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APA may ease permit requirements for residential wind turbines

RAY BROOK - Adirondack Park Agency staffers are asking commissioners to consider easing requirements for residential wind turbines.

Environmental programs specialist Leigh Walrath, in a March 12 presentation, proposed the agency make it easier for non-commercial landowners to install wind towers on their property to produce electricity.

The permit guidelines would require the turbine be no taller than 125 feet and blend into its surroundings. The turbine infrastructure would have to be built 150 feet from any property boundary, and at least 100 feet from any residential structures. Applicants will also need to follow analysis of bird and bat habitats.

Walrath said the proposal should allow for efficient permitting of wind turbines, as long as the plans are compliant with the policy.

"We're going to accomplish that by doing a visual impact analysis and as many reviews as possible early in the review process, and possibly even in pre-application," he said. "We're also going to make the best use of existing manufactured specifications sheets and information available to piece together information."

The general permit would not apply if there is potential for adverse environmental impact, Walrath added.

At least four residential turbines have been built in the Adirondack Park, including a 100-foot-tall structure in the town of Saranac.

APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the agency passed an energy policy recently that encourages residents to explore alternative energy sources.

"Developing the methodology and general permit we think will help encourage others to consider using small scale wind," he said.

John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council expressed concern about easing the permit guidelines.

"We have some trepidation about simply having a clipboard set up at the Park Agency where people will sign in that they need this permit and walk out with the thing," he said.

However, Sheehan said his group supports the idea of tapping into a renewable source of energy.

"It certainly beats burning coal to make power," Sheehan said. "I think, the more energy independent the people in the Adirondacks are, the better off they'll be. The grid is still pretty feeble in the park."

The full APA board submitted the proposal for public comment March 13, and will reconsider it with possible revisions in April.

So far, agency staff have been getting about one request a year to install small-scale wind turbines. One industrial proposal for 10 towers near Gore Mountain in the central Adirondacks, and any others like it, would remain subject to more rigorous review.

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