You might have asked yourself this question if you often pass by one of those new wind turbines at the local New York State Thruway exits: What’s taking so long for them to start spinning?
The short answer: It’s taking a little bit longer to commission them with the local utilities than first anticipated.
According to Shane Mahar, Thruway Authority spokesperson, the next target date to officially commission the wind turbines at exits 57A (Eden-Angola), 59 (Dunkirk-Fredonia) and 61 (Ripley) is the end of this month. The ones at exits 58 (Silver Creek-Irving) and 60 (Westfield) are already up and running, with Exit 58’s wind turbine put online just recently.
“We expect the issue that we’ve experienced to be resolved here in the very near future, within the next few weeks,” Mahar added. “By commissioning them, it’s a series of steps … on the mechanics side of how they operate and how they connect to the local utility that have to be completed.
“And we’re working with the utilities to make sure everything’s hooked up properly and functioning properly and meets all the utility regulations. So it’s kind of the final checkmarks on the ‘to-do’ list.”
The project, Mahar stated, initially had a target completion date of the end of last year. He noted it has been a lengthy process and is “more than just flipping a switch.”
Steve Brady, National Grid spokesperson, said that whenever a new power-generating interconnection is made to the electrical grid, a number of technical standards and regulations must be met.
“They (the standards and regulations) are there for two reasons,” he added. “First and foremost is safety. We are responsible for operating our piece of the network and we are held accountable for the safety of that network. The other factor is reliability. Because of the way electrical systems work, they constantly have to be in balance every second. Customer demand has to be met by customer supply, literally on a second-by-second basis.”
Brady further explained that until National Grid’s engineering staff is satisfied that the Thruway Authority has met those standards, the turbines cannot be commissioned.
While the wind turbines may have been seen spinning for a short period of time in the past, Mahar said that was most likely the engineers and project developers testing out the equipment.
“We’ve been working on this project for a while (since 2011), so we’re just as eager as the residents or the people who see them as they drive by to flip the switch and get them functioning,” Mahar said.
Each turbine is expected to produce between 150 and 400 megawatt hours of electricity annually. The electricity produced, Mahar noted, will be used internally by the Thruway Authority, primarily at the toll facilities close to the turbines.
“It’s expected that over 30 percent of the energy consumed by those facilities will be provided by wind power,” he added.
The OBSERVER asked Mahar if turbines would be expanded to additional Thruway exits. He replied by stating the five local turbines are a sort of “pilot program,” and if there is a way to save money and help reduce operating costs by using wind turbines in other locations, then that is certainly something officials would take a look at.
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