Residents of Enfield, New York are opposing plans to build a wind farm on a hill in their town which could produce 20 percent of Cornell’s annual energy.
In December 2014, Cornell announced plans to purchase all electricity generated by Enfield’s Black Oak Wind Farm following its construction. The farm will produce 16 megawatts of renewable electricity — a significant percentage of of Cornell’s annual energy usage.
“This is a major step toward Cornell becoming a carbon-neutral-campus,” said KyuJung Whang, vice president for facilities services, in an interview with the University.
The purchase reflects the University’s progress towards an original carbon neutrality goal, which is delineated in the Climate Action Plan.
Through a website called Black Oak Wind Farm Concerns, residents have expressed worries about the proposed wind farm, including the adverse effects of infrasound — low-frequency sound that can cause sleep disturbance or deprivation — and noise pollution from turbines.
On the concerns website, some Enfield residents suggested that turbines must be placed at greater distance from residential areas than the current law requires in order for them to avoid these potential problems.
Residents also argued that although the Black Oak Wind Farm has been advertised as a “community-owned wind farm,” Enfield receives no direct benefit from the project.
“In this case, the energy is being bought 100 percent by Cornell University and does not benefit Enfield itself,” Jud Lemke, a member of the committee advising the town of Enfield on the Windfarm project said.
There are not any financial incentives for citizens of Enfield either, according to Lemke. Outside investors — who will provide further funding in order to make the project more financially viable — will receive all financial benefits of the wind farm, said.
“It seems quite unjust that the people of Enfield — which is not a very wealthy community — are being used to generate enormous profits for people who do not even live in their community,” Lemke said.
The Enfield Town Board approved the wind farm project in January 2015, according to The Ithaca Journal.
Over 180 residents of Enfield have signed a petition asking the town to amend its laws regarding wind turbine noise levels, and to delay the project until these issues are addressed.
“The residents who live where this project is being built are asking the Town of Enfield to pause long enough to review the law that was passed seven years ago, to see if it needs to be updated to take into account all the new data that has come to light,” said Lemke.
The Town of Enfield Wind Farm Advisory Committee will meet Feb. 9 to discuss the proposed wind farm further, according to the town’s official website.