Cohocton Wind Watch: February 2009
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Residents: Turbines too loud

Atlanta, N.Y.

Several Cohocton town residents want to know why they have to call wind developer First Wind to complain about noise from wind turbines instead of town officials.

Residents packed the town board meeting Monday night, hoping to hear how the complaints will be handled.

According to Joe Bob, one of the town’s code enforcement officers, the town’s wind law specifies exactly how much noise can be made at a certain range.

Bob said the town law states the noise cannot reach higher than 50 decibels at the closest non-participating property line. According to town law, no turbines are allowed within 1,500 feet of a property line without a variance.

The law also sets lower limits for some sounds. Any “pure tone” noise, as defined by the law, is limited to 45 decibels.

“It’s in-depth, very methodical, very thorough,” Bob said.

With several residents offering complaints to the town, First Wind and the media, Bob set out how the complaint system works.

First, the town needs to determine the sound levels put out by the turbines. Right now, the town’s wind noise monitoring firm, Massachusetts-based firm Tech Environmental, is trying to monitor 10 turbines around Cohocton for noise at peak operating time.

Bob said the town’s noise monitoring firm tests for noise several ways, including shutting off turbines to check background noise, sheltering the meters from the wind and repeating tests over a period of time.

“The problem is, they’re not done yet,” Bob said, adding until a baseline of how much noise is being created, it will be hard to determine what is above the legal noise limit and what is not.

Once that baseline is set, he said, residents can call a toll-free telephone number to lodge a complaint, which rings into the First Wind office in Cohocton. The town code enforcement office, a First Wind representative and monitoring firms hired by both the town and First Wind — but both paid for by First Wind — will set up at the complainant’s residence and monitor the noise. If the noise is over the limit, the turbine will be shut down at peak noise production.

Residents spoke out againts the process, saying the noise now is too great to wait for a long study to be undertaken.

“They’re making so much noise, I can’t sleep at night,” Graham said. “The thing is reading 82-110 decibels at some times.”

Graham said he thinks he was lied to when First Wind, then called UPC Wind, offered to place turbines on his property.

“They told us we wouldn’t hear anything at 900 feet,” he said. “The noise is so great that my windows are vibrating.”

Graham added he has hired an attorney to pursue the complaint process if needed.

“If you’re the code officer, you should be able to monitor these things and enforce this,” Graham said.

Zigenfus said there is little the town can do but follow the procedure it agreed to.

“We’re bound by what the law is,” he said. “If we violate their rights under a contract, we could end up in even more trouble.

Steve Trude, one of the heads of Cohocton Wind Watch and co-plaintiff in three lawsuits against the town over the development, said he feels the system should not go through First Wind.

“We don’t feel well calling Jane (Towner, a Cohocton-based First Wind official),” Trude said. “The protections need to be tweaked.”

Hartsville blocks wind

Hartsville, N.Y.

Could it be a long, long year for wind developers in Hartsville?

The town board in Hartsville, at a special meeting Wednesday, voted to place a moratorium on all industrial wind development project approvals.

According to town Supervisor Steve Dombert, there are three main areas the town board would like to review before any project is approved:

l A review of financial assistance the town will receive.

l A review of how noise from turbines could impact the local population and property values.

l A comprehensive plan on what the town will do with the money from the project.

The decision came in opposition to half of the town board and officials from Germany-based wind developer E.ON, which asked the board to either hold off on the moratorium or shorten its duration.

“You will see we’ve done a lot of work on the environmental impact,” E.ON representative John Reynolds said. “Noise, birds, bats, roads —all of those things are in that report.”

“We wouldn’t prepare a draft EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) if we weren’t serious on moving forward with development,” said E.ON attorney Jackie Murray said. “It (the moratorium) sends a message that ... the use will be prohibited.”

Murray said the DEIS covers most of the issues raised by Dombert for the moratorium as well.

