Baldwin Wants Wind; Seinfeld Gets Solar

The two celebrities are aligned in their quest for green energy.

    Not to be outdone by Jerry Seinfeld, who just got the go-ahead to install a solar power system at his Further Lane, East Hampton, property, Alec Baldwin has submitted plans to the town for a wind turbine on his five acres off Town Lane in Amagansett. He will become the first homeowner in East Hampton to have one, should the town board approve his request.
    The two celebrities are not only aligned in their quest for green energy. Recent reports in the entertainment media have speculated about a yet-to-be-revealed project in which the two will collaborate, along with Larry David and Ricky Gervais.
    Two turbines have gone up over the past year on farms on Long Lane in East Hampton — at the 7-acre Iacono chicken farm and on Stephen Mahoney’s 20-acre tree farm — but Mr. Baldwin is the first to seek permission for one on residential land. His property is bordered by agricultural land, including three acres in his name.
    The Amagansett Fire Department has a wind turbine behind its Main Street firehouse, within sight, across fields, of Mr. Baldwin’s place. His turbine would be identical to the ones on Long Lane, made by Bergey Windpower.
    According to the town code, a special permit must be obtained for the construction of any “wind energy conversion system.” The town board is to consider a complete plan of the proposed system and its location, and evaluate whether the turbine would adversely affect neighbors, the environment, or the character of the community before issuing the permit. The board must also obtain a certification from an engineer as to its “strength and integrity,” as well as hold a public hearing before acting.
    Joel Halsey, a town planner, discussed Mr. Baldwin’s application with the town board at a work session on Tuesday. “What if you live in a community with 400 houses, and 400 houses want a wind turbine?” Supervisor Bill Wilkinson asked.
    East Hampton is participating with other municipalities in the development of a countywide uniform code governing wind-energy systems. It would contain specific standards for the installation of such systems, and would replace current local legislation, which requires the town board to issue a special permit but does not contain detailed requirements such as a minimum property size or required setbacks for a turbine from property lines.
    Once the town adopts the uniform wind energy legislation, Mr. Halsey said, obtaining permission for a turbine “would be like getting a building permit. It would be a matter of right if you had adequate property size and could meet setbacks.”
    Mr. Wilkinson suggested that prior to adopting the code, the town should investigate what the ultimate result could be. “The thought is, you could have unlimited turbines,” he said.
    “We would like to have a computer model,” said the supervisor, “so you have some understanding of what the policy is going to be.”
    Maps showing areas of the town where wind turbines would be cost-effective, and eligible properties under the forthcoming code, could be prepared, Mr. Halsey said. He estimated that only half, if that, of the properties in town would meet minimum standards allowing turbines. And, he said, the town could limit their locations, excluding designated Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance, for instance, or requiring more detailed review of applications for turbines on properties in certain areas.
    Greg Zwirko, an architect and Amagansett resident, has long pursued the idea of harnessing wind energy on his property. He first submitted an application for a turbine system six years ago. However, the town board at the time, lacking specific town code standards, failed to act on it, despite Mr. Zwirko’s repeated requests.
    His application, however, sparked the initial discussion about drafting a more comprehensive section of the code.
    Mr. Zwirko said yesterday that he was still hoping to move ahead with his plan.
    Mr. Baldwin’s turbine, if approved, could produce up to 110 percent of his energy requirements, according to the terms of a Long Island Power Authority rebate program, Mr. Halsey said Tuesday. Any energy produced by the wind but not used on site would be sent into the LIPA power grid, producing revenue, in the form of a credit, for the property owner.
    The town board agreed to hold a public hearing on Mr. Baldwin’s request. Mr. Wilkinson asked if it was possible to avoid having Mr. Baldwin’s turbine be yellow, like the fire department’s. The Bergey company makes them in yellow and in gray, Mr. Halsey said.