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May 20, 2009

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Regardless of the unreasonable cost and length of the appeals process, I wonder how many of the tens of thousands of properties within Southold Town, residential, commercial and agricultural are over 600 ft wide in every direction to be able to adhere to town code. My guess is none!

Are the voters against wind power or just the Town?

For now, it seems reasonable. This is an excellent venue for issues like this to be made public.

This is so weird to me. I just watched a program where some farmers south of Chicago are pitching a fit about a proposed wind farm in their area. The energy company would actually be leasing land from them so they would make money on it but, they are worried about the workers hours and the noise. Huh?

They are also worried about property values which I guess is a valid point. Meanwhile, Steve and I decided to go find some property next to a smelly dirty obnoxious wind farm that we can buy cheap and build on. I can think of a lot worse things to live next to than a wind farm!

This issue has also come to bear in Upstate NY. There is an almost limitless amount of open land to build wind farms on (most counties have very, very low population densities) but of course nearly all pieces of property, no matter how large or remote, find themselves beholden to immediately adjacent land owners, neighbors, and local ordinances.

My own feeling on this issue is that despite the emotional satisfaction one gets from committing to alternative forms of energy, the sad truth is that efficiency on wind power is so low that what we are constantly dealing with are numerous little "tempest in a teapot" scenarios like the one described above. Wind can make a difference to a single consumer or business, but not on any reasonably transferable scale, and therefore we have to consider the negative aspects of this form of energy production, including aesthetics and noise.

I can understand why individuals and businesses want to give wind power a go, and I can equally understand why neighbors and towns think it's all much ado about nothing and huge bother with little net benefit.

I think the best economic equation for wind farms might exist in the truly rural and remote areas, hours from significantly valued metropolitan areas or natural attractions, although I realize that it's hard to evaluate such areas in those terms.

Lenn,

Mr. Russell's comments are surprising.

Back in March it was Supervisor Russell who contacted me and offered to assist us in "expediting" the variance process.

I asked Mr. Russell for nothing except consideration of a code change that would make wind technology accessible to all of Southold Town.

I was hoping that your post would allow Mr. Russell the opportunity to offer a reasonable answer to the question of why there is a 300 foot setback restriction for wind turbines on Ag. operations in the Southold Town code.

Why is he avoiding the real issue and attacking me?

David Page
Shinn Estate Vineyards

If it were me and I had the 300' setbacks the town is requiring, I would just take out the 4, 9, or 16 vines needed to put in the footing and get on with building it -- there's no need to be hostage to the variance process. I can think of lots of ways to accomplish this with minimal impact on the vineyard.

Sheesh. All the squabbling. Understand that wind turbines are a new and unfamiliar technology to most of us. It's going to take time for local govs to work out ordinances that are best for both the community at large and the turbine owners.

Just because turbines are green, renewable, sustainable, buzzword, buzzword, and buzzword, doesn't mean we should blindly plant them willy nilly all over the place. What would that look like in a decade or so?

Wind turbines are not a perfect energy source as they are only as reliable as the wind. They are ugly, noisy, and sometimes dangerous (the blades fly off).

They typically generate more power during the winter when it is needed least, and less power during the summer doldrums when it is needed most. To litter the landscape with these things in the name of green seems unproductive and irresponsible.

Locating wind turbines warrants careful consideration and a setback of 300' seems reasonable until the turbines are proven safe, reliable, harmless to the environment, and acceptable to the public.

If someone wants to put up a windmill, and code says 300', and that means ripping up some grapes, so be it. I just don't see how that justifies a variance. You want to be green. You want free energy. Then rip the the grapes and be done with it.

I'm not against wind turbines. They have their place in a comprehensive energy plan along side other energy sources. What I am against is the the unfounded enthusiasm people seem to have for these things, and the expectation that mountains should move in the name of wind power.


John,
In this scenario, a 300 foot setback would require the permanent removal of a minimum of 155 grape vines. The annual loss of revenue would exceed $3000. This represents approximately 50% of the energy savings produced by the turbine. The extra trenching and cable would cost several thousand dollars. The USDA would reduce the grant funding forthisproject since they do not want wind turbines sited on agriculturally productive land.

