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June 14, 2022 - 6:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alexander, renewable energy, windmills, news, notify.

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A proposed 650-foot tall, 4.5-megawatt wind turbine proposed for Dry Bridge Road in Alexander met some opposition at a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting last week.

Some residents said it wasn't needed, they didn't want it, questioned the financial benefit to the town, and suggested it would be an eyesore.

The community-based energy project -- meaning town, village, and school district receive fees and residents get a discount on electricity -- would be constructed by Borrego Energy on property owned by Dale and Brenda Spring. Representatives of Borrego, which included Dave Strong, Brandon Smith and Mark Kenworth, explained the project.

The Spring property is 147 acres and the windmill will be on the northern portion of the property, about 1,954 feet north of Dry Bridge Road and 4,136 feet south of Route 20.

The project will disturb only 8.5 acres of the property, and it came before the ZBA because the town code prohibits wind turbines taller than 500 feet.

Strong explained that each new generation of turbines gets taller and taller, and no developer builds turbines shorter than 500 feet. The new standard is 650 feet and windmills are getting taller across the country and around the world. 

There are no dwellings or structures on the Spring property. 

"This is the smallest we could go to make a project like this work economically," Strong said. "The wind turbine towers have gotten a little bit taller every decade, not too much, but they keep getting a little bit taller." 

That's because of improved technology, he said.

"The thing that's gotten really efficient is the blades. The blades are now made of, like, carbon fiber material. They're very light. You can make them longer and longer."

The improved technology means the days of large windmill farms are coming to a close, Strong suggested.

"It's important to note that we can do one wind turbine where you used to have to do five or six," Strong said. "You'd have to spread them out and they were shorter, like the ones in Orangeville. We're way beyond those wind turbines."

The turbine will be tall
One resident questioned why "little Alexander" needed such a big windmill.

"This is is 650 feet," he said. "It is double the height of the Empire State Building. It isn't going to give us that much more joy in this community than having two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of one another. I mean, let's be honest here. This is all about money. It's all about money. 

Actually, the Empire State Building is twice as tall as the proposed windmill at 1,250 feet, not including the spire.

The height of the windmill is why a ZBA variance is required. Smith said the local code was probably written before technology pushed windmills higher and when available air traffic control made anything taller an issue for Federal Aviation Administration.

"Back when the bylaw was written, there was this idea that 500 was kind of the limit that the FAA would approve," Smith said.

The FAA will review plans for this turbine, Smith said, but he suggested it is likely to be approved.

The height is also a concern of John Volpe, who suggested Borrego's renderings of the proposed windmill are misleading, showing its proximity to a telephone pole in the foreground off Route 20.

He suggested a better comparison was his own rendering of a two-story house, 20-feet tall, next to the 650-foot tall windmill.

Environmental concerns
An environmentalist, Volpe also said there is a community of endangered plants on the Spring property that isn't addressed in documents provided by Borrego.

"I hope the zoning board will understand that this little community that's for special plants, very endangered plants, everything like this is extremely important, especially when there are only 80 other communities within the whole world," he said.

Volpe claimed that Borrego's survey for endangered plants was made on Nov. 18 when most plants are dormant.

Cory Mower paid his respects to the property owner, Spring, whose family has been in Alexander for multiple generations but said he is opposed to the proposal.

"He has his own road name, you know, but this is just ridiculous in my mind as one of the closest houses if not the closest house (to the project)," Mower said. "This is 650 feet tall.  I know for a fact there's a hawk nest not 500 feet from there and there's got to be more. There are eagles, too. There are eagles all over the place, not to mention the other animals that these things kill. I understand money. I understand where this is coming from, but I just can't have it. I mean, I can't."

There are significant environmental regulations for Borrego to navigate, Smith suggested, and the company is working close with the Department of Environmental Conservation to address environmental concerns.

"We've been in close contact with them," Smith said. "As for the impact eagles, birds, =grassland birds, all those sorts of things, we've been working with them to obtain permits and understand the impacts and what we can do to mitigate. For example, bats, as we all know, aren't out in a hurricane.They're out on calm summer nights. Those times we are actually going to curtail, we're going to shut down the turbine at those low wind speeds during the summer when we know bats will be out to try to minimize as much as possible any impact in bats."

Windmills need wind
Some residents questioned whether there was enough wind in Alexander to power such a large turbine.

Yes, in summertime the wind dies down, but in spring, fall, and winter, there is ample wind, Strong said.

"Especially these modern wind turbines with very light carbon fiber blades. Believe it or not, they can make decent electricity even in really light winds," Strong said. "The other thing is, once you get up above the trees, which is one of the reasons we kind of have to go tall, that wind actually is much more consistent than it is when you're down on the ground."

