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SUNY Canton turbine plans power ahead

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CANTON — A wind-powered future is close at hand for SUNY Canton.

The government-mandated studies have been completed, and the college is nearly done with its plans to build an on-campus wind turbine, which has been in the works since a feasibility study was completed in 2005. It is on track to break ground next spring.

The 436-foot turbine would be built behind the baseball fields and would be able to produce about 1.8 to 2.2 megawatts, depending on wind activity. That is enough to cover about half of the college’s electricity use.

Sustainable Energy Developments Inc., Ontario, N.Y., is handling the design and construction work. The company will maintain the turbine for the first five years of its estimated 20-year lifespan.

Over the last few months, the company has completed a slew of studies to measure a turbine’s impact on the campus and surrounding community.

A sound monitoring study found that the noise of a turbine would be unlikely to disturb those living or working nearby, with sound levels well below the town’s noise policy limits. The spinning blades would add only a few decibels to the existing noise, about the same as rustling leaves.

A wildlife study showed that a turbine in the proposed location would kill between two and 24 birds a year, which is below state Department of Environmental Conservation limits.

The school has already submitted a connection agreement plan to National Grid.

The campus is expected to use all of the power produced by the turbine, but during the slow summer months it might sell some to National Grid for a bit of extra revenue.

The turbine is not expected to be a money maker for the college. The initial investment, an estimated $1.5 million, will be recouped over the life of the turbine through energy savings, but with little in the way of profit.

“Basically this project is a break even. We won’t be making any money off this project,” said campus Director of Facilities and Capital Improvement Michael R. McCormick.

Though it won’t be a source of revenue, the turbine will be of academic and environmental value to the college, according to SUNY Canton Chief of Staff Lenore E. Vanderzee. Students in the Alternative and Renewable Energy Systems program will be able to study the turbine for hands-on experience, and the power produced will reduce the school’s reliance on traditional sources of energy.

“While we’re not saving money, we are saving on fossil fuels,” Ms. Vanderzee said.

The school has already held two public informational meetings about the turbine project. The next will be scheduled for sometime in November.

The results of all the studies and a project timetable are posted online at www.canton.edu/wind.

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