Wind power is the fastest-growing energy source in the world. While some high-profile projects like Cape Wind involve hundreds of turbines, the explosion in wind power is largely being fueled by many small projects developed by communities that are harnessing the power of the breeze. To do so, however, a community needs to obtain as much information as possible about the feasibility and potential of a wind project in its back yard.
The national Community Wind Conference, organized by the non-profit organization Windustry, took place last week. Held once every two years, this gathering brought together wind developers, banks, planners, academics, engineers, government officials, civic group leaders, equipment vendors, lawyers, consultants, and interested citizens from all walks of life for two days in Albany, New York. This conference featured presentations about all aspects of wind turbine developments, including siting, permitting, financing, construction, and equipment operations. Nearly two dozen exhibitors displayed booths, and nearly a thousand people attended the meeting.
The Windustry Community Wind conference brought the “community wind world” together.
Community wind projects use smaller machines and fewer turbines than large-scale wind farms. Local stakeholders have a significant and direct financial stake in community wind projects, either through leases or through direct ownership of the turbines, and benefit from the energy savings and revenue generated by these projects. Project developers must diligently ensure that their turbines will not produce negative impacts on the surrounding community in the form of unwanted sound, pure tones, and shadow flicker, among other concerns.
Tech Environmental’s Dr. Howard Quin was among the speakers at the conference: he gave a presentation on “Sound Permitting for Small-Scale Wind Projects” during the siting and zoning sessions. Dr. Quin’s presentation discussed a number of aspects of wind turbine noise concerns, including noise levels, regulations, measurements, modeling, mitigation, and potential legal aspects of noise impacts.
The conference featured a number of other memorable speakers, including an arctic explorer who has been to the North Pole (twice) and the South Pole, and gave a dramatic presentation showing the changes in the polar areas that have occurred over the last 20 years due to global warming. In another notable presentation, the New York Secretary of Environmental Affairs engaged in a lengthy discussion concerning proposed actions to be taken by the State of New York to promote wind and alternative energy.
Conference attendees visit Jiminy Peak
Following two days in Albany, a third day featured a tour of the newly powered-up 1.5 MW Zephyr wind installation at Jiminy Peak in western Massachusetts. This 236-ton, 385-foot-high turbine promises to generate enough energy to reduce 383,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually. This turbine installation was a collaborative effort between the Jiminy Peak resort, private developers, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state’s development agency for renewable energy.