Frequently Asked Questions About Wind Energy in Upstate New York

Maple Ridge Wind Farm, Lewis County, New York

Maple Ridge Wind Farm, Lewis County, New York

What is wind power?

Wind energy or wind power is the result of using wind turbines to convert the movement of wind into electricity. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of the moving wind into electricity, and then that electricity is injected into New York’s electric grid. To learn more, the U.S. Department of Energy has a website "How Wind Turbines Work."

Why is a wind project being proposed in my Upstate NY location?

Developers have identified your town area as a location where the wind blows steadily and therefore the fuel resource (wind) is abundant. Also, being close to transmission lines reduces project cost and is attractive for developers. Furthermore, New York State currently has incentives for pollution-free energy generation, which developers and municipalities alike are competing to take advantage of. To learn more about New York’s incentives for renewable energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has a website “Clean Energy Standard.”

How big are wind turbines?

Wind turbines range in size. The turbines currently being proposed in upstate NY range in size from 450-600 feet tall with blades that have a 380-450 feet diameter. Each proposed wind project in New York must first get approval for their turbine designs as part of the permitting process. To view the turbine plan for a project in your area, simply view the project “proceeding” on the New York State Department of Public Service website or sign up to track a project through their website “Monitoring PSC Proceedings.”

How much electricity does a wind turbine make?

The amount of electricity that a wind turbine generates depends on a variety of factors including the size of the turbines and the speed of the wind. Larger turbines generate more electricity, and faster wind speeds typically mean more generation, although if wind speeds are too high some wind turbines may need to be temporarily shut down for safety.

If wind power is built in my town, will my property values go down?

A comprehensive study was completed in 2013 by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that found no evidence of a negative effect on prices of homes in proximity to wind turbines. While anecdotal evidence can and has been offered to refute the extensive studies on this topic, further investigation reveals that this anecdotal evidence of declining property value is typically better explained by other factors. Many studies have conclusively shown instead that wind power increases the value of homes with turbines on their property because they are a source of income for the property owner. And importantly, wind projects benefit all local property owners by driving economic investment and tax revenue that can be used to improve roads, schools, and community services, while also keeping local taxes low – that all factor into property values.

Will I be able to hear the wind turbines?

The level of noise from wind turbines depends on a variety of factors including, most importantly, your distance from the turbines. The light swishing noise from turbines is much quieter than other types of modern-day equipment frequently used in upstate NY, and two people can easily hold a conversation directly underneath an operating turbine. Even in generally quiet upstate NY areas, the sound of the blowing wind often drowns out any noise from the wind turbines themselves. But to ensure any noise created does not negatively impact neighbors, New York has recently set a precedent that wind turbines must be placed at least 1,000-1,500 feet from residences.

Will wind turbines really create jobs? Aren’t they only temporary?

In 2017 the wind industry accounted for about 3,200 jobs in New York State. Wind projects create jobs in three types of ways. First, they create direct jobs which consist of construction and maintenance. Under these direct jobs there are two types of job creation: short term and long term job creation. In the short term, for every 50 MW of wind project, 40 full-time equivalent jobs will be created during the construction time. These employees can expect the construction employment hourly rate, on average, to be $15 per hour. In the long term, on average, a 300 MW wind farm employs 12-18 full-time employees to operate the facility. These individuals can expect to earn, on average, $40,000 per year in salary and benefits.[1] Second, they create indirect employment that involves supporting industries, such as bankers and lawyers. Third, the development of wind projects gives way to induced jobs created by investment, such as at hotels, restaurants, real-estate, etc.[2] As New York State electricity generated by renewable energy continues, we can anticipate job creation and economic compensation from the wind industry to increase. See NYSERDA’s 2018 New York Clean Energy Industry Report for more information.

[1] NYSERDA, Major Economic Impact of Utility-Scale Wind Projects in New York

[2] NYSERDA, New York Wind Energy Guide for Local Decision Makers: Economic Impacts of Wind Development

Why do some wind turbines remain idle while others next to them spin?

Just as the wind is not always blowing, not all wind turbines are always spinning. A turbine can be idle if the wind is too weak in that particular location, or even if it is too strong, as they turn off during very strong winds as a safety measure. Also, scheduled maintenance occurs on these turbines, so they need to be shut down about two to three times per year to safely perform these checkups.

What happens at the end of a wind farm’s useful life?

As a requirement of the permitting process in New York State, wind project proposals must be accompanied by a “Restoration and Decommissioning Plan.” This is not typical for large scale development such as parking lots, box stores, or previously developed energy generation facilities like coal or nuclear plants, but is unique to new generation facilities in New York State, such as wind projects. These plans must include a schedule and source of sufficient funding for decommissioning and site restoration activities. And for wind projects, these plans must also include guaranty/security agreements between the developer and the landowner or municipality.

[1] NYSERDA, Major Economic Impact of Utility-Scale Wind Projects in New York

[1] NYSERDA, New York Wind Energy Guide for Local Decision Makers: Economic Impacts of Wind Development

Where does the energy go from a wind power project?

Wind projects in New York State inject the electricity they produce directly into the electricity grid and it flows through the grid to consumers based on electricity demand. The grid transmits electricity through high voltage power lines which eventually gets directed through transformers where the electricity is converted to lower voltage power lines so that end consumers can get the desired voltage power to their homes and community. The New York State electricity grid is managed by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which is a nonprofit organization that is federally regulated to operate with a fuel-neutral mission of reliably operating New York’s power grid. Learn more about the NYISO and how the grid is operated here.

Do wind power projects kill lots of birds?

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wind projects account for 0.01% of all human-related bird deaths. Birds face more severe threats than colliding into wind turbines, such as climate change, but also from human-related activities such as domestic cats, buildings, cars, and cell phone towers. To mitigate and avoid the effects of wildlife impact, wind projects are sited and operated under the strictest guidelines. Although no form of energy generation is free of fault regarding bird deaths, wind projects do not emit air and water pollution and hazardous waste, thereby helping to save birds from more pressing environmental threats.

Are there wind turbines already operating in New York or anywhere else?

The first wind farm began operation in New York State in Madison, NY in 2000. Since then, a total of 29 wind farms have begun operation, with 1,128 turbines and a generating capacity of 1,987 megawatts (MW). These contribute about 3% of the electricity used in New York State, about the amount used by 421,400 average U.S. homes. See the MAP of the operating projects, and plan a visit to see for yourself what wind power is like.

In the United States as a whole, there are 96,487 MW of wind capacity in operation, about 21% of that in Texas. See HERE for fact sheets regarding wind for various U.S. States.

What is a Renewable Energy Credit (REC)?

While large-scale wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today according to the U.S Department of Energy, it is still tough to get a project financed and built in New York without a long-term contract. Recognizing this, New York State offers renewable energy companies the opportunity to compete for a long-term contract. If a project wins such a contract, the State will buy what is called Renewable Energy Credits – RECs – from wind projects. It then sells the RECs to utilities and other electricity suppliers so that they can comply with the requirements of the Clean Energy Standard. One REC represents the renewable energy attributes of 1 MW-hour of clean electricity.

Please contact us if you have any further questions!