Orleans Planning Board reviews wind developer’s proposal for test tower

Iberdrola Renewables plans to put up only one wind measurement tower in the town of Orleans, according an application reviewed Tuesday night by the Planning Board.

The plan for the 197-foot meteorological tower — proposed off Overbluff Road about 1,000 feet east of the Clayton town line — comes as the developer of the Horse Creek Wind Farm originally told the town that three such towers would be proposed in Orleans. About 30 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, but they weren’t allowed to comment on Iberdrola’s request.

The proposal for the test tower — in the town’s wind overlay district — comes as the developer has already submitted plans to the Clayton joint village and town Planning Board to put up a pair of towers.

Iberdrola appears to have recently decided to downsize its original plans for putting up test towers across the footprint of its still-undefined wind project, which would be centered mainly in south Clayton and likely include the southwest portion of Orleans.

It remains to be seen how the towns of Brownville and Lyme could factor into the project. Though Iberdrola originally told Clayton officials it planned to put up test towers in those neighboring towns, it now doesn’t have any plans to do so, according to Daniel Murdy, a representative for the developer.

After the meeting, he confirmed Iberdrola has no plans for proposing more test towers.

The test tower in Orleans would be on property owned by Barbara J. Thompson. Jefferson County property records show Ms. Thompson leased her property in 2008 to Iberdrola subsidiary Atlantic Wind LLC.

The Orleans Planning Board is required to follow a timetable for deciding on Iberdrola’s application, which was submitted to the town on March 10.

The Planning Board will further review the application during its meeting at 7 p.m. April 26. At that meeting, it could set a public hearing for a later date to consider approving the request, which would allow Iberdrola to operate the tower for three years.

Test towers are a permitted use in the wind overlay district, according to the town’s zoning ordinance. Orleans approved a local wind law in 2007 and amended its zoning ordinance in 2011to create the overlay district in the southwest portion of the town.

Town Zoning Officer Lee J. Shimel said that at first blush, Iberdrola’s application for the tower appears to be in compliance with regulations.

“I saw no problems of any substantial value, but we need to make sure it meets setback and zoning requirements,” he said after the meeting.

Iberdrola has said it plans to soon begin the Article 10 siting process led by the state Public Service Commission for its project, collecting wind data from test towers while the multi-year review is taking place.

The interconnection request it submitted in December to the New York Independent System Operator shows the project is proposed to be completed by the end of 2019 and calls for a maximum generation capacity of 250 megawatts. Turbines more than 600 feet tall are expected to be proposed.

In 2005, Iberdrola originally sought a 130-megawatt project with 62 turbines in the southeastern part of Clayton and southwest part of Orleans. Iberdrola downsized that plan in 2011 by removing Orleans from the project’s scope, resulting in a 96-megawatt proposal that it ceased planning about four years ago.

A large crowd is expected to attend the Clayton Town Council’s meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Clayton Opera House. The board will hold a public hearing to get feedback on a local law that would completely ban industrial wind projects and the construction of test towers, along with an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance that would remove the wind overlay district in the town’s southern end.

The board, however, will not consider approving the proposals during the meeting.

The Clayton Planning Board, meanwhile, will consider approving Iberdrola’s request for two test towers during a public hearing at 7 p.m. on April 7.

By Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times