like Helderberg Community Energy, would be.

Ideally, the group would like to build three one-and-a-half megawatt General Electric turbines in the area, he said.  Since turbines typically yield about 25 percent of their face value, the Knox turbines could generate 1.125 megawatts of electricity.  Assuming the average household uses about 1,000 kilowatts, the turbines could power 1,000 homes.  The population of Knox is about 2,700, according to the federal census, and Pokorny estimated that there are about 1,000 households in the town.

Based on wind maps, Helderberg Community Energy expects that it could build five or six turbines on the escarpment in the Pinnacle Road area, Pokorny said.  The group plans to use the data gathered by the meteorological tower on Lenseth’s property to better gauge the wind in that area.

Since New Scotland is currently drafting a law to govern wind energy in town, there is no provision in its current zoning law to address the kind of tower that Lenseth wants to put up.  Jeffrey Baker, attorney to the zoning board, suggested that Lenseth pursue a temporary-use permit, which could allow him to have the tower for a year, with the option for him to apply for one additional year.

When Lenseth was before the town’s planning board on Tuesday, that board voted to send the temporary-use application back to the zoning board with a favorable recommendation.  The zoning board will likely decide on the 170-foot tower at its March 23 meeting.

The town held a public hearing on the draft of its wind-energy law last September, but hasn’t made any further progress after collecting the comments, Supervisor Thomas Dolin said this week.  The town has “been preoccupied with other matters,” he said, adding that it’s at the “top of the agenda after the ethics law and Local Law B,” which would cap the allowable size of retail stores in the commercial zone.

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