Town Board considers $1.8 mil bond for wind turbine

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The 270-foot tall wind turbine at the town's sewer plant would cost as much as $1.8 million, but once it's operating, it will generate enough energy to account for about 43 percent of the energy currently used there.

The head of Riverhead Town’s sewer department is hoping to move forward with plans to build a wind turbine at the department’s headquarters off Riverside Drive now that wind tests have confirmed the estimates outlined in a study last April were accurate.

Town Board members say they will hold a public hearing soon on the plan.

Constructing the 270-foot tall wind turbine would cost as much as $1.8 million, but once it’s operating, it will generate enough energy to account for about 43 percent of the energy currently used at the sewer plant, and about 21 percent of the energy used once a state-mandated $18 million upgrade is completed, according to Peter Rusy of DHL Neutral Systems, the company that did the $40,000 study last year.

The debt service on the $1.8 million would initially cost the average taxpayer in the town sewer district about $21 in additional taxes for the first year, but that amount would drop sharply in subsequent years and the energy generated by the turbine would offset debt payments by year seven, according to sewer plant supervisor and department head Michael Reichel, who discussed the proposal with the Town Board Thursday morning.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the cost of the project would be key to determining whether the board decides to move forward, because once the $18 million upgrade is done, the sewer district won’t have much money left in surplus.

“If we didn’t feel this was in the best interests of the town, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Mr. Reichel told the board.

The turbine would ultimately generate about $300,000 in energy savings for the town, he said, and there would be times when it would generate more energy than needed, but there currently are not provisions in place to allow the town to sell energy back to LIPA.

The department last summer erected a 160-foot tower called an “anemometer” which measures wind currents, at the plant. Mr. Rusy said that while that device has shown that the wind estimates made in the 2010 study were accurate, he’d like to leave it up until May to get more data.

The proposed turbine would be on a 180-high tower and hub, but the blades would have a 177 foot diameter and when the tallest blade is vertical, it would reach a total height of 270 feet from the ground, Mr. Reichel said.

This size was determined by the study to be the optimum size for a wind turbine at this site, Mr. Rusy said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked Mr. Rusy and Mr. Reichel if they had asked for any preliminary feedback from residents near the plant, and whether the turbine would make a lot of noice.

Mr. Reichel said the houses near the plant “are never going to see it” because the plant is screened by trees. He said it would only be visible from distant locations like Sound Avenue and Gabreski Airport.

As for noise, Mr. Rusy said the wind makes its own sound naturally, which drowns out any noise from the turbine. He said the sound from the turbine was measured at 48 decibels, which is below the 50 decibel limit in the town noise code.

The Town Board plans to hold a public hearing on the expenditure for the wind turbine, but has yet to schedule it.

“I just want to know that the neighbors on that road know when the hearing is taking place,” Mr. Walter said.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.