The Ithaca Town Planning Board unanimously approved a plan Tuesday to build an anemometer to measure the winds around South Hill. If the tower’s measurements show the project is feasible, Ithaca College could be deriving some of its power from wind energy.
The anemometer will be used for about a year to test whether there is enough wind blowing to justify building a wind turbine in the hills behind the Terrace resident halls.
Beth Ellen Clark Joseph, professor of physics, and John Confer, retired professor of biology, made a plan to test the winds around Ithaca College when they hired Sustainable Energy Development, Inc. to install the anemometer.
The project still needs to be approved by the Town Zoning Board and would then need final site planning approval from the Planning Board.
If the turbine is deemed feasible, the proposal would be submitted to the college’s Facilities Planing Committee for approval, then to the budget process and finally to the college’s Board of Trustees.
Clark Joseph and Confer said a turbine would cost the college around $2.5 million.
Clark Joseph said she had proposed a smaller turbine in 2004 and was told that a larger one might be appropriate, which prompted her to test whether the greater expense was worthwhile.
“If you’re going to spend $2.5 million on a wind turbine, you better be very careful to understand the wind you can expect in your area,” she said.
Last March, Clark Joseph and Confer made the proposal to Richard Couture, associate vice president of the Office of Facilities, who approved the plan. The Town Planning Board then postponed voting on the plan because of questions the Tompkins County Planning Department had raised concerning the turbine, such as its visual impact.
The anemometer will take a few weeks to construct and will cost $50,000, but a matching grant from New York State Energy Development Association would cut the cost in half for the college.
The wind turbine would, if implemented, account for five to 15 percent of the college’s power, depending on how much wind there is.
Clark Joseph said wind power is “cost competitive” with coal and gas energy, the college’s main sources of electricity, costing only slightly more than them, and far less than other forms of renewable energy.
Steve Figgat, a senior environmental studies major, said some members of the Planning Board had been concerned about the potential drawbacks of a wind turbine, which would lead them to vote against allowing an anemometer.
Figgat said that the wind turbine would, if successful, set an example to other communities.
“If one goes up, there’s more incentive for others to go up, and it would just be good to see that happening in a progressive community like Ithaca,” he said.
By David Durrett
3 April 2008
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