The best deal possible for Alexander
Borrego is building the windmill but won't necessarily own it, Smith said. It could be sold to another company, maybe.

The cost of the project will exceed $4 million, with $3 million being spent just on the turbine.

While the local government agencies will receive fees from the project over the next 15 years, it's not going to be a windfall for the town, Strong said.  He said it's too soon in the project planning to nail down financial returns. He estimated the town will get from $250,000 to $300,000 from the project, or about $20,000 a year, plus another $8,000 in payment in lieu of taxes (that will be part of the economic development tax-incentive package that GCEDC could grant to the project).

That $28,000 is about the same amount the town, Strong indicated, had to increase its spending by this past year.

There are no state subsidies on this project. 

"Wind turbines are, they are not cheap," Strong said. "They're made to last for a long time."

With inflation and supply chain issues being what they are, it's a tough financial environment for renewable energy projects.

"(Wind companies) are actually having trouble staying profitable," Strong said. "I don't know how much money they would make (on this project). It's GE's investment and they're no dummies. I'm sure they will make enough money, but they're not making a heck of a lot of money these days. As far as a proportion of what the town will get, I will say of all wind and solar projects in the state, this is definitely the best deal per megawatt that exists."

It's good he said, because sites appropriate to a project like this are hard to find in New York. You need decent wind, a parcel big enough to be safe, and a zoning code that works for the proposed scope of the project.

"There are not many of these sites in the state, so with respect to what kind of deal the town is getting, it's the best deal going," Strong said.

Support
Among the few voices in support of the project was Don Partridge, a property owner in Alexander but a resident of Batavia, where he has three small windmills on his property. 

"My carbon footprint is zero," Partridge said.

He noted that since the 1920s, there have been telephone and utility poles up and down area roadways, but nobody ever thinks of them as unsightly.  He suggested people will adjust to the presence of a windmill in Alexander.

"I think you need to keep an open mind and how we're going to advance our environment in the future with more and more demands for electricity," Partridge said. "I am in favor of the project."

Top photo, Dave Strong and Brandon Smith.

Photos by Howard Owens

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John Volpe

July 3, 2010 - 1:20pm

Digital signs are nothing new for area schools -- but Robert Morris Elementary, at 80 Union St. in Batavia, is the first school in the Genesee Valley to have a solar-powered digital sign, which was unveiled last month.

The new 3x8 sign, which shares important information with the school community, is fully powered by the sun's energy, collected and converted into electricity by solar panels on the school's roof.

This environmentally friendly and money-saving technology allows the sign to store energy and stay powered up even at night and in overcast weather. 

The sign is part of Robert Morris' "Going Green" project, which is being coordinated by the all-volunteer parent group FORM (Friends of Robert Morris).

The "green" project, in turn, is part of the school's committment to educating students and keeping them informed about renewable energy and environmentally responsible technology.

As the current school year drew to a close, Principal Diane Bonarigo went to each of the classrooms and explained the new solar sign to students -- including how it would turn the sun's energy into electricity, etc.

"Our students are very excited about learning how solar energy is powering this sign," Bonarigo said in a news release. "(It) will engage (them) for years to come."

FORM co-chair Roseann Quinn said that they would like to focus more intensely on "green" education in September. She mentioned the possibility of having professionals come in and speak to the kids about different renewable energy technologies, as well as basic education in the classrooms.

"Now with the solar sign, the kids have something they can see and touch (to go along with lessons)," Quinn said.

Quinn also said that FORM and Bonarigo would like to put the students in charge of the sign when the next school year starts. Right now, Bonarigo controls what words appear on the sign from her laptop computer; in September, they hope to give the kids more input into the way words appear and change.

At Robert Morris, going green also involves lots of landscape planting on school grounds. Here are some pictures of new trees and bushes that have been put in already: 

June 15, 2010 - 10:47pm
posted by Jeff Allen in green energy, President Obama, renewable energy, Blogs.

We have heard President Obama's address to the nation on the Gulf Coast oil spill.  As expected, there were more calls for "comprehensive energy reform", "green energy", and "renewable energy".  These have been mantras of the Administration since day one.  I too would like to see a reduction in Americas dependence on foreign oil, but a major move to get off fossil fuels completely has been a hot political button for some time.  The left will claim right wing loyalties to "big oil" or "corporate interests" and the right will point out the absurdities of "envrionmental whackos".

Although I have never been a hardcore science buff and Einsteins E=mc2 has always eluded me,  I came across this article that explains the theory in a way that I found remarkably understandable.  It also explains why the obstacles of renewable energy are not political but physical.  It is not a particularly long read, but it is a fascinating one:

www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm

Reading the article begs the question...Unless President Obama can change the laws of physics or embrace nuclear energy with more enthusiasm, just how does he expect to implement broad, realistic, and impactful renewable energy policies?

