Dan Hust | Democrat
THIS IS THE illustration of a proposed vertical type windmill for the “green tech” park at Sullivan County Community College.
The Look of Future Wind Power
By Dan Hust
SOUTH FALLSBURG September 11, 2007 The Town of Fallsburg Planning Board’s usual slew of major projects was dominated Thursday by a plan never before seen in the township or the world, for that matter.
“It’s a great invention,” said Sam Ikeda of Environmental Technologies, a Japanese firm with offices in New York City. “Any direction of wind, it can pick up.”
“It” is a vertical-type wind turbine, better known as a windmill. But unlike its well-known, 300-foot-tall, propeller-blade cousins, this windmill is a rectangular box that only rises about 100 feet from the ground yet can generate up to three times more energy.
During Thursday’s public hearing at the town hall in South Fallsburg, Ikeda told planning board members and a packed room that his company’s windmill design has been in development for the past two decades and has progressed to the small prototype stage.
Proposed for the green tech park at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, this would be the first full-sized version in the world.
“This will be the first grid-scale version of this technology,” explained Don Perry of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, which has been leading the local effort. “The idea is to facilitate at SCCC a world-class site where people can compare wind technologies.”
Two windmills are under consideration, but only one was proposed to the planning board that evening.
Sitting on an 85'x85' concrete pad on the far northern side of college property, the windmill would be capable of generating up to 1.25 megawatts of energy and feature a nearby info kiosk, as it is intended as much for exhibition as power generation.
Consisting of eight aluminum blades that are each just one millimeter thick, the actual structure would be galvanized steel.
Perry promised local contractors would be utilized for some parts fabrication with the windmill and the soundproof control room underneath. The eventual plan, however, is to manufacture the windmills at or near the college.
Its location proved to be the only contentious point.
“I have no problem with it, except that it’s 400 feet from the house,” remarked Kenneth Walter, a Grahamsville resident whose family sold most of their farm to the college in the early 1970s.
Walter’s mother, however, still lives on a small slice of property his family retained along the northern edge of the college right where the windmill is proposed to be erected.
“This is not a good location,” he told the planning board, saying the structure would basically be in his mother’s front yard.
Perry replied that both prevailing wind velocity and the presence of a 32-kilovolt powerline led officials to choose that spot on the college’s hundreds of acres.
Walter also complained about the noise the facility might generate, but when informed that it would be no more than the force of a whisper at the distance of his mother’s home, Walter responded, “I don’t know if I want to listen to a whisper 24/7.”
Perry, however, pointed out that they had already made the windmill’s color green to blend in with the surroundings and insisted that the 6-meters-per-second wind velocity could not easily be found elsewhere on campus.
Partnership President Marc Baez added that proximity to SCCC’s main buildings was of concern to SUNY, and he remarked that, thanks to noises permeating the natural world, Walter and family likely would never hear the windmill above the din of birds, breezes and passing traffic.
Utilizing the acronym NIMFY (Not In My Front Yard), Walter later said privately that he was considering legal action should current plans proceed.
But proceed they did, with the planning board asking for more sound data but naming itself lead agency.
The board also wanted more details on visual impacts, though they agreed with college officials that it is designed to be seen.
While the board will be putting together a special use permit at its October meeting, Planning Board Chair Arthur Rosenshein said he wanted “to move expeditiously on this.”
Ikeda said his company would like to begin construction by the end of the year.
Whether or not that does happen, County Legislator Leni Binder who represents most of Fallsburg told the board and audience that the County Legislature had passed an informal resolution of support that very morning, and County Manager David Fanslau has already proposed a lease agreement.
“We’re behind this project,” Binder said. “We feel it’s a great way for the county to grow.”