April 7, 2005

Cornell Defends Wind Turbines

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Cornell representatives, residents of the Mt. Pleasant area and concerned members of the community came together last night at a meeting last night to discuss wind power and listen to comments and concerns from the local community.

“This is a feasibility study, not a project proposal, to find out whether wind energy can make sense here at Mt. Pleasant,” said William “Lanny” Joyce, manager of engineering, planning and energy management in the department of utilities and energy.

According to John C. Gutenberger, director of the office of community relations at Cornell, the University sent invitation to the 70-80 households in the immediate Mt. Pleasant area. Contact and general wind power information pamphlets were available. There was also a sign-up sheet for a bus trip to visit the nearby wind farms in Fenner and Madison County, NY. The session was held at the Varna Community Association Building and was hosted by Cornell.

Joyce began the meeting by explaining Cornell’s goals for the study. These included detailed analysis, outreach and conservation and investigation by Cornell and other expert consultants. He stated that the wind industry describes wind as a renewable resource which does not create air or water pollution and which provides home-grown local energy.

“Cornell and I are both interested in a thorough analysis of wind energy,” Joyce said.

Cornell’s energy, according to Joyce, comes from co-generation, hydro-electricity, lake-source cooling and NYSEG.

“We’re basically looking at ways to be cost-effective and reduce environmental impact,” Joyce said.

The Mt. Pleasant hilltop is an ideal spot for wind turbines, according to Joyce, because it is owned by Cornell, is mostly free of trees and has the potential to generate 10-15 percent of campus electric use. It is also a fairly flat surface and relatively close to campus and regional electric lines.

He said that challenges associated with the site include working with the Hartung-Boothroyd Observatory, WHCU antenna, emergency county antenna, nearby airport and residents in the area. Potential wind turbines would also have to be specially designed to not interfere with the WHCU tower and be isolated electronically like the nearby emergency antenna.

After listening to Cornell’s position on the study, members of the audience were able to voice comments and concerns to Joyce and a panel. The group was composed of Kurt Fristrup, assistant director of the bioacoustics research program at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Stefan Hames, research associate in conservation science at the Laboratory of Ornithology; two representatives from AWS Truewind, a company that has worked with Cornell on the feasibility study; Jason Kreiselman, project engineer; and Dan Bernadett, senior engineer.

One Mt. Pleasant resident voiced major concerns of noise and decreasing property values. Joyce responded by saying that there are different types of wind turbines and that noise concerns will depend on how strong the noise is, how far it will carry and what level of noise pollution is considered manageable.

He also said that older, two-bladed wind turbines posed problems of infrasonic noise, which should not be a problem for more modern, three-bladed turbines. Joyce said Cornell can use available property value data from existing wind farms in the United States and Europe.

Some residents countered that the view of Mt. Pleasant was a major factor in buying a house.

“It’s the most wonderful, pleasant space. I know it sounds NIMBY, but what are we going to get out of it?” asked Marie Read, Mt. Pleasant resident. Joyce replied, “We would like ideas from you all on what would make sense, since it isn’t obvious right off the bat. The normal way this is handled is to provide a payment, in lieu of taxes, to the municipalities and school districts of the area.”

“I found it remarkably quiet,” said Ron Szymanski, resident of Freeville, of his visit to the wind turbines in Madison, NY.

Martha Robertson ’75 (D-Dryden, District 13) raised questions of lighting for potential wind turbines, the need for access roads for maintenance and the reasons for having 400-foot tall turbines. Joyce answered that according to FAA regulations, structures over 200 feet tall must be lit. He also said that there might be a gravel road for a pick-up truck for maintenance and access for a crane for installation of the turbines. He added that the turbines should be large in order to allow for an economy of scale and to be competitive with fossil fuels.

“There will be a significant scientific impact on the observatory,” said Don Barry, research scientist, astronomy, who does work at the Hartung-Boothroyd Observatory at Mt. Pleasant. According to James A. Houck, Ph.D. ’67, Kenneth A. Wallace Professor of Astronomy, about two dozen people conduct research at the observatory each year. He also said that the observatory was basically built by undergraduate students over a period of 30 years.

Charles Smith, member of the Town of Dryden Conservation Advisory Board brought up questions of potential bird and bat mortality as a result of wind turbines.

Hames and Fristrup responded that the Lab of Ornithology is planning to use a number of different methods to determine which birds and bats frequent and migrate through the area, including bioacoustics and radar.

The Department of Utilities and Energy Management has been working with the Lab of Ornithology, which plans to lead and perform a study on the birds and bats in the Mt. Pleasant area.

“The students should come to a meeting like this,” said Robertson, who represents the western part of the Town of Dryden. She added, ” KyotoNow! students have made an important contribution, but should be here.”

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun Senior Writer