August 27, 2009 - 2:00pm

mail-1.jpegMembers of Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma (DKG), a Genesee County society for women educators, met this summer for a personal/ professional growth activity at the historic Adams Basin Inn (between Brockport and Spencerport).

Innkeepers David and Pat Haines served lunch in the tavern dining room, then graciously allowed the ladies to tour their nearly 200-year-old home which they operate as a bed and breakfast.  David, a former teacher, gave a witty and fascinating history of the structure that was built along the Erie Canal as a bar and general store; in fact, the Adams Basin Inn has the only known original bar-room left in existence along the 363-mile-long waterway.   Meticulously restored and updated, the Adams Basin Inn is a frequent stop for bicyclists along the Canal towpath.

Blended into the charm of the old is the efficiency of the new:  the Inn is using the latest in solar technology with 18 state-of-the-art solar modules and a power inverter.  The system is capable of producing over 4,000 kilowatts of electric per year and will produce clean, solar generated power over its 30-year projected lifecycle.  This renewable energy system will offset approximately 40% of the Inn's electrical needs -- and its environmentally friendly!

In the photo, DKG members enjoy perusing artifacts during Mr. Haines' informative talk.

March 11, 2009 - 1:39pm

Doug Hollinger, a science teacher at Pavilion Central School has a fascination with renewable energy that has inspired him to share his special talents with those less fortunate in South Asia.

Hollinger takes four students with him each year to build independent solar panels and educate others on the importance of renewable energy.  Currently this is all volunteer work and Hollinger is hoping it will be a non-for-profit organization.

Hollinger is not just talking about it, he is going out and applying it.

"This is an eye-opening experience," said Hollinger, "It is a great way to apply alternative energy in a completely different side of the world."

To get more information on this project check out his Web site

March 11, 2009 - 12:20pm
posted by Tasia Boland in schools, pavillion, renewable energy.

Today it is common to hear about the negative results due to the economic downturn, but what about some of the positive results making its way through to improve the economy?

Doug Hollinger, science teacher at Pavilion Central School  has spent the past three years researching, calling, and making final decisions for a wind turbine incentive at the school.
Last August a 120-foot tall wind turbine was installed behind the school to accompany the solar panel located on the school’s roof. In late November the turbine was producing electricity.
“It’s really exciting,” said Hollinger, who wrote the turbine curriculum for the elementary, middle and high school. The curriculum involved math, economics, and social aspects of renewable energy.

A lot of time was spent deciding which turbine and program would best fit the school.
“I researched a lot of different turbines and felt this one (Bergy Wind power) was the strongest,” said Hollinger.  

The turbine generates about 2-4 percent of electricity and was installed by Sustainable Energy Systems (SED). It is a 10kw wind turbine manufactured by Bergy Windpower.   The turbine hasn’t needed any routine maintenance yet, said Hollinger, but Bergy would be responsible for the costs. 
In 2002 a solar panel was installed and has been a great hands-on learning experience for students.


Hollinger and Superintendent of the Pavilion School District, Edward Orman agreed the project was not for the primary purpose of generating electricity.

“This is a great educational opportunity for students, and the community,” said Orman.
The school received an incentive through NYSERDA to cover 70 percent of the cost of the wind turbine. The actual cost of the turbine was in the $70,000 range.
Hollinger has partnered with Draker Laboratories to bring the facts of  renewable energy directly into the classroom.  Hollinger says it is so important to be committed to the students and continue to meet the challenges of our future.
“We have to look at other ways of producing energy,” said Hollinger, “And not just study this out of books.” Hollinger said climate change is just one of the many reasons why this is so important.
The best part of the turbine is the educational opportunities it offers.  Data Aquistion unit is a program that will allow students to view the rpm of voltage, propellers, current, power, wind speed and direction, and barometric pressure on the classroom computers from sensors on the wind turbine. This information can also be viewed by the public.
Hollinger said this is the most frustrating part of waiting for the program to go through because it is an important learning tool for students.
 “I am hoping in a couple weeks, we will have the program,” said Hollinger.
Hollinger said students make graphs to show how the weather affects performance.
There was a town support meeting on the subject and Hollinger said he expected to hear both positive and negative remarks.
“I went into the meeting thinking it would generate arguments,” said Hollinger who was surprised to find out everyone was all in favor of the idea.”

Hollinger and Orman said the process was very long because they were the first public school in New York to have a wind turbine installed.
Orman and Hollinger agreed it is something to be very proud of.

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