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Power up: Thruway Authority finishing turbine project at exits

Wind power will soon be sweeping through several local Thruway exits.

Anyone traveling the tolled expressway recently will have noticed the addition of wind turbines to the Dunkirk exit 59, Eden/Angola exit 57A, Silver Creek exit 58, Westfield exit 60 and the Ripley toll barrier of Interstate 90.

The wind energy project began in 2011. It was reported that Clough, Harbour and Associates were the engineer selected to design the project.

At the time local town boards in Dunkirk and Hanover questioned whether the turbines would be regulated under local wind energy conversion system (WECS) laws. These laws differ between towns and usually apply to smaller, residential systems within town limits.

It was previously thought that Dunkirk may be the first site for a turbine, but that proved to be speculation because Westfield was the first to see the wind energy device installed.

Recently NYS Thruway Authority Public Information Officer Colin Brennan said Westfield’s turbine was the first to be fully operational.

“As of right now all five wind turbines have been erected. The hardware is in place. Only one has been commissioned, or put into power production, and is generating power. That is the one in Westfield,” he said.

Brennan reported the Westfield turbine has only just started producing energy.

“I can’t give numbers about power production right now because it really just went up, so there is not any data as of right now,” he said.

He said the entire project should be completed in a few months.

“The remaining four that have been erected are going to be commissioned this summer. So, hopefully by the end of the summer or beginning of the fall we will have all five in operation, generating power,” he explained.

Brennan added the turbines are part of an overall goal of the Thruway Authority to offset energy costs.

“We have done a bunch of things like that at the Thruway. Last year, we began to switch over our lighting at our facilities as well to LED lighting. In terms of energy consumption cost savings, we are always looking to do stuff like that and this is part of that effort,” he explained.

The turbines closer resemble the larger commercial turbines with a solid white post than the smaller residential systems with a latticed framework. Some of the turbines have two blades, like at the Dunkirk/Fredonia exit, instead of the typical three that the Westfield exit has.

Brennan was not available for further comment on whether energy will be sold back into the grid or about the appearance of the turbines.