Dombert said the DEIS will be discussed at a Steuben County Industrial Development Agency meeting at noon today.

David Pullen, the town’s attorney, said the legislation would not put a damper on the SCIDA process, but will allow the town to review its wind law and make changes if needed.

“”It’s not a reflection if the E.ON proposal is a good one or a bad proposal,” Pullen said, adding only the town needs to review its law to make sure the town keeps its legal standing.

Information on the project has not been forthcoming, Dombert said, and it was not until a moratorium was discussed that information began to flow.

“Lo and behold, it led to our face-to-face meeting,” he said.

Dombert said the impact of the moratorium will hopefully be negligible on the project.

“We’re not in favor of delaying this thing anymore than necessary,” he said, adding he would just like “to withhold that power in the town.”

Reynolds said the timing of the moratorium discussion could still be misconstrued.

“It seems ironic that we started ramping up ... about the time we’re doing that, there is a discussion of a moratorium,” he said.

Board member Ben Ray proposed a six-month moratorium on the project, which he said would allow time for review but not hold up construction as a year-long moratorium might.

The board approved the year-long moratorium as written at the meeting.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hal Graham First Wind Leaseholder addresses the Town of Cohocton Board

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Prattsburgh residents get warning on wind turbines

PRATTSBURGH — Wind turbines will disturb your peace and quiet, neighboring town residents warned the Prattsburgh town board last week.

"It's like a jet engine landing right behind you," Hal Graham, of Cohocton, said. "It's constant noise."

Graham leased land to First Wind for its 50-turbine wind farm in the town of Cohocton. Tuesday, he spoke during the Prattsburgh board's public hearing on a wind energy facilities permit there. The permit will stipulate certain terms and charge a building permit fee for any wind facilities in the town.

The only wind project currently being considered in Prattsburgh is EcoGen, an East Aurora-based developer. In December, First Wind announced a year's hiatus in its plan

to put up a 36-turbine wind farm in Prattsburgh and recently closed its office.

However,FirstWind did complete its larger project in Cohocton, beginning operations there earlier this year.

Graham said he was a strong supporter of wind energy and studied any potential noise problems extensively by observing other wind farms in the state and asking questions.

Both he and a neighbor each have a turbine on their properties, he said.

"When I signed the contract, I was assured there was no noise," he said. "Well, people can't sleep at night, in the winter, with the windows closed. As the wind speed increases, the noise level rises. It rattles our windows ... It's like a jet engine going full blast."

The noise can be heard in neighboring hamlets of Ingleside, Atlanta and North Cohocton, according to Graham, and other Cohocton residents at the meeting. Other residents complained about a lack of sleep and disturbed animals.

Steve Trude, president of the project's opponents, Cohocton Wind Watch, said a turbine located within the established setback can be easily heard in his home.

"In the middle of the night, I can hear the blade wash," he said. "We've lost the gift we had, and it was the silence in the night."

Residents said they've been told the reason the turbines are louder than expected is they are larger than originally planned.

Contacted after the meeting, First Wind Corporate Communications Director John Lamontagne said the firm is aware of the noise problem and urged residents to call the hotline number already set up to log any complaints about the project.

"First Wind takes complaints about sound or other issues seriously," Lamontagne said. "First Wind senior managers have met one-on-one with many of the individual households involved to better understand their concerns.

We're also working closely with town officials to keep them apprised of the progress."

Lamontagne said the town has hired a sound consultant paid by First Wind to conduct sound monitoring. The monitoring could take several months, he said.

But one Cohocton resident warned the tests so far have been when the turbines were turning more slowly.

Cohocton residents said they spoke out in Prattsburgh because the EcoGen project also includes the larger turbines, reducing its original plan of 50 turbines to 16 in Prattsburgh and 18 in the town of Italy.

Other county residents attended the meeting, including Hartsville Town Supervisor Steven Dombertz. Hartsville is one of four towns in the county currently involved in wind negotiations. In addition to Cohocton and Prattsburgh, the town of Howard is also working with wind farm developers.