The site we have chosen follows the guidelines established by the State of New York Ag and Markets Commision and the USDA.

Thank you for your input.

David Page
Shinn Estate Vineyards

Bill,
Wind turbine technology is not new.The construction of these small wind turbines is highly regulated. It has been a proven productive and safe part of the landscape for decades throughout the US and the world. Long Island has a great opportunity to harness this natural resource. I suggest that you visit www.awea.org to learn more.

David Page
Shinn Estate Vineyards

David,

I said, "wind turbines are a new and unfamiliar technology to most of us" meaning they are new to us here on Long Island, not a new technology.

If your figures are accurate you're still ahead of the game if you rip out the grapes. Think of it simply as replacing grapes with a more profitable crop. Farmers do that all the time.

But, be careful about where you get your information. You could be working with an overestimate of the turbine's production and may end up with less energy than you expected. All the more reason to plant it where you propose.

I also understand the USDA's concerns about turning agricultural farms into energy farms. We don't want that to happen either.

If we're to fully embrace wind power there will be windmills on farms all over Long Island. We can't expect them to be planted just around the edges where nothing is grown.

All of this brings me to the point I was trying to make in my original post: "Wind turbines are a new and unfamiliar technology to most of us. It's going to take time for local govs to work out ordinances that are best for both the community at large and the turbine owners."

I sympathize with you, David. As a pioneer in this area you are going to endure the pains and bear the scares of battle. It's to be expected.

As time goes on regulations will be tuned to balance the efficiency of the technology with the desires of the turbine owners with the needs of the community.

If turbines on the north fork prove out then I'm sure codes will be adjusted to encourage more. If they turn out to be unproductive eyesores on the landscape then code will remain tight.

I'm not against windmills (I've had have my own plans for a rooftop installation on the drawing board for months), but as an engineer I'm skeptical.

I know more about power generation and distribution systems than most people. Nothing is ever as good as it seems and there are always unexpected problems (like insufficient wind).

You may cite studies from across the country that demonstrate the success of turbine installations, but that doesn't mean we'll get the same results on the north fork.

Every location is different and perhaps I am under informed about the north fork's potential wind production. I haven't seen any wind studies, (point me to one if you know of any) so I urge caution until we actually see results.

Nice job Lenn with this story. And congrats to Shinn for the initiative.

I have to say though, the position of the Board Member seems reasonable, given the fact that this is a new thing to the area. It does not seem as though they have a problem with your proposal, it is just a little unreasonable to think that any Board will move at the speed that Shinn expects.

It's frustrating. But they have a fiduciary responsibility to uphold.

Mr. Russel's portrayal of David Shinn would lead me to believe that David must be so impatient as to stand in the middle of his vineyards yelling "grow damnmit, grow" every year. LOL

Bill,

Wind maps show that the average wind speed on my site is in excess of 6 meters per second. The 10K Bergey Excel system that I hope to install has the potential of producing 14K of power. You can go to the NYSERDA website or www.awea.org to verify these calculations.

I appreciate your expertise. I too know a little about power generation and distribution. My family has been in the electrical contracting business for 50 years. Our proposed system has gone through rigorous analysis.

Regulations are essential to our community but need to have a stated purpose. The question is "what was the intended purpose of a 300 foot setback restriction for wind turbines?" The answer might shed some light on the subject.


David Page
Shinn Estate Vineyards

Alternative energy is a huge priority for the Obama administration, and both federal agencies and the NY state government are supportive of projects like this one (so supportive that they are willing to subsidize it). This points to a clear disconnect between national, state and local priorities and processes surrounding this technology. How are we ever to progress as a nation when local political wrangling and paper-pushing stand in the way of common sense action? We don't have time to waste, and in my opinion it is their land to govern and their risk to assume.

So a friend of mine sells turbines and solar equipment and he was telling me about turbines that are much less obtrusive. They don't need a variance. The turbines are compact and can be installed on roof tops. Has anyone looked into this type of device?

This is just what I have heard!?!?!

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