Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. What about setbacks?
A. The Enfield Town Law calls for a setback from houses of 450′ or 1.1 x total turbine height. In the case of the size turbines we propose, that would be 531′. However, we have proposed much larger setbacks than these for our actual turbine locations. GE recommends a setback of just under 1000′ to a house, and that is what we propose for our turbines at Black Oak. Most houses are much further than that from any turbine, averaging 1500′ or more.
Q. What about noise?
A. Noise considerations are very important to us, because we do not want our turbines to be a nuisance. We have done a number of studies of the sound levels at houses in the immediate area and are in compliance not only with the town law, but also state guidelines. One concern being voiced locally is about Infrasound, which is sound below the level of human hearing, generated by wind turbines. Infrasound is all around us all the time. The primary natural source of infrasound in upstate NY is the wind in the trees and against our houses. We are already subjected to large amounts of infrasound continuously. Infrasound sensors often cannot tell whether a wind turbine is operating or not, because background infrasound is already so high. Other common sources include fans and air conditioners, waves on the shore, and highways.
Q. What about ice throw?
A. Ice is a common concern, and is part of why we do set the turbines back from houses. However, on a practical basis, just look at a couple of examples of urban turbines. A turbine has been operating for nearly ten years at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. It is surrounded by a busy highway, parked cars, bus-loads of schoolchildren, and the large plate glass windows of the Science Center itself. The turbine is located right next to Lake Erie, where winter weather is much like upstate NY. This turbine is clearly not throwing ice and damaging cars or people, or they would have shut it down. It has been operating year-round since 2006. Here’s a large turbine in downtown Toronto, operating in a public park, by the side of the highway, continuously since 2002.
Q. Will the project provide free or reduced-cost electricity to neighbors?
A. No, we cannot offer this to homeowners. Power is delivered to houses by NYSEG. We will deliver electricity into the wholesale power market, through the high voltage transmission lines already crossing Black Oak Rd. Power at your house is delivered through a different set of wires, called the distribution system. We are not NYSEG; we cannot provide retail electricity, nor can we affect the price of electricity charged by NYSEG.
Q. What is this Good Neighbor Agreement?
A. In response to the frequent requests we have had over the years to provide cheap electricity, which we cannot do (see above), the original project developer committed to share profits with the neighbors instead. If you want to use the money for your electric bills, go ahead! We have distributed our good neighbor agreement around the immediate area of the project. If you want $500 a year, great, you can sign the agreement. If you don’t want it, you have no obligation to sign it. This Good Neighbor Agreement is totally voluntary on our part and on yours. It is not part of town or state law. Most wind farms do not offer profit sharing.
Q. What about solar?
A. Solar power has pros and cons, just like wind power. Solar takes a lot of space to make the same amount of energy as wind- Black Oak will turn about three acres into driveways and actual wind turbine footprints. Farmers will continue to grow crops and trees under the turbines. To make the same amount of energy as our seven turbines would require between two hundred and three hundred acres of solar panels. Current power prices and policies do not allow large solar farms to make financial sense at this time in upstate NY.
Q. Will the project be fixing the roads?
A. Yes. Black Oak Rd is mostly a County road, with a portion belonging to the Town of Enfield. The project will be entering into road use agreements with both the County and the Town for how to account for and repair the roads after construction.
Q. How does Internet service relate to the wind farm?
A. Two years ago, Enfield was cut from the state-funded rural internet grants, and Haefele TV had no plans to extend its service to Black Oak Rd. The turbines will require internet service to operate their controls, so Black Oak Wind Farm hired Clarity Connect to install high-speed wireless internet on Black Oak Rd. This prompted Haefele to install cable on Black Oak and Griffin Roads to compete for customers. Now, despite the lack of state grant funding, western Enfield has two internet options where there were none before, and 800 out of 907 unserved homes now have access to high speed internet.
Q. How many turbines?
A. Seven GE 2.3-107 turbines.
Q. Where will the wind farm be located?
A. Black Oak Road, Town of Enfield, in western Tompkins County, NY. View Map
Q. When is the project happening?
A. Now. Construction may be completed by the end of 2016.
Q. What about birds, bats and other environmental concerns?
A. We conducted extensive field studies as part of developing our Environmental Impact Statement. We found no rare species on site, and will continue monitoring after construction is completed. We estimate two to five bird deaths per turbine per year. Research shows the average housecat kills four to eighteen birds per year.
Q. What about noise, vibration, or other health concerns?
A. Take a look at our EIS for studies on these as well.
Q. How loud are the turbines?
A. It depends on how strong the wind is, the time of year, and one’s proximity to the turbines. That said, there won’t be a noise level greater than than 45 decibels at any house near our wind farm. Forty-five decibels is considered ambient noise for a quiet suburban area at night. For reference, chirping of crickets produces a noise level of 55 decibels. When standing directly under an operating wind turbine, one will have to stop speaking and listen carefully to hear the whoosh of the blades.
Q. How much power will Black Oak produce?
A. It will generate enough power to supply about 5000 local households.
Q. How big are the turbines?
A. Each turbine will be 483 feet from the ground to of the tip of the blade at its highest point in its rotation. Our turbines are commercial size—the same size you see on ridge-lines throughout the Northeast.
Q. How much area will this take up?
A. The project has just under 1000 acres leased from local landowners. The turbines are spaced 1200′ to 3500′ apart. Apart from a single lane driveway to each tower, and the 15′ diameter of the tower base itself, the land will go on being used as it is now for farming and forestry. Cows will graze right under the turbines, corn and hay will be cropped right up to the bases of the turbines. Very little land is converted to permanent infrastructure.
Q. How are the turbines connected to the grid?
A. The turbines will be connected through an underground collection system. Wires will run from the turbines to the substation, which will connect to the 115 kV transmission line that crosses our site, a part of our regional grid owned by NYSEG.
Q. What kind of turbines?
A. Each one will be rated 2.3 MW (megawatts) and is manufactured by GE: these are made in the USA. GE’s renewable energy headquarters and wind research facility is in Schenectady, NY.
Q. When will the turbines begin making electricity?
A. Once they are commissioned. Commissioning means that the turbines are fully ready to produce power and the grid is ready to accept it. That’s when the blades start turning. Sometime in 2016.
Q. Who owns Black Oak Wind Farm?
A. Black Oak is a community owned wind farm. There are 150 households who are the owners right now, many of whom live within 25 miles of the project.
Q. Can a homeowner or small local business buy the power?
A. Not directly, but the power we generate will be flowing to local users all the time we are generating it—into the transmission lines that end in Ithaca and Montour Falls. From there, through the distribution system to users throughout the area.