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Is Wind Energy Right for Your Farm

by Mark Mayhew

NYSERDA provided $44,000 to Cross Island Farm to install a Bergey Excel 10kW wind turbine on a 120-foot tower along with a 5.52 SunPower Photovoltaic system. Photo by unknown.

If you are a farmer in New York considering wind energy, financial assistance and guidance is available from the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).  NYSERDA’s is a public benefit corporation whose aim is to help New York meet its energy goals: reducing energy consumption, promoting the use of renewable energy sources, and protecting the environment.   Last year, NYSERDA helped 32 farms in New York State make their dream of renewable energy a reality, and provided funding for turbines from 2.1 kW to 850 kW in size.  For eligible participants, NYSERDA can provide an incentive (i.e. a grant or rebate) for up to 50% of the cost of the system.

Farms bring three critical elements to a success­ful wind project: land, wind, and an appreciation of the value in a long-term investment. The project’s return on investment will depend on many factors including:  their available wind resource, their cost of electricity, and their ability to take advantage of the federal Investment Tax Credit and accelerated depreciation.  What is guaranteed is an immediate and sizeable reduction in electric bills and the proud feeling of owning a wind turbine and generating your own electricity.

No-Cost Farm Energy Audits & Up to $250,000 for Equipment Upgrades!

NYSERDA’s Agriculture Energy Efficiency Program has funding NOW – don’t wait! NYSERDA can help you identify and implement electric and natural gas energy efficiency measures for your farm. Your farm must be a customer of a New York State investor-owned utility and contribute to the System Benefits Charge(SBC). NYSERDA will assign a FlexTech Consultant to perform an energy audit for your farm at no cost for audits up to $2,500. Plus, NYSERDA will contribute cost-share assistance of up to 75% toward implementing upgrades! You can request an energy audit, project implementation incentives, or both. For more information and to get an application visit nyserda.ny.gov/Agriculture.

Wind is very site specific and a wind site assessment should be conducted to determine available wind resource (defined as the annual average wind speed).  Speeds of at least 10 mph are usually considered necessary for a reasonable investment. Wind speeds increase with the height above ground, and an increase from 8 to 10 mph will double the amount of electricity generated.

There are three concepts that should be considered to size a wind turbine to meet one’s needs.  1) All farms are eligible for net metering.  If a wind turbine generates more electricity than a site is using, the electric utility meter will spin backwards.  (Some have been known to watch for this event and cheer when it happens.)  At the end of the month, if the meter spun backwards more than it spun forwards, the electric company will issue a credit for the excess electricity.  This credit can be carried forward and applied to the electric bill on a non-windy month.  2) Some farms are also eligible for remote net metering, where this credit can be applied to other electric accounts.  This may be useful when a farm has multiple electric meters on site.  3) The wind turbine should not be too big.  A properly-sized turbine should only generate the electricity that is needed on an annual basis.  It is not cost-effective to over-size a turbine.

Not in New York? Help is Still Available!

Not in New York? The USDA (US Department of Ag) Rural Energy for America program may have funding to assist you. Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/energy.html.  More sustainable farm energy assistance is available at the Cornell Small Farms Program website: http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/resources/farm-energy/.

The New York State Department of Agricultural and Markets has defined a wind turbine as farm equipment.  Under the Right-to-Farm Laws, a farm in a Certified Ag District cannot be prohibited from installing a wind turbine by the local jurisdiction.  In addition, there can be no restrictions on the height of the tower; however, set-back limits may be imposed.

A wind turbine is an investment that can be enjoyed.  When asked why he bought a wind turbine, a farmer in Chemung County just replies, “I always wanted one.”

For more information on the program contact the NYSERDA Project Manager, Mark Mayhew, at 866-NYSERDA or 518-862-1090, extension 3119 or by e-mail at msm@nyserda.ny.gov or visit www.nyserda.ny.gov.

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