The Fenner Wind Farm: Fifteen Years of Performance

by | Apr 15, 2017

The Fenner Wind Farm was the largest commercial-scale wind farm in the United States when it went online in 2001.

Located in rustic Madison County, New York and funded with incentives from New York State and the federal government, the 30 megawatt (MW) wind farm was promoted by then Governor Pataki to produce enough power for 10,000 homes.

A 2009 episode of Marvel Machines declared the Fenner Wind Farm could supply 14,000 homes with electricity. Standing on over 200 feet tall, the majestic turbines have produced electricity for 15 years while quietly overlooking the beautiful Mohawk Valley below.

With 15-years of production records on the books, this blog looks at the history.

Did these mammoth walking sticks