Wind Power in a Field Near You

Posted on 11 June 2014

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The wind turbine at Mahoney Farm on Long Lane in East Hampton. Photo by Virgina Briggs.

By Mara Certic

Two 120-foot wind turbines have been gently whirring over Long Lane in East Hampton for over two years.  Although initially met with resistance, they have now been embraced by the community and provide electricity for two farms.

Steve Mahoney knew he wanted to reduce his carbon footprint. After an East Hampton Town symposium on renewable energy several years ago, he spoke with experts about his 19-acre farm, which grows trees and shrubs to sell to nurseries. They suggested he put up a wind turbine.

Mr. Mahoney heeded their advice and worked closely with town employees who “liked the idea,” he said. In spite of this he was met with resistance at the first public hearing. “I was ambushed,” he said. “There were some people [there] who weren’t even in sightline or in anyway possibly inconvenienced. They had a lot of fears.”

After three public presentations, Mr. Mahoney’s wind turbine was finally approved and he contacted neighbor Anthony Iacono of Iacono’s chicken farm. “He said, ‘Listen, if you want to get it now’s the time,’” Mr. Iacono recalled.  “So I applied for it, no one objected to it, and it’s here now.”

Both farmers maintained that neither of them has received any complaints from neighbors or passersby since the installation of the turbines. Neighbors’ fears of noise pollution and decreased property values have since dissipated.

“There’s not much noise. If the wind is blowing heavy, you hear it hum a little, but you also hear the trees rustling.” Mr. Iacono said.

And the fear that it would decrease property value, Mr. Mahoney said, has “gone 180 degrees in the other direction.”

According to a New York Times article on May 26, a 197-unit luxury apartment building in Long Island City, Queens, has just installed three wind turbines to its roof in order to attract green-leaning buyers. The article said that there are plans in the works for at least a dozen more rooftop turbines in New York City.

Mr. Mahoney said that he loves his turbine, which provides 12,000 kilowatts a year: enough electricity for his entire farm—powering an electric well, the irrigation system, a barn, the office and electric vehicles they use on the property. He understands, he said, that not everyone necessarily would want to install one but that “people who want to rely on renewables for their home or their business should pursue it.”

Mr. Iacono, who received grants from both the Long Island Power Authority and the federal government, is pleased with his decision but said that without $53,000 in grants, plus other incentives that lowered his out-of-pocket costs, he “wouldn’t even consider it.” Mr. Iacono, who said he is now saving around $3,000 a year in electricity, expects the turbine to have paid itself off in seven to eight years. Without incentives, the windmill would have cost about $90,000, he said.

Both men have had technical issues with their machines. The chicken farm’s broke following an electrical storm. “Lightning is one of those things they don’t like,” Mr. Iacono said. It was out of commission for nine months, but Mr. Iacono believes that the reason it took so long was in part due to employee reshuffling after a falling-out at the Oklahoma-based manufacturer. The warranty covered all repairs.

Mr. Mahoney’s was down for less than two months and he was told that the problem was three $2 parts. “The manufacturer was just really responsive,” he said. “And he gave me a check for my lost production.”

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