LOCH SHELDRAKE — Sullivan County Community College broke ground on Wednesday for construction of an energy-producing wind turbine that will be the first of its kind in the world and could cut the college’s electricity bill by half.
Crews will pour a concrete base for the 111-foot-tall, vertical-shaft wind turbine on Thursday, a few dozen yards from the circular road that leads to the college. Vertical-shaft turbines have been used on a small scale, but one this large has never been built, said Sam Ikeda, president of the company that developed the turbine.
When asked if he feared that such a large turbine might falter, Ikeda said, "I’m pretty confident because we have data and we’ve tested it."
The turbine’s 10 blades will require roughly 9 mph of wind to make them turn. Ikeda expects the turbine to produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power roughly 400 average homes each year. Construction of the wind turbine should be finished by January, and engineers said it will be online by spring.
College students will use the turbine as part of their new green-building and renewable-energy curriculum.
Roughly 150 college officials, local lawmakers and other guests gathered on the college lawn to celebrate the groundbreaking, but the wind turbine hasn’t always drawn a happy crowd. One resident, Kenneth Walter, whose mother’s house sits roughly 500 feet away, has staunchly opposed the turbine, arguing that its noise would destroy his mom’s quality of life.
And the project had created tense moments between the college and county brass. On at least one occasion, college lawmakers were caught skirting public information laws, which prompted a reminder from the county attorney’s office. Just hours before the ceremony, some lawmakers wondered if the college wasn’t jumping the gun by holding its groundbreaking before the land lease was signed. Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis was expected to sign the lease by late afternoon.
Still, the groundbreaking was jovial and replete with Asian flare to mark Ikeda’s Japanese customs. He and college President Mamie Howard-Golladay used a mallet to crack open a wooden keg of sake, an Asian liquor. Dignitaries wore little blue kimonos for the toast.
"Here’s to new friends and tremendous electricity," Golladay said.
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