SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — There is abundant energy in the winds that blow through Sullivan County, and two men are continuing to advance the potential to harvest that resource for local communities.
Dick Riseling, executive director of the Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD), has long worked to enhance renewable energy opportunities in Sullivan County and recently gave another public presentation on community-owned wind power at the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello. Stephen Stuart has been working with SASD to improve the possibilities for wind development, and has completed various trainings and conferences to gain skills related to residential wind development.
Last fall, Stuart, who is involved in various alternative energy initiatives in the region, attended training in residential wind repair and maintenance and tower work offered by Solar Energy International (SEI) on Guemes Island, WA. He has also completed SEI’s training in wind design and installation in Paonia, CO. In October, Stuart will attend the Home Built Wind Generator training, which focuses on the process of building a small wind turbine from scratch.
“Small wind energy is an underutilized renewable energy resource,” said Stuart. “As an advocate for renewable energy systems and sustainable solutions to our housing and energy needs, I felt compelled to learn about this resource. The spark of curiosity ignited the flame of knowledge, and my desire to learn more about this technology just naturally grew.”
When he attended the Small Wind Conference offered by the Small Wind Council in Stevens Point, WI, Stuart learned about the importance of proper site assessment and the availability of the Wind Site Assessor certification program taught by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA). “I also learned that NYSERDA will probably be requiring wind site assessments prior to granting funding for wind projects in New York State,” he said.
Topics covered during the sessions focused on system design, installation, siting analysis, types of turbines (upwind versus downwind, vertical axis versus horizontal axis wind generators), trouble-shooting problems, maintenance issues, hands-on work in repairing and maintaining generators and safely climbing and working on towers.
Stuart hopes to contribute the knowledge and expertise he gained to various SASD projects focused on bringing renewable energy systems to Sullivan County farms, businesses and homes. As such, Stuart is a proponent of home built wind turbines, which he contends will play a role in developing truly independent power.
“There is a definite science to the design and construction of a home-built generator, and they could really answer the need for a viable generator for areas where the average annual wind speed is lower than 10 mph,” he explained. “The largest application will probably be for off-grid users and will require a storage system for excess energy production.”
Meanwhile, SASD has been moving forward in mapping county wind resources. An American Recovery and Reinvestment grant has provided funding for a community-owned wind feasibility study to look at what wind development can do for the county at a utility-grade scale. The multi-year project has identified wind resources in the county with the goal of siting and bringing on line two wind turbine projects: a community-based and -owned turbine, where the community would benefit from the electric power, and a second one that would offset energy usage for a business.
In previous presentations, Riseling has urged county lawmakers to move into municipally owned public utilities by creating their own municipal power authority and launching their own wind program, which he said could result in a profit of $1,500,000 every year. Already, more than 100 community wind projects have been built across the country and are benefiting local taxpayers, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Attributes and topography of the land are being evaluated for large or small residential development, and landowner interest in hosting turbines has been explored. The project is within a month or two of determining several locations from which to choose for development of a small wind farm.
According to Riseling, the wind farm could feature three to six 1.5-megawatt turbines similar in scale to those that currently operate in Waymart, PA, with towers rising 250 feet and blades at 110 feet long. Smaller turbines are also a possibility. Several financial models are available for the funding and benefits would depend on the financial model selected.
Other benefits cited by Riseling include selling energy back to the grid, hiring local people to maintain and monitor, enhancing the potential for manufacturing and fabrication of components such as blades, better responsiveness to customers due to the local ownership and providing a hedge against future rises in costs of fossil fuels. Being community-owned would also improve transparency and increase the potential for discounted rates.
“Localism is the name of the game,” added Riseling. “The hope is we’ll also get some light industry out of this, create jobs and lower the cost of operating a home, business and municipality.” Contact Riseling at firstname.lastname@example.org  for more information.