First wind turbine goes up in North Collins
The first wind turbine to generate electricity in North Collins went up June 29 on the Richmond dairy farm on Jennings Road at Langford Road in Langford. On hand were dozens of family, friends and neighbors, many of whom spent the whole day relaxing in folding chairs and enjoying the array of buffet items set out for them and the construction crew.
The process began last year and went to the North Collins Town Board for approval in October. John Richmond was facing the pressure of an end-of-year filing to qualify for federal and state alternative energy grants, the only way the project would be financially feasible for him. The board, at the time mulling a town ordinance to govern wind turbine installations, granted Richmond a special-use permit for the structure and will use it as a template as it continues work on a local law.
Town Attorney Richard Schaus called the Richmond turbine a “Guinea pig for the town ordinance” and noted that the specifications for this windmill met or exceeded all the restrictions the proposed town legislation would contain.
While all of Richmond’s neighbors supported the initiative, there were some public concerns raised about aesthetics and noise. Fears were calmed as it was explained that this project was far smaller than the size of the huge commercial turbines on hilltops and along the lake shore. Additionally, the noise level was pegged at 4 decibels quieter than that produced by an 11 mph wind. It was also noted by then Supervisor Thomas O’Boyle that windmills are clearly covered in state Agricultural Law when used for agricultural purposes in an agricultural district; all qualifications applied to the Richmond project.
Working with Cazenovia Equipment Co., wind tests proved that the Richmond site was viable for a wind turbine. The installed turbine is capable of producing 50 kw of power in a 25 mph wind. Richmond estimates that when running, the turbine will provide 85 percent of his farm’s electricity needs, and when running a full speed, will also be able to feed electricity into the power grid through a reverse-turning electric meter. The turbine has an expected lifespan of 15 years before it will need a complete overhaul.
It was easy to see the need for affordable power on the farm, while guests sought out shady spots for their chairs. Richmond’s cows enjoyed the cooling action of 22 very large fans in their barn.
First to go up was the 140-foot lattice tower support. Having been assembled on the ground, a 200-foot boom crane gently hoisted the tower into an upright position, and then gently lifted and moved it over pre-formed concrete piers, where workmen securely anchored it.
The crane then lifted the turbine housing on its side, allowing workers to attach the three 35-foot-long propeller blades and pre-connect many of the electrical circuits. The crane lifted the turbine up and tilted the device into its operating position, while the crew held on to tether lines to keep it from swinging in the increasing afternoon wind. At the same time, three workers with safety harnesses clambered up the tower and somehow found room for all on a small work platform at the tower’s peak.
Carefully the turbine was lowered onto its mount and the workers permanently bolted it down.
While looking completed, Richmond explained he was at least a week away from generating his first power as final hookups were to be made, an electrical inspection conducted and the installation of a “smart meter” by the power company to allow his power to enter the main lines as well.
While many of the guests said they were there to witness history, family matriarch Mary Richmond reminded all that electric power didn’t reach this section of town until 1929.
John Richmond’s dream has become reality and could prove a harbinger of things to come for other electricity-hungry farming operations in the area.