Monday, March 27, 2017

Baby Care Centers Coming to the NYS Fairgrounds

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

The 2017 Great New York State Fair will feature new Baby Care Centers, providing families with a comfortable, supervised and air-conditioned place to care for their children. 

Each Baby Care Center has private space for nursing mothers, as well as a clean, staffed area where parents can change diapers or relax with their small children. The four Baby Care Centers will be placed around the fairgrounds to allow quick and convenient access for parents.

The buildings are attractive and welcoming, with comfortable seating and dormers to provide natural light. The Amish Structures company, based in Manlius, built the 20-foot A-frame structures. 

Carpenters from the New York State Fair are fitting up the interior, and grounds crews are landscaping the exterior. The buildings will also be available for rent to the private firms that host large-scale events on the Fairgrounds during the year.

"We are committed to enhancing every aspect of the Fair experience and these Baby Care Centers will provide additional comfort and peace of mind to parents taking part in this great New York tradition," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "Our unprecedented investment in promoting the fair in Central New York helps drive attendance, fueling the local economy and spurring tourism – allowing this region to grow and thrive for years to come."

"The governor’s vision for the fair focuses on making enhancements to the grounds that will improve the fairgoer experience," said Ag and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball. "These new Baby Centers are a welcome addition to the Fair, providing a great new amenity for families with young children and complementing the work that’s been done already to take the Fair to the next level."

"We’re excited to be able to provide this service to families of young children," said Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner. "It will make it easier for families to enjoy their day at the Fair and it is one more way that we are responding to the needs of our fairgoers."

The new Baby Care Centers are part of the  ongoing efforts to improve access and amenities for all fairgoers. Some of the other elements include improving access to buildings for people with mobility issues, adding seating and shade throughout the grounds, and providing interpreters for fair events and concerts. The fair’s leadership meets regularly with interest groups to solicit feedback and suggestions for improvements.

The project builds on several years of major improvements at the fairgrounds, the home of the nation’s oldest state fair. The improvements began with the state's investment of $50 million, which resulted in a new Main Gate, first-ever RV park, a new home for the Midway and many other enhancements that debuted in 2016.

For 2017, the Baby Care Centers are a part of additional planned improvements, including a new and larger home for the New York State Police exhibit, a revitalized Turtle Mound stage and other improvements in the Indian Village, and a new sky ride along the Wade Shows Midway. 

Solar Power Generation in NYS Up About 800 Percent

Empire Farm & Dairy magazine


Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the amount of solar power in New York state increased by roughly 800 percent between 2011 and 2016.

Between those years, 64,926 solar projects were built, with a nearly 744-megawatt output combined.

The north country has seen 1,063 new solar projects developed within that time period, totaling a little over 13 megawatts. Regionally, Long Island saw the highest solar energy development with 24,428 installations.

Spurring development of those projects in the last few years, said Cuomo, is his Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and the Clean Energy Standard, which aims to power half of New York state with renewables by 2030.

Solar energy developers also are able to leverage state funding through the $1 billion NY-Sun Megawatt Block Incentive program, which will help fund projects until 2023 with a goal of producing a combined 3 gigawatts of solar power across the state.

Solar projects have produced 8,000 jobs across the state, according to the governor’s office.

Some of the north country’s most notable solar projects of recent years include Davidson Automotive Group’s array off outer Washington Street in Watertown.

The company installed a ground-mounted solar array roughly the size of two football fields in 2014, and a roughly 2,000-panel expansion to the array was built last year, bringing the total to around 5,500 panels - one of the largest arrays in the region. The new array will provide clean, renewable energy to the car dealership and save an estimated $1 million in expenses over the next 20 years.

The project, completed by High Peaks Solar, received $225,000 from the NY-Sun initiative’s $1 billion funding pool.

In Cape Vincent, National Grid connected the 140-kilowatt municipal solar array to the grid back in November after re-evaluating its infrastructure.

Last year, Clayton-based Fourth Coast Inc. oversaw construction of the $267,000 array, which lies next to the village’s sewer treatment plant. The village received about $46,000 in rebates to help fund the project.

Indian River Central School District recently brought its 2,112-panel, 0.68-megawatt array late last year, following a long review process by National Grid, which was pushed back multiple times and cost the district thousands of dollars.

The array was installed at Indian River Intermediate School, which will now be completely powered by solar energy. The project cost roughly $1.3 million, with panel installation beginning in 2010 through 2015.

In the city of Ogdensburg, a solar array on Champlain Street has been brought online in pieces over the last few months.

The array is currently operating at 80 percent capacity, and it won’t be fully energized until the technology that connects the array to its power substation moves out of its beta testing phase.

The 1.1-megawatt photovoltaic system at the city’s former landfill site is projected to generate as much as a third of the electricity needed to power city government buildings.

The Ogdensburg array covers about eight acres of land and is expected to save the city more than $2 million on its municipal power bill over the 25-year life of the project. At the end of the 25 years, the city can take over the array, enter into a new contract with the operator, or choose to have it removed at no expense.

The project’s construction was funded with NY-Sun money.

Farther south in Lewis County, a solar project in Lowville is expected to be completed in 2017.

Greenskies Renewable Energy is to construct a 2-megawatt solar array on about 19 acres behind the county Public Safety Building on outer Stowe Street, then sell relatively low-cost power. The energy will be enough to cover roughly half the needs of the county and hospital for 20 years.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Western NY Farm Powers Up on Manure, Wastewater and Food Scraps

Empire Farm & Dairy magazine

PAVILION — Not much goes to waste at Noblehurst Farms in Livingston County.

Noblehurst Farms anaerobic digester.
An anaerobic digester is processing the farm’s manure, waste water and milk, and food scraps from stores, restaurants and universities to generate enough energy to power its dairy farm and creamery.

Noblehurst, a 1,750-cow dairy farm, built its first digester in 2001-02.

“We liked the ability to reduce or eliminate our electricity costs on the dairy and to reduce the odor in the manure,” said Chris Noble, who is Noblehurst’s vice president and an eighth-generation farmer. “We were also able to convert some of the effluent from the digester into bedding for the animals.”

Noblehurst Farms is a multi-family business that has 31 shareholders ranging in ages from 26 to 88 with 17 of those shareholders involved in the farm or affiliated businesses.

About 40 employees work at Noblehurst Farms, which also raises 1,400 head of youngstock.

The farm harvests about 3,000 acres of corn for silage and grain, alfalfa haylage, wheat and triticale.

Noble is involved in the financial side of the business. He has responsibility as the manager of Craigs Station Ventures, a joint venture with DFA in Craigs Station Creamery, Noblehurst Green Energy, which involves the anaerobic digester, and Natural Upcycling, a food waste collection partnership.

A fire in 2011 destroyed the generator portion of the original digester. During 2013-14 the farm built its second digester, which was larger and was designed to accept various types of food waste.

“We thought that was an important feature of the new digester so that we could add income (in the form of tipping fees) that would help further offset the cost of the system,” Noble said.

Natural Upcycling collects food waste from more than 30 Wegmans locations in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse areas.

Natural Upcycling works with other composting and digester sites, notably Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency in Syracuse where the Wegmans food scraps are destined. They collect from a variety of other customers as well, universities, food manufacturers, restaurants, etc.

“We process approximately 10-12 tons per day of food scraps and packaged food waste at the digester,” Noble said. That food waste would normally go to a landfill.

The digester’s generator produces approximately 450 kilowatts of power (per hour?). That electricity powers 100 percent of the dairy farm’s needs and 100 percent of Craigs Station Creamery’s needs, Noble said. During certain times of the year the farm also sells some power back to National Grid.

Noble said the farm has considered other sources of producing energy. They have solar panels on the the roof of the dairy’s milking parlor and the creamery for generating energy to heat hot water.

“We have looked at both solar and wind power but biogas-fueled power offers the best bang for our buck based on electricity produced per kilowatt hour produced,” Noble said.

Funding and assistance

“Anaerobic digesters support New York’s nation-leading energy strategy to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy into business operations to lower energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” a NYSERDA spokesman said. 

“Through the use of clean energy technologies, farms across the state are helping the state reduce its carbon footprint and protect our environment for generations to come,” the spokesman said.

Noble said the best source of information for others considering implementing digesters is from farmers who have already installed them.

“They would be able to tell you what works and doesn’t work,” Noble said. “Cornell University PRO-Dairy has a great team of people with vast knowledge of these systems.”

The digester itself does not really get rid of the manure – only about 3-4 percent is consumed by the process. itself.

Pesky Wind Turns into Blessing for Tully Farm

Empire Farm & Dairy magazine


TULLY — Ed Doody’s late father, Lawrence, used to curse the wind that blew through his family’s hilltop farm nearly every day.

Now the business is benefitting from the electrical power generated by a 140-foot windmill that was installed on the farm more than 4½ years ago.

Doody farm windmill. Photo by Leslie Sheldon
“My father had always cursed the wind for years and years,” Doody said. “Too bad he wasn’t here to see it now that we’re taking advantage of it.”

Doody and his brothers, Rich and Kevin, who operate Lawrence Doody & Sons LLC, a 400-cow dairy farm in Tully, Onondaga County, are located at an elevation of 1,700 feet above sea level. They get some degree of wind almost every day.

The Endurance E3120 50-kilowatt wind turbine that was erected generates about two thirds of the electrical power needed to operate the farm.

“It wasn’t designed to cover all of our electric needs, but it’s provided more than what the expectations were,” Ed Doody said. “We had budgeted that it would cover about half of our farm needs, and every year it has provided more than that so far.”

The cost to operate the farm runs about $2,500-3,000 per month. With the power generated by the windmill, their cost savings are about $2,000 per month or approximately $25,000 per year.

The Doodys were approached by a representative of CEC Energy, a franchise of Cazenovia Equipment Company, which had measured the wind velocity at 140 feet and told them they were in an excellent location for installing a windmill.

The wind velocity measures about 12 meters per second at that height on average throughout the year.

The Doodys started looking into the possibility in 2011 and it took a year and a half to go through the permit process and grant applications.

“It was a questionable thing when we started because there’s not a windmill on top of every hill here that you can go see how it’s doing for your neighbor,” Ed Doody said.

The large wind farms in various parts of the state have caused much controversy among residents living nearby. Many have objected to having the turbines near their properties, but the Doodys had no issues erecting their relatively smaller windmill.

“We have no zoning ordinances here, so it’s pretty easy to do what we wanted to here,” Doody said. “We’ve always tried to keep it a neat-looking farm and be progressive and get along with our neighbors. It fit in well here.”

The new wind turbine started generating power in September 2012.

“We had been intrigued by it for years, my brothers and I,” Doody said. “When we finally got it up, we were pretty impressed with the way it worked,” Doody said.

The windmill generates about 125,000 kW per year. On especially windy days the windmill produces more electricity than is needed to operate the farm. When that happens the electricity is fed back on the power line and is credited to the farm’s account.

The Doodys have had some service issues with the windmill, including some breakdowns and off times. And whenever the power shuts off on the grid, the Doodys’ windmill has to shut down so that no workers are exposed to electricity feeding back on the line.

The windmill has a five-year warranty so the Doodys have not had to worry about maintenance costs. That will change in September when the warranty expires.

“It could be a factor in years to come after the 5-year warranty is up,” Doody said. “If we have to bring in a crane or do some extensive service work, it could be pretty costly, so I’m concerned about that in the future.”

After the wind turbine was operating for two years, Doody and his brothers each decided to install a 120-foot, 10-kW windmill to generate power at his house, and Doody said the windmills have been very effective there, too.

“They’ve generated more power than we use at our homes,” Doody said. “We’re convinced that wind energy is a thing of the future.”

Financing and funding

The farm windmill was a substantial cost to the business. It was financed through Farm Credit, which also finances the farm.

“It was a large investment,” Doody said. “It was larger than buying another tractor or something like that.”

After committing to the windmill and putting a down payment on the project, the Doodys started applying for funding to offset the cost.

They were turned down for a federal grant, which would have reimbursed them for 30 percent of the purchase price.

They then applied for a state grant, which was guaranteed, and were reimbursed 50 percent.

Because they were turned down for the federal grant, the Doodys were offered a federal income tax credit comparable to what the amount of the grant would have been. It was a high-profit year for the business, so it came in handy.

“Even if we didn’t get the grants, we felt that it would pay for itself over the long term,” Doody said.

The windmill has a 40-year life expectancy, and the Doodys knew they have consistently strong wind to power it, and they were assured that it would supply a certain amount of power each year.

“We could pencil it out on paper that it was a good investment,” Ed Doody said.

Tapping into solar power, too

The Doodys installed solar panels in November through IGS Solar to supplement the wind power. There are 16 solar panels on the roof of the milking parlor and 12 on the calf barn. Each panel is a standard size of 4x8 feet.

“The state has a solar program specifically designed for dairy farmers to reduce energy needs,” Doody said. “With the state programing funding the majority of it, it was a no-brainer, to be cost effective.”

The state program provided 75 percent of the cost of the project.

The power generated heats the hot water needed for washing their milking equipment and for warm water in the calf barn.

Doody said it’s too soon to see results on that project, but it looks promising.

One concern with the solar panels will be the cost to replace them in a few years.

“The windmill has a 40-year life expectancy whereas most solar panels are only 15-20 years, and therefore that would be an additional cost in time,” Doody said.

Renewable energy important

Renewable energy is important to the Doody family.

“I don’t see any future for burning coal,” Doody said. “I expect oil prices will continue to escalate if there’s another crisis in the Mid-East or somewhere. Oil prices could change within a few days.”

What’s going on in the Middle East is so volatile.

“I think that’s more risky than putting up a windmill and wondering if it’s going to pay, to depend on the Arab countries for oil.”

He says he doesn’t think ethanol is the answer, either.

“It’s caused the prices that we pay for corn and soy on our farm to escalate over the years,” Doody said. 

“There’s about a third of the U.S. corn crop that goes to ethanol right now.”

Finding more information

Doody cautioned that other farmers should look closely at wind power before making a decision.

“It’s a long-term commitment, so it really has to have cash flow projections to make it pay,” Doody said.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority was especially helpful to the Doodys as they researched whether to turn to wind power.

“NYSERDA helped us quite a bit,” Doody said. “With the basic research, they helped us out. They have maps, and they know the wind velocity up there at 140 feet high and whether it’s feasible.”

The Doodys have had quite a few people visit their farm to determine whether windmills are a good fit for their operations. Some visitors questioned whether they had the wind velocity it takes to make it pay.

“With wind power, location is the key to it all,” Doody said. “You’ve got to be up on a hill where the wind blows.”

Since the Doodys put up their first windmill, Cazenovia Equipment Company sold its energy franchise to United Wind.