Madison County is getting a little greener when it comes to energy production.
The Airtricity Wind Power Project that spans four towns and puts windmills in two counties is underway.
The towns of Eaton, Madison and Stockbridge in Madison County will have 19 new windmills and the Town of Augusta will get four.
“The big tube sections and the cell at the top and the blades are all staged and ready for installation,” said Site Manager Brian Hill.
He said many of the major pieces are already on site, but that all of them would be delivered by next week and they would start going up at the beginning of June.
The majority of the turbines in Madison County are located on Crow Hill Road, just off of Route 20. There will be 11 at that site, four of them in Eaton and the rest in Madison.
There are two locations on Strip Road, one in Stockbridge with five turbines and the other in Augusta, which is Oneida County, with four turbines. There are also three turbines on Bird Road in Madison.
There are three sections in the tower portion of the turbine. Once assembled each windmill is 240 feet tall. The nacelle, the part the blades hook into is the size of a large recreational vehicle, and the blades are 125 feet long.
To visualize the size of them, a school bus is typically 40 feet long, so three would need to be lined up end to end to equal the length of one blade.
The outside of the blades are made of fiberglass, and the inside is wood. Standing at the end of a blade, looking at it length-wise, it can best be thought of as a huge dorsal fin. It is not completely straight, it bends to catch the wind.
The aerodynamic blades are connected to the nacelle using a hub, which Hill said is like the nose of a propeller.
The ends of the blades are flat. Hill said it helps cut down on the noise.
Senior Vice President of Development Doug Colbeck said these turbines are more efficient than past models.
“There has been dramatic changes in technology-their efficiencies depend on the site and the size of the turbines,” he said. “They’re significantly more efficient than they were 10 years ago.”
Colbeck said each turbine generates about 96,000 megawatt hours per year.
“To put that in perspective a house generally would use about a megawatt hour a year of energy,” he said.
Hill explained that the higher the tower, the better the wind is going to be.
“The more that they’re spinning, the quicker they’re going to pay off,” he said noting that meteorological data is gathered and maps of wind currents are used to determine prime sites. “They don’t just lick their finger and stick it up in the air.”
He said they also have to make sure the turbines are not placed in any migrating bird paths.
Another safety consideration is lightening arrestors that are located on the ends of the blades, which run down the tower and into a grounding system.
Each turbine will also have lights, required by the Federal Aviation Administration, which Hill said would be synchronized to blink at the same time.
Housed in the nacelle are the gears and the generator. To access the machinery, operators have to climb a ladder inside the tower.
“It takes a long time and you’ve got to be in good shape to do it,” Hill said. “They climb up one section and then there’s a platform if you have to rest-half-hour to get up to the top.”
He said the operators have to go up three, sometimes four towers a day.
Because of their rural locations, Hill said the company had to build roads through farmland to access to the sites.
He said they have been working closely with the landowners and that once the turbines are up, the roads would be narrowed so they can minimize the amount of agricultural land being used.
“A lot of them (landowners) were happy because it provided access to farmland they couldn’t even get to,” he said. Once the turbines are erected “they can farm or graze right up next to them-turbines themselves don’t take up much land.”
Hill explained that each of the roads created needed to be named, and the turbines were numbered, so they could be easily located.
He said the towns and the county came up with the names including Hub Way, Prop Road, Cell Road, DTA Way, Mid Road, Base Road, Top Road, Blade Road, GE Road, Wind Energy Road, Airtricity Road and Green Power Road.
Each turbine will have a mailing address so firefighters or ambulance crews can find them in an emergency. Hill said the address would use the number of the turbine, such as 15 Green Power Road.
Colbeck said leases are held with individual landowners, the company does not buy the land. Each property owner who hosts a turbine gets a royalty payment based on energy produced. He could not say how much as each lease is confidential and individually negotiated.
An agreement with the towns and schools gives them $8,000 per megawatt hour to split 50/50 once the windmills start generating.
Airtricity’s substation is located on Elm Street in Madison; this is where the turbines are connected to the electric grid.
Hill explained that the controllers for the turbines would be located at the substation as well, and those are controlled by remote through a computer connection at the operation center.
According to him Airtricity is leasing a farmstead on Route 12B in Bouckville. With the option to buy, it may become the permanent operation center.
He said the operators should be able to see just about every turbine from that location.
Colbeck and Hill expect the turbines to be operational by October.
This week workers were putting down the 50-foot by 50-foot concrete bases that the structural steel goes into.
Scott La Ventura, a safety consultant with Great Lakes Environmental and Safety Consultants, a Buffalo firm that provides environmental, health and safety and risk management services, explained that the towers are only seven feet into the ground.
“In place of going deep into the ground, they are spread across a wider area,” he said.
Other safety measures that are taken, once the turbines are up, include permanent gating at the bases of access roads and, locked and alarmed tower doors.
Once they are up and running, Hill said there would typically be three to five employees located at the operation center.
By LeeAnne Root
Dispatch Staff Writer
10 May 2007
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