Orchard cultivating wind turbine

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Aug. 25, 2008

GUILFORD — The town’s first wind turbine could be coming to one of its best known businesses.

The owners of Bishop’s Orchards are researching the feasibility of installing a wind turbine in their orchards off Long Hill Road. The Planning and Zoning Commission recently approved the company’s request to install a temporary, 197-foot-tall tower to measure wind at the site.

The temporary tower, which could stand for up to 18 months, is a necessary first step before installing a wind turbine, Bill Green of Green Machine Bio told the commission. The steel structure will taper from 10 inches in diameter at the base to about 8 inches at the top, and have a series of cables extending from its sides to the ground.

“It really would be set into the property quite a way, so it’s really not going to affect (views),” Green said.

The tower will measure the speed and direction of the wind in that location to see if a wind turbine would generate enough power, Green said.

Jonathan Bishop, co-owner of Bishop’s Orchards and a member of the commission, did not participate in the discussion or decision. Bishop said that the plan, if the conditions are appropriate, is to install a single turbine and continue farming on the land around it.

“What we’re looking to do right now is not looking at a wind farm, although not ruling that out down the road,” he said. “If it was feasible and it worked out well and there wasn’t a lot of uproar in the community about it, we have other sites that might also lend themselves to wind, but that’s not anything that we’ve done any planning for or have in the works.”

With rising energy costs, the farm’s owners have been looking into alternative energy sources for several months, Bishop said. They researched solar power but found that the roof of the farmer’s market was not appropriate for solar panels.

The company currently purchases 750,000 kilowatts of energy per year — at a cost of about $150,000 to $200,000 — and the turbine could cover all of that need. Bishop said it is not clear what size turbine would be necessary, but he has been told it could cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.

He added that he is hoping the temporary tower will be up in the next few weeks, but it would be at least two years before a permanent facility would be in place.

“With where the power costs and everything seem to be going, it seemed like it was maybe a good time to start,” he said. “It’s a fairly long process, so we’ve got probably almost a year of data collection to assess the feasibility.”

Bishop’s currently uses biodiesel in its farm equipment, but otherwise this is its first foray into alternative energy.

Town planners are now moving to set up its first regulations for wind turbines.

Town Planner George Kral said at the meeting that the state Siting Council regulates wind turbines above a certain size, but this plan would probably fall under that threshold, making it the town’s responsibility to regulate.

Kral said the Planning Department will consult regulations in other states and towns and most likely create a special permit process to deal with wind turbines. He added that the commission’s decision this week to allow the temporary tower will not affect future decisions.

“This should not imply any kind of predisposition to approve a permanent facility,” he said.

Commissioner David Grigsby said he thinks the public should have a say in the process.

“I feel like this is a brave new world and I’d like more input than the several of us,” Grigsby said.

“I think it’s a laudable goal. I think there are just lots of people that have strong opinions about tall structures that impede view sheds.”

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