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Skaneateles-area farmers discuss renewable energy at agricultural program meeting

Mike McMahon (second from left), of E-Z Acres dairy farm, is awarded the 2013 Environmental Steward Award. E-Z Acres, located in Homer, has participated in the watershed program and United State Department of Agriculture’s conservation programs since 1998. “There is no greater reward than to be recognized by your peers,” McMahon said after thanking the room for honoring him. “We do these things because it’s the right thing to do, not for the accolades,” he said.

Mike McMahon (second from left), of E-Z Acres dairy farm, is awarded the 2013 Environmental Steward Award. E-Z Acres, located in Homer, has participated in the watershed program and United State Department of Agriculture’s conservation programs since 1998. “There is no greater reward than to be recognized by your peers,” McMahon said after thanking the room for honoring him. “We do these things because it’s the right thing to do, not for the accolades,” he said.

When the turbines generate more electricity than the farm needs, the power is sold back to the grid. However, this isn’t the money-making venture that one would expect, the men said.

Energy producers in New York receive 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour, while neighboring states’ utility companies pay 16 to 24 cents, Head said. National Grid also charges a “demand charge” for taking power off of the property, rather than onto it.

Ryan Stork, of CEC Energy, spoke about the work his company does with micro-hydro energy generators. A micro-hydro system consists of a turbine powered by water diverted from a stream with a considerable elevation change or water flow. Unlike bigger hydroelectric systems, which involve dams, micro-hydro systems operate on a smaller scale with no dams, Stork said.

Peter Mapstone, of Pastureland Dairy in Manlius, and Kim Brayman, of Fesko Farms in Spafford, spoke about their solar energy systems.

Mapstone said he likes solar panels because they have no moving parts, produce no waste and require almost no maintenance. Pastureland also has been unable to make money by selling power back to National Grid due to demand metering, though selling renewable energy certificates, or green credits, are helping them repay their initial investment of $305,000, Mapstone said

Fesko Farms had 1,045 individual solar modules installed on the ground this year. Though they have yet to get up and running, they are estimated to produce 358,000 kilowatt hours per year, Brayman said.

Ed Doody and Mark Tucker both spoke about their wind turbines. Doody, who operates a dairy farm in Otisco, said that the town’s lack of zoning laws made putting up his turbine easy. The turbine, which stands 140 feet tall, produces two thirds of the power for the farm and the savings will have paid for the initial investment in about five years due to grant funding covering 40 percent of the initial cost, Doody said.

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