North Fork wineries, farms embrace wind turbines

January 12, 2010 by MARK HARRINGTON / mark.harrington@newsday.com

At Half Hollow Nursery in

It’s the dead of winter on the agricultural North Fork, but the first of what’s expected to be an abundant new crop has just sprouted on a farm in Laurel: wind-energy turbines.

At Half Hollow Nursery in Laurel, a towering 156-foot structure was recently installed in the center of the 1,200-acre farm by Eastern Energy Systems of Mattituck. When it’s officially connected to the electric grid in two weeks, it’ll supply an estimated 157,000 kilowatt hours, enough to power the farm, and then some, officials said, calling it the Island’s largest.

It’s not the only turbine rising above the wind-rich East End. Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck was recently granted approval for a 10 kilowatt turbine on a 120-foot tower. Co-owner David Page said he’s already ordered the equipment and expects it to be installed by contractor Green Logic of Southampton by spring. “Once we have the wind turbine up and install additional solar we will be producing 100 percent of our power,” said Page. That would eliminate a $15,000 a year LIPA bill.

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Shinn received a $23,600 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and with a LIPA rebate expects to have 70 percent of the cost covered. While eager to move forward, Page said a yearlong battle to get a variance in Southold Town added unnecessary delay and costs.

“Hopefully, as more and more turbines are installed on farms in Southold Town, the people will begin to realize the benefits,” Page said.

But other towns seem eager to lead the way. Tuesday, Riverhead Town councilman John Dunleavy said as many as three wind turbine projects are on the launchpad, and the town is eager to expedite the permitting process. The town itself is exploring a project to install a wind energy system to power town facilities, though Dunleavy declined to say where. In any case, he said, “I think the town should go green to make as much clean energy as we can.”

Osprey’s Dominion, another winery in Cutchogue, also has contracted to install a 20 kilowatt wind turbine on its property.

Albert Harsch, director of corporate relations for Eastern Energy, said Half Hollow Nursery’s 100-kilowatt system, which cost around $500,000, will receive a $124,000 rebate from LIPA. (LIPA pays two-thirds of the rebate upfront, and the balance after it verifies a year’s worth of production.) The system is also eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

Once the system is connected, it’s expected to provide power for the nursery’s greenhouses, offices and other functions. Half Hollow is also expected to convert some diesel water pumps to electric, further reducing its fossil-fuel use. When it’s not using the electricity, Half Hollow will sell energy back to the grid, earning credits from LIPA.

Harsch said he doesn’t expect the system to generate the complaints sometimes associated with wind turbines because of noise and aesthetics. “This is a good 500 yards from the neighboring property line,” he said, so the 55 decibel sound it makes likely won’t be heard.

But as the new crop of turbines rises, one early experiment in wind energy has been dismantled. On Windy Acre Farms in Calverton, a $225,000 turbine installed to great fanfare in 2002 was taken down last month, LIPA confirmed.

“The demonstration project had come to the end of its useful life and the technology was no longer representative of state-of-the-art wind generation technology,” LIPA spokeswoman Vanessa Baird Streeter said.