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July 22, 2009

 

Wind turbine goes up at ESF classrooms

The college will use the turbines to power two classrooms in Preble near Heiberg Forest

 

Wind

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Michael Kelleher, director of renewable energy and associate professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, left, and Brennan Marks, a civil engineer with Clark Patterson Lee, stand in front of a 126-foot Endurance S-250 grid-tie wind turbine.

By IAN BOUDREAU
Contributing writer
iboudreau@cortlandstandard.net

PREBLE — Two years after graduating from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Brennan Marks had the rare opportunity to see his senior project made a reality.
Marks, along with Associate Professor Michael Kelleher, stood near two classroom buildings in a clearing in Heiberg Forest, just south of Tully in northern Preble, while workers prepared to fire up the school’s new wind turbine for its first test run.
“It kind of stands as a monument to my education at ESF,” said Marks, who now works as a civil engineer with Clark Patterson Lee in Rochester, as he looked up at the sleek Endurance S-250 turbine perched atop a 126-foot pole.
Kelleher, the director of SUNY-ESF’s renewable energy system program, said the turbine was expected to produce between 8,000 and 9,000 kilowatts per year — about what a large single-family home uses annually.
The energy will be used to help power the school’s two classroom buildings in the Heiberg clearing. The prevailing winds there average around 12 mph on the western face of the hill.
As a senior at ESF two years ago, Marks said he and a group of students participated in a “capstone” project, during which they analyzed sites across the school’s 25,000 acres, which includes sites in the Adirondacks and Vermont, in addition to Heiberg Forest. The students eventually settled on the Heiberg location, since wind speeds on the hill were consistent enough to produce an economically viable amount of energy, and because there were buildings at the location that could use the electricity produced.
“The rule of thumb is that if you don’t have 12 mile-per-hour winds, it’s probably not financially viable,” he said.
Kelleher said the turbine will be used to provide most of the power needed for lights, heating and hot water service to the two single-story buildings.
The turbine system cost about $46,000, Kelleher said, but that was offset by various state and federal incentive programs designed to promote renewable energy development, including from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. With about $26,000 coming from government incentives, ESF’s tab for the turbine was reduced to about $20,000.
For homeowners interested in using renewable energy, such as wind or solar power, Kelleher said the incentive structure is slightly different, but that NYSERDA’s grants, plus federal and state tax credits, usually wind up providing half the money needed to start up.
He estimated that ESF’s turbine will pay for itself in about 10 years.
SUNY-ESF has a goal of becoming “carbon-neutral” by 2015, but reducing the Heiberg site’s net carbon output is only part of the goal for the new turbine, Kelleher said.
“This is primarily going to be a teaching tool,” he said. The college now offers a renewable energy minor, and Kelleher said the turbine will be part of the curriculum.
“We’ll be able to bring students, show them the turbine and teach them about siting,” he said.
Marks said his work on the turbine project provided a foundation for much of what he does now as a civil engineer.
“Today, we have to be more focused on sustainability than we ever have before,” he said.

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