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Jul 6, 2010 4:50 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Wind blows hot, cold over farm wind turbine

Jul 6, 2010 4:50 PM

Public viewpoints on a proposal for a 10-kilowatt wind turbine on a farm on Long Lane were evenly mixed at a Town Board hearing on the proposal last Thursday, but sentiment on the board appears to lean in favor of the application.

Stephen Mahoney, who owns a farm and nursery just west of Roberts Lane, plans to install the turbine in order to run a well pump to irrigate his plants. Under New York State’s Agriculture and Markets law, he is permitted to do so without site-plan review from the town’s Planning Board, though the Town Board must grant him a request for a “special permitted use” before he can begin construction.

The public hearing was opened on June 17, but due to an error in notification of Mr. Mahoney’s neighbors, was held open for additional comment this past Thursday.

Roy Rakebiesch, of the Westhampton firm Windsine Inc., is planning the installation, which would be the only one of its kind in East Hampton, though the same small windmill, a Bergey Excel, is installed at the Stony Brook Southampton campus.

The windmill would stand on a 120-foot-tall latticework tower in the center of Mr. Mahoney’s property. Its blades would be 23 feet in diameter. Mr. Rakebiesch said that Mr. Mahoney expects to save $2,014 per year in energy costs and has already received United States Department of Agriculture grants for the installation of the turbine. He said that the system would likely pay for itself within three years.

In comparison, turbines like a large 100-kilowatt tower in a farm field just off of Route 25 in Laurel have an average diameter of 20 meters, or 65.6 feet.

“It’s pretty hard to get these things passed. There’s some opposition. We understand that,” said Mr. Rakebiesch at the hearing. He added that less than 1 percent of bird fatalities are due to turbines and that research has shown that far more birds die from crashing into windows.

“They know it’s there. They can maneuver around,” he said.

But some residents who live near the farm said they feared a precedent would be set by allowing a wind turbine in East Hampton and voiced concern for the potential for ground vibrations and visual pollution created by the presence of a wind generator in their backyards.

“I’m 100-percent in support of wind energy, but I strongly disagree that wind turbines should be in residential neighborhoods,” said Arthur Krohn, who lives on Fieldview Lane, just blocks from the proposed windmill.

“I’ve seen giant turbines...I’ve been within a mile of a turbine and you feel sound going right through you...It’s a lower sound. It’s not measured in decibels but in hertz. It’s a piercing sound, it’s recurring and it goes through walls,” he said.

Mr. Krohn described “wind turbine syndrome,” a condition marked by sleep problems, dizziness and nausea that people who live close to wind farms have experienced.

The town’s environmental planner, Joel Halsey, begged to differ. He said that while the frequency of sound produced by the turbine may be different from ambient noise, the noise generated by the Bergey Excel when the wind blows at 25 miles per hour would be between 54 and 55 decibels at 300 feet from the turbine and 53 decibels, around the sound of background noise, at 500 feet from the turbine. He said that the closest residential property line is 375 feet from the turbine and all other neighbors are more than 900 feet away.

Ward Carey, who also lives on Fieldview Lane, also opposed the project.

“This proposal only benefits Steve Mahoney. It does not benefit the community in any way, shape or form,” he said, adding that the tower would be 50 percent taller than the Christmas tree that was at Rockefeller Center in New York City last December.

Gould Street resident Matthew Laspia reminded the audience of the dangers of America’s oil dependence and urged the board to support the application, as did architect Bill Chaleff, who also lives not far from the site on Cedar Street.

Mr. Chaleff said that, while household appliances operate at 90-percent efficiency, the electric grid works at only 30-percent efficiency.

“Produced locally, distributing power is very much to our community’s benefit,” he said.

Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island agreed.

“People make all sorts of claims,” at these types of hearings, he said. “Typically those claims are not scientifically supported. ... Every kilowatt hour is one hour less than has to be generated by oil or gas. There are no benefits to the community? I strongly disagree.”

Mr. Raacke offered his group’s assistance if East Hampton was to establish a code for wind energy that ensured that the technology was pursued safely.

Frank Dalene of the Hamptons Green Alliance reminded the Town Board that helicopters en route to East Hampton Airport produce far more noise pollution than a small turbine.

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I'm absolutely appalled at the people that are against this. Together we ALL need to look towards more energy saving ways. Are you people too freaking selfish to care about your children's future?

In addition, it's Mahoney's property, he pays taxes on it. He should be able to put what he want's on it.
By Sag Native (54), East Hampton on Jul 6, 10 4:27 PM
2 members liked this comment
Waaah my view! My property values! Waaaaaah!
By omghi (20), EH on Jul 6, 10 4:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wind turbines of the type under discussion are not that great in inhabited areas, as the noise is , in fact, an issue. As is their penchant to wack birds and bats. Not exactly "enviornmentally sound". In the desert far from homes, fine. As we are subject to many days in most growing seasons of becalming conditions, especially in August, how will rhe energy be stored for necessary use when the firlds need watering and there is no wind?

I would rather see solar cell panels with deep cycle ...more
By Lost Tribe (66), East Hampton on Jul 9, 10 4:38 PM
Solar cells and batteries would definitely be more in order with the character of the area, and I'm quite sure would incite less dissent.

There's a nanotech outfit who produces them not only paper thin as we speak, but on average almost a THIRD more efficient than older, conventional photovoltaics.

It would be nice to see advanced solar power being utilized...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 10, 10 12:29 PM
It's his property, so technically it's his view! As for the people driving by.... keep your eyes on the flippin road fools.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 15, 10 5:55 PM
Too bad for the birds, they will learn eventually, bats use sonar so I doubt they will be crashing into the turbine.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 15, 10 5:57 PM
Its great to see a healthy discussion about small scale wind - This is Pradeep by the way - I work with the company that actually put up the large 100kW wind turbine in Laurel off of Route 25 that is mentioned in the article. You can learn more about wind at our weekly "Living by Example" tour http://e2sys.com/tour.html
By windguy_pradeep (1), Mattituck on Sep 13, 10 4:30 PM