Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Cornell University to Study Wind Energy

CU explores wind energy option
ITHACA -- In a move to fulfill New York state's new renewable portfolio standard, Cornell University has begun exploring the possibility of setting up wind mills for energy production in the county.
Approved by the state's Public Service Commission in September of 2004, the renewable portfolio standard aims to increase the proportion of energy sold to consumers that is generated from renewable resources to at least 25 percent by 2013. That equals about 3,700 megawatts of renewable energy. Currently about 19 percent of energy sold to consumers in New York state is from renewable resources.
By Cornell's calculations, wind energy is the most affordable renewable energy source that can be set up in the time dictated by the portfolio.
"Wind is by far the most logical means for us to consider," said Lanny Joyce, Cornell's manager of engineering, planning and energy management. "Biomass and solar are just not going to cut it here, we have too many clouds."
Biomass refers to the process of harnessing methane gas produced by cow manure. While Joyce noted Cornell does have a small herd of cows in Harford, he said the start-up costs of installing a system with so few cows would be prohibitive.
Cornell already generates approximately 2 percent of its electricity by hydroelectric power, another renewable energy source, produced with water from Fall Creek. The implementation of lake source cooling also reduced Cornell's electricity use by using water from Cayuga Lake to cool water circulated in the campus' heating and air conditioning systems.
"I think it makes sense to reduce energy use on the supply side and work to generate it wisely," Joyce said. "Wind is way better than conventional fossil fuels for sure."
To study the feasibility of wind power, Cornell is setting up anemometers, which measure wind speed, around the county in areas that may have sufficient wind exposure.
One such test is in Dryden, though Joyce declined to elaborate on where in the town they were looking. Joyce said there is the possibility that more than one site could be used if the project proceeds.
Ithaca College is also considering introducing wind power on campus, though in what capacity is yet to be decided.
"Professors from the physics, biology, and environmental science programs are working together on an educational wind turbine facility for Ithaca College that will be effective in reducing our emissions to the atmosphere," said Beth Clark Joseph, an assistant professor in Ithaca's physics department.
At Cornell, the pros and cons are being considered. Joyce said the visual and avian impacts are the primary side effects people object to, according to his research.
"It's certainly a visual thing," Ed Cope said of wind power. Cope, who works as a botanist at Cornell, has his own wind turbine to power his home and spearheaded the Town of Caroline's successful effort to buy all of the municipality's power from wind. "Nobody minds driving by these posts with wires hanging off them, these ugly things. I don't think wind mills are worse."