Prattsburgh Town Supervisor Harold McConnell told residents before the public hearing the board would delay a final vote on the permit due to changes requested by EcoGen and town attorney John Leyden.

The board has scheduled another meeting to dicuss the changes and will hold a second public hearing on the permit, he said.McConnell said he and other board members will visit the problem areas.

"Come when there's a wind," Graham said. "Don't let them buffalo you. You know, I wanted to do something for the ecology. And now I can't sleep at night."

Power grid operator: no power so far to state grid from Cohocton

Cohocton, N.Y.

After years of development, construction, anxiety and lawsuits, the hills surrounding Cohocton have sprouted 50 commercial wind turbines.

Now that First Wind has wrapped up its construction in Cohocton and the turbines are now spinning in the breeze, is that energy being sold?

According to the grid operator, no. And that’s not expected to change anytime soon.

Richard Barlette, manager of government affairs for the New York Independent System Operator — the not-for-profit company that moderates the state’s power grid and gives all power projects the green light — said no power generated at the site has been sold for consumption.

“They’re currently under the connection process,” he said. “As far as ‘flipping the switch,’ a ball park figure is December 2010.”

That connection process contains several steps, Barlette said, which are long and complicated.

“It’s not just sticking a turbine in the ground one day and producing electricity,” he said. “Every plant you build goes through the process.”

The biggest test, he said, is seeing if the grid can handle the extra power — 125 megawatts, in Cohocton’s case.

“We need to know the impact and reliability on the grid. We need to make sure it doesn’t negatively affect the grid.”

NYISO’s word comes in contrast to what town officials have heard from First Wind in the past.

Jack Zigenfus, Cohocton town supervisor, was last told by First Wind that the project was ready to transmit power and he thought it was.

“I received a letter that it had met all the criteria from all the regulatory agencies,” Zigenfus said. “They have to be operating to be obligated to pay the town.”

Zigenfus said the town has received at least $1.81 million from the project so far. The first payment — of $725,000 — came to the town in 2007 from the project as part of the community host agreement, with an additional $937,500 entering the town’s coffers by the end of 2008. First Wind also transfered to the town $150,000 for historical remediation, which the town and village boards hope to put towards renovating the Larrowe House, which currently houses the town and village clerk offices.

He also said he heard from officials at the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District it received the first Payment in Lieu of Taxes check from First Wind.

Cohocton officials applauded First Wind for “throwing the switch” on the 50-turbine wind energy development in December, while according to John Lamontagne, director of corporate communications for First Wind, the project was believed to be up and running in 2008.

"The time frame was to be by the end of the year,” he said in a Dec. 16, 2008 phone interview.

According to company officials in 2007 — when the company was known as UPC Wind — the project was expected to be up and running about a year after construction began.

Dirt first started moving on the project Sept. 18, 2007, with tower construction commencing in November. Work on the first two towers, complete with turbine blades, was finished Jan. 3. Of the 50 towers, 47 are spread across Lent, Pine and Dutch hills, dominating much of the view around Cohocton, North Cohocton and Atlanta. The three remaining turbines are on Brown Hill to the south of the village, where the project connects to the regional energy grid.

First Wind officials did not immediately return messages for comment.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Says he has trouble sleeping due to the noise.

A Town of Cohocton man tells us that he has a turbine on his property and that there is a wind turbine next door, and because of the turbines, he has trouble sleeping at night. He says he has asked the wind companies to turn the wind turbine off, and he says they won't.

That wind farmer now describes having a wind turbine as the biggest mistake of his life. His complaint about noise is not uncommon. All over the state where the giant turbines are installed, people complain of the noise as well as the fact that shadows often cause problems. The turbines also tend to ruin any beauty on the countryside.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blade breaks off wind turbine

PERKINS TOWNSHIP ­— Three wind turbines have stopped spinning because the blades on one of them broke apart on Saturday afternoon outside Perkins High School.

No one was hurt when parts of the fiberglass blades came off the turbine as it spun, winging the blades up to 40 yards away from the silver monopole tower, near the high school at 3714 Campbell St.

The remaining two will not spin until they are inspected and officials figure out exactly what caused the blades to break.

"We're still waiting for a complete investigation to try to determine what went wrong," said Perkins school Superintendent Jim Gunner.

"First and foremost, we've got to figure out what happened," he said. "Once we know what happened and we can safely put the two other turbines back on line, we'll do that."

Based on initial reports and photos, it sounded as though a wind gust may have caused one of the three spinning blades to flex and hit the monopole, said Joseph Ianni, chief executive officer of turbine maker ReDriven Power Inc., based in Iroquois, Ontario.

Hitting the pole could cause the blade, which is made of fiberglass with a foam core, to break and in just a few rotations throw off the balance of the three spinning blades, causing them also to hit the monopole, Ianni said. He cautioned all speculation was preliminary and no ReDriven workers had seen the blades, which were being stored at Wilkes & Co.

"We haven't seen this particular problem occur in the past at all," Ianni said. ReDriven has about 30 of the 20-kilowatt turbines in the field and a sales network of about 100 dealers in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Based on a preliminary examination, it did not appear the monopole or its foundation were damaged, Gunner said. The turbines are geared to start generating power with wind speed of about 4 mph.

Yesterday, Gunner convened Perkins Building and Ground Maintenance Supervisor Greg Linkenbach, Honeywell consultant Chris Hess, Wilkes & Co. Vice President David L. Rengel and John Fellhauer, of Fellhauer Mechanical Systems Inc.. to begin examining the blades, turbine and tower.

Rengel and Linkenbach said they were out at the turbines on Saturday and everything appeared in working order. A ReDriven worker also was at the site last week as the turbines were hooked up to the schools' power network, Ianni said.

The three turbines were installed Jan. 23 as part of major renovations designed to save on energy bills in Perkins Local Schools.

The turbines' electrical connections were hooked up and ready on Wednesday to begin generating power for the school, its field house and maintenance shop, and nearby Briar Middle School.

However, Saturday — with winds gusting out of the south — was the first day truly windy enough to test the machines.

The turbines became an attraction, with curiosity seekers driving into the high school parking lot to see the three, whose rotating 20-foot blades sometimes appeared to be synchronized, the officials said.

"It was kind of like a community event, people coming through," Rengel said. "Everybody was impressed. They said, 'Geez, these things are quiet. They look neat.'"

One 4-foot section of a blade was found in the high school student parking lot, where it hit about 20 yards away from the pole, then skidded another 20 yards, Gunner said. Another was almost directly beneath the turbine, while the third piece sailed about 25 to 30 yards into the end zone of Perkins' football stadium.

The other two can be shut down by creating an electric load within the generator, essentially locking the blades into place. The turbines also then turn to be off the direction of the wind, Rengel said.

Tuning and sensitivity of the human vestibular system to low-frequency vibration

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pa. couple sues wind farm over turbine noise

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (AP) _ An Altoona-area couple is suing a wind farm because they say the turbines’ “whooshing” and “screeching” keeps them awake at night.[There are Gamesa wind turbine plants in Falls and Bucks County Community College.]Todd and Jill Stull filed the civil lawsuit against Gamesa Energy and its subsidiary, Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm LLC.On Friday, Blair County Judge Daniel Milliron dismissed the counts against Gamesa, the company that made and installed the turbines. But the lawsuit against Allegheny Ridge remains largely intact because Milliron believes the complaints deal with operational problems. Allegheny Ridge is responsible for operating the wind farm.The Stulls argue the companies knew the 2,000-foot required setback from private property would not protect residents from the turbines’ noise and vibrations.There are Gamesa wind turbine plants in Falls and Bucks County Community College.

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