SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY – With global warming heating up the headlines, and the cost of energy showing no signs of easing, the notion of wind power has captured the imaginations of several officials in Sullivan County, and talk of various projects is in the air.
Perhaps most unexpected are proposals put forward by billionaire and perennial New York gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano. According to an article on www.wired.com, until a little more than a year ago, Golisano was the driving force behind Save Upstate New York, a “virulently anti-wind lobby,” which said that huge wind farms would harm property values, the health of communities and the health of residents. Since early 2006, however, Golisano and his representatives have been talking up the benefits of community-owned wind energy operations to local officials across New York State. His business proposals are now being presented to officials in Sullivan County.
Gilosano is the chairman of a newly formed company called Empire State Wind Energy, LLC (ESWE). According to the company’s website, ESWE aims to form partnerships with local communities in the creation of wind-energy projects. The company promises to build only projects that benefit the “overall community stakeholders,” to take the financial risk by paying for the cost of development, to turn over ownership of the project to the community after a certain amount of time and to add tens of thousands of dollars to township revenues.
The company advises that municipalities should put themselves in a position to take ownership of wind projects, rather than allow private companies to siphon off all the profits from communities. Few officials are willing to comment on this story at this early date.
However, Bill Pammer, the county planning commissioner, did comment on another wind developmentÂ¾a newly patented windmill that he was introduced to by a representative from a Japanese firm called Environmental Technologies, Inc. (ETI).
A typical sleek modern windmill has three blades soaring some 350 feet into the air. The machine patented by ETI has a superstructure that looks like two flat-metal squares that cross each other’s planes. Inside the two squares are 40 or so small adjustable blades. The structure is only about 100 feet high, and the turbine is at the ground level, rather than high in the air, and can thus be covered by a building, or, in fact, placed below ground.
The advantage is that with the lower height, the windmill will have a lesser impact on migratory birds and bats, and therefore, presumably, have less resistance from some members of the environmental community. With the turbine covered by a building or placed below ground, the noise of the spinning turbine, which some people find objectionable, can be significantly reduced.
When a spokesman was asked to provide a picture of the device for this article, he declined, and said that ETI was not yet geared up for publicity.
Pammer, however, was eager to discuss the concept with Sullivan County legislators at a meeting on March 1. He said ETI expressed interest in placing one of its windmills at the green technology park that is to be located next to Sullivan County Community College. Pammer said he would like to facilitate that goal.
A school project
Dr. Patrick Michel, superintendent of the Monticello Central School District, is advocating for a windmill to be constructed at the high school to help pay for the district’s large electricity bill, which he said runs in the neighborhood of $10,000 per month.
Michel said the idea got its start when he conducted a “listening tour” of district residents at the beginning of the September 2006 school year. One of the big concerns of residents was the waste of energy at the school district.
That led Michel to hire a company to perform an energy audit, which in turn led to the suggestion of erecting a windmill. Much of the expense would be covered by money from the state.
Michel said the board will have final say about whether or not the project moves forward, and members should be making a decision in the next few months.
Alternative-energy activist Dick Riseling said the project “signals the intent of the Monticello educational leadership to take seriously the challenge of preparing students for effective and intelligent action to mitigate the effects of climate change. The wind turbine will be a constant reminder to students and community members of what is possible.”
By Fritz Mayer
8 March 2007
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