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NYPA gives $6.6 million to SUNY Canton for wind turbine project

CANTON – A wind power project may find its way to SUNY Canton’s campus in coming years.

The New York Power Authority has given $6.6 million to Northland Associates of Syracuse to study, design and possibly construct a campus wind turbine.

David Gerlach, SUNY Canton vice president for advancement, said the project has been in the works for some time.

“This project is something we’ve been talking about with NYPA for a long time, three to four years,” he said. “We are finally down to a level of serious review.”

Phase one would involve designing the wind project, which Mr. Gerlach said would consist of a single turbine.

“It is not a wind farm, it is a wind turbine – just one,” he said. “This is a part of them attempting to distribute power production in smaller chunks across the state through alternative energy methodology.”

The second phase, if approved, would be construction of the turbine, which would make a visible addition to SUNY Canton’s campus.

“I think it is a 2.8 megawatt – it is the size of the ones you see in Lowville or Chateaugay,” he said. “It is capable of providing one-third of our power for the campus.”

The project would reduce SUNY Canton’s reliance on electricity purchased from National Grid, and could, during times of low energy use on campus, supply energy for the grid. The school’s primary electricity source is generated by natural gas.

Mr. Gerlach said pursuing renewable energy projects made sense for SUNY Canton.

“I would have to say it is a part of our culture,” he said. “The governor has established benchmarks for acquiring renewable energy.”

In addition to the environmental and economic benefits, the wind turbine could extend educational opportunities to the university’s students, Mr. Gerlach said.

“We have a four-year degree in alternative and renewable energy,” he said. “These students would be able to have a very strong academic component built into the project, to be able to see live data and analyze the outputs from the turbine. It would be a wonderful learning possibility.”

SUNY Canton’s location is ideal for wind power, Mr. Gerlach said, noting that the elevation and average wind speed were within standards for generating electricity.

“We had a feasibility study supported by NYPA and it indicated that this would be an ideal location and we moved on from there,” he said.

Mr. Gerlach emphasized that the grants would bring the project through the first phase, and no decision on whether to build the turbine has been made yet.

“Phase one is a design phase, environmental study phase, all of the normal community feedback and things along that line, that will bring us up to a decision point of go-no go,” he said. “SUNY Canton would be able to take this up to a point of a very detailed review process before we actually have to commit.”