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SUNY Canton shows turbine plans to public

CANTON – Construction on a wind turbine at SUNY Canton may be underway by this time next year.

The college held its first public informational meeting about the project Tuesday, to provide updates on the project that has been discussed since 2005 and is now close to becoming a reality.

The proposed turbine would be built behind the baseball fields on the west side of the campus, 436 feet tall from its base to the tip of a blade at its highest point. This is a utility-sized turbine, the same kind used at large wind farms. It would produce about 1.8 to 2.2 megawatts, depending on wind activity.

That is enough to cover about half of the college’s electricity use.

If completed, the turbine will be the first of its size in the SUNY system.

Engineering work will proceed throughout 2013, and construction is expected to begin next year.

The college is looking for grants to cover all or part of the cost. If it cannot get the grants, it will receive a loan from the New York Power Authority, which will be paid back using the money saved in energy costs over 12 to 15 years.

A cost estimate for the project will not be available until the engineering work has progressed further.

Sustainable Energy Developments Inc., Ontario, N.Y., the company overseeing the project, will begin studying the impact a turbine would have on the campus and community.

Two balloons will be floated at the proposed site today from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. to measure the scale of the turbine. The company will take photos of the balloons from different vantage points in and around campus and will create images showing how the turbine would look from each perspective.

The company also will measure the amount of noise the turbine will make and its potential danger to the birds and bats that live nearby.

More public meetings will be scheduled throughout the year as engineering work continues. If the plan continues on schedule, construction will begin in early 2014, and will be complete by the end of that year.

Sustainable Energy Developments is contracted to operate and maintain the turbine for the next five years. After that it is up to SUNY Canton whether to take over operation itself or contract with an outside company.

“It’s possible after year five that we will take over ourselves,” said Patrick G. Hanss, SUNY Canton’s assistant facilities planning coordinator.

In addition to the economic and environmental benefits, the turbine will also prove valuable for academics, especially to SUNY Canton’s Alternative and Renewable Energy Systems program, according to program director Michael J. Newtown.

An on-campus turbine would give students a firsthand look at how various wind conditions impact energy output.

“We’re going to know what’s happening. We’re going to be able to make predictions from this, and students are going to be engaged,” Mr. Newtown said.