Winter 2013 Issue of the Finger Lakes Sierran
Black Oak Wind Farm
by Marguerite Wells, Project Manager
Black Oak is the first commercial scale wind farm in the East that is owned by local
investors. Located in Enfield, NY, about 10 miles west of Ithaca, the project will hopefully
be online in spring 2014. It is small by wind farm standards, only 7 turbines, and has been
under development slowly for about 8 years. The power generated will be enough to supply
around 3,000 households.
The project is located on and around Buck Hill, just north of Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management
Area, along both sides of Black Oak Road. It has been subject to vigorous environmental review,
and happily nothing of note has come up in terms of being on a flyway, or having habitat
for any rare species. Bird work has been done by Bill Evans of Old Bird, Inc., and bat studies
were done by Dr. Kathleen Moore of Berne, NY. We are currently completing the local and
grid permitting processes, and finalizing layout and road details.
The power will be distributed and consumed locally. There is a high volt-age line crossing
the site already, with which we will connect. The power will then get delivered to Montour
Falls and Ithaca, the two ends of that line. From there, it will flow wherever the grid requires
it, but no one will actually be in charge of that. The grid is like a river- you can put
water in upstream, you can take water out downstream, but there is no telling which water
you’re getting. Once in the river, all water is the same. The grid works the same way.
We put power in at certain locations; we take it out at others, no person controls which
watt of energy goes here or there. Only the larger flows and balances can be managed. On
paper, our customers will be large commercial and institutional power users, most likely
local ones, whom we are seeking currently.
The turbines will be ‘regular’ commercial size turbines, like those seen elsewhere
in Central NY and Pennsylvania. From a distance they’re all about the same size with
slight variations in tower height and blade length. From afar, they’re impossible to
differentiate, though! To be precise, our turbines will be 1.8 megawatts, 80 meters at the
hub, 100 meter span of the blades. Construction will be performed by local contractors for
the most part — excavation, electrical, and concrete will all be local workers, with
specialized trades brought in from elsewhere in the state.
The wind on Buck Hill is stronger than almost any other location in Tompkins County, at
an average speed of 17 miles an hour. The difference between 14 mile an hour winds, which
many sites have in the region, and 17 mile an hour winds, which this site has, is the difference
between a viable wind farm and not. That three mile an hour difference in wind speed is nearly
a doubling of total power output, since electrical power output is the cube of the wind speed.
However, turbines are becoming much more efficient, and are being designed for lower wind
speeds all the time, so there may come a time in future when lower wind speeds become economically
The federal tax incentives passed as part of the fiscal cliff deal are a critical part of
making our project financially feasible. Unsurprisingly to some, New York is an expensive
place to build a wind project, so alt-hough we have higher power prices, we also have a higher
cost of doing business, so fed-eral and state incentives are critical to making the project
possible. However, it will be a good investment for the 81 current owners of the project.
If you would like to know more about our work, contact the Project Manager, Marguerite Wells,
at enfieldenergy at gmail.com, or 607-342-6805.
The Howard NY wind project, which has very similar landscape and
turbines to what our project will use in Enfield, so it fairly visually representative of
what we plan to build.