After spending his summer sleeping under wind turbines, gathering noise pollution data, assessing environmental impact and talking with local residents, Aeron Hurley ’07 is well-versed in the benefits and challenges of wind energy. This week, he is back on campus with some eye-opening conclusions.
One major concern for residents living near wind turbines is the potential for noise, and as it turns out, noise pollution is all around, but it’s usually not the fault of the wind farm.
The geography of the site also has a major impact. “Terrain and temperature will propagate sound,” he said.
But Hurley’s research didn’t end there. He assessed three wind farm sites in Western New York on a variety of criteria: wind potential, environmental impact and whether the town was “conducive to wind energy.” By that, said Hurley “I mean do the turbines fit into the area and are there political issues or sentiments against it?”
Two of the sites were already constructed and in operation. The Tug Hill site, east of Lake Ontario was an especially ideal placement. Tug Hill boasts nearly 200 turbines and is situated in a prime area for power generation: relatively rural with steady wind and few obstructions.
However, the proposed wind farm at Cohocton was red-flagged by Hurley. The heavily wooded ridge would require many trees to be cut down. Also, the proposed turbines were larger than average, 400 feet high, which made many of the local residents less than eager to have the site built.
Hurley thinks that this is a prime example of how even green technologies need to be evaluated dispassionately before they are implemented. Even so, Hurley is dedicated to seeing new, alternative energy sources succeed, and research like his will help to pave the way for individuals and communities to make smart, well-informed decisions.
Hurley conducted this research under the direction of Professor Tom Drennen who arranged for the rising senior to continue work on wind energy originally begun as an independent study.
A story on his research was printed in the Wednesday, Aug. 2 issue of the Finger Lakes Times. Read Hobart student studies wind turbines over summer.