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Genesee County planners see no problem with farm's desire to install wind/solar system

By Mike Pettinella

Cottonwood Dairy Farm owners Paul and Jason Tillotson are hoping for the best of both worlds by contracting with SkyWolf Wind Turbine Corp. for a hybrid wind/solar energy system to partially power their large agricultural operation at 10771 Cook Road in Pavilion.

The Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night recommended approval of a special use permit and area variance for the Tillotsons to install two 32-foot high, 8.5 kilowatt towers. The panel ruled that since the towers are only 32 feet high, proposed setbacks from the public right-of-way of 555 and 564 feet, respectively, present no significant impact. The current requirement according to Town of Pavilion code is 1,000 feet from the right-of-way.

Planning Director Felipe Oltramari further reinforced the board's decision by stating that the Town of Pavilion would be wise to consider updating its code to base it on tower height instead of a set distance.

"The Town adopted its wind energy system awhile back. It was one of the earlier models, and their thinking was in line with large wind turbines -- 500-foot towers," he said.

The Tillotsons will now have to go before the Town of Pavilion Zoning Board to complete the preliminary process before the wind/solar system is constructed. Paul Tillotson said he's excited about the possibilities.

"It makes a lot of sense to be able to capture both (wind and solar energy)," he said, noting that he's looking to offset some of the significant expense of running a 1,000-acre, 300-cow dairy farm. "We know that the wind in our area is at 12 3/4 (mph) on average, which gives us a 'good' rating."

Gerald Brock, president and CEO of the Geneseo-based SkyWolf Wind Turbine Corp., said the hybrid system packs more power in a smaller package than traditional wind turbines.

"It's already been proven (that it works)," Brock said, mentioning that the system is supplying 80-90 percent of the total electricity of a house in Livonia.

In a press release, Jason Tillotson said his farm recently completed the purchase of five robotic milkers and an automated calf-feeding system, along with other precision agriculture equipment -- moves that allowed them to obtain organic certification. But with that, the Tillotsons' monthly electric energy usage drastically increased.

They said they expect substantial savings by locating the SkyWolf system towers on their farm.

"They're about a couple hundred feet from my house," Paul Tillotson said.

SkyWolf touts itself as designer, manufacturer and supplier of an innovative patented Solar Hybrid Diffused Augmented Wind Turbine (DWAT) that integrates solar and wind kinetic power into renewable electric energy in a single turbine.

In related action, the Planning Board recommended approval with modifications of a a special use permit and area variance request by Rebecca Hackett of 6359 Telephone Road, Pavilion, for a 153-foot high, 10-kilowatt wind energy system.

The modification stipulation stems from the fact that the proposed setback from the public right-of-way is 294 feet and the proposed setbacks from property lines are 247 and 252 feet -- all three much less than the required distance of 1,000 feet.

Planners are recommending that the applicant obtain a waiver from adjacent landowners before proceeding with the project.

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