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How Bright is the Future for Wind Power? CNY Wind Farm Starts Construction

Black Oak Wind Farm

A wind power project that's starting construction later this year is pointing out some of the changing economics that might make it a more viable alternative energy source. Wind energy pricing is now at an all-time low according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy. The price from wind power sale agreements in 2014 fell to just 2.35 cents/kWh. 

The Black Oak Wind Project is a seven-turbine farm being built outside of Ithaca.  Project Manager Marguerite Wells says she pursued it for environmental and economic reasons, living in Enfield, one of the poorest areas of Tompkins County.

"There's not a lot of economic development. Extra money in the tax rolls would be very very welcome. And so, that's part of -- I think why I've gotten the support from my townspeople is that it's economic development to them."

Wells describes the economic impact of installing turbines.

The project is financed by around 150 local investors.  The power generated from the farm will be bought by Cornell University, replacing other generation that feeds the power grid. Wells notes advancements in technology have made such projects more feasible.

Credit Noah Demarest/STREAM Collaborative
View of wind turbines from Google Earth

"Turbines went from about 80 percent available, meaning they ran about 80 percent of the time, to 99-point-something available now. They are way better machines now than they were when we first started putting them up. And so, that really helps drive down the cost. They're also much more efficient. They're about twice as productive now than they were eight years ago when I first started looking at turbines."

Wells describes the varying cost of wind energy based on location.

She says wind hasn't had the drop in costs that solar power has.  Both might be moving toward a time when they could be financially viable without subsidies.  But Wells points out on a level playing field, wind might take off.

"If there were no subsidies to any energy industries -- not to coal, not to gas, not to anybody, and not to wind -- bring it on. I would love the day that there are no subsidies at all because wind would be easily the cheapest new kind of generation we could add to the grid. The unfairness comes when people want to pull the subsides from the renewables but keep the subsidies for all the fossils." 

The Black Oak Wind Farm starts construction later this year on its sub-station. Wells says the Turbines won't be installed until next summer.  

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
I was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. Unable to bring myself to leave the area and drawn to Le Moyne's communication and athletic programs, I decided to attend Le Moyne College where I am now a junior communications major. While at Le Moyne I have dedicated most of my time to being a midfielder on the women's lacrosse team and the News and Features Editor of the school newspaper, The Dolphin. Since I was a little girl, I have been passionate about reading and writing, fascinated by the power words have to connect us and make the world feel a little bit smaller. From that passion stemmed an interest in radio and how people are able to communicate, not just through spoken word, but through music as well.