Darien farm’s wind turbine gets closer look from residents

Jul 24, 2017

DARIEN — Stepping back from the footprint of a 100 kW wind turbine at Miller Sonshine Acres, Delia Fisher of Corfu left an “open turbine” event impressed and almost evangelical about what she saw and heard at the Darien farm.

Fisher said she saw a notice about the event and after seeing turbines populate in Wyoming County, assumed the power generated went right back in the dairy farm’s operations.

“I wanted to know more about it,” Fisher said, thinking back to the plentiful signs opposing wind projects and the proximity of the installation to her home. “We found out actually, this farmer, with the help of a lot of grants, put up these two turbines ... and he’s feeding his stored energy back to the grid for a credit.”

“It’s unbelievable, they had videos and all kinds of information ... we learned a lot today,” Fisher said after gazing up the turbine’s hollow vertical tunnel that was opened up Friday.

“What I know what I learned, what I’m going to spread, is that anyone against them for the noise, there’s such a minimal amount of noise, and when they turn, for five-to-seven seconds, you get a little louder noise — but it’s nothing,” she continued.

As a soft but audible “swoooooosh, wioahhh” came with each passing blade, Buffalo Renewables President Padma Kasthurirangan said up-close experiences are wind power’s answer to objections that arose each time agricultural, residential and commercial wind projects come to a new town.

“Usually the first project is the hardest,” said Kasthurirangan, whose company handled the installation, as well as zoning and grant applications, for the Dan Miller and Sonshine Acres’ matching permanent magnet direct drive turbines.

“Originally, we had a lot of opposition, whenever we go to the town for the first time, no one knows what we’re talking about, but once they see what the turbine is and the impact of a single distributed-wind turbine, there’s a big change ... they see the size of it and the impact.”

Standing by his Vermont-based company’s 24-meter blade turbine, Northern Power Systems Technical Sales Support Manager Trevor Atkinson said the scale of the projects are on the “top end of small wind.”

Each system produces enough power for 20 to 30 homes, or a medium-sized farm. Miller has eight metered sites where the state’s net metering system returns his gift to the grid with a compensation of power.

“Mostly it’s been farmers and bankers interested in financing projects,” Atkinson said of the event’s turnout, which reached around 50 over the afternoon. That’s who they want to reach — potential customers. “It’s educational outreach.”

Mike Woods, who raises dairy calves at Woodsway Farms in Bennington, was among the last to arrive. His farm has considered alternative energy a few times but was put off by the delayed pay-off projects provided and the difficulty siting a project on their narrow but deep lot. But now, he feels a new urgency to check it out.

“Energy costs are only going to continue to go up, so I figured I should start looking here,” Woods said after his tour. “I think they’re great.”

Kasthurirangan said Miller was interested earlier than most area farms in wind power, inquiring as the net metering system was being written. She recalls the happy call when she told him they could go ahead, with his turbines going up in a Simonds Road field in 2014 and 2016.

People don’t usually get to see inside the turbines, which Fisher described as “a hollow tunnel with a ladder with a safety harness and components that look with circuit breakers.”

Explaining it in more detail from the base of the tower, Kasthurirangan’s voices echoes upward as she discusses how the power is translated between direct current to alternating current power and then passed down at 60 Hz of power and straight down to the power grid through a small road-side shed.

“Essentially, if the turbine is spinning like it is now, it’s going to that home,” she says, looking at the scattering of rural homes.

By Jim Krencik, The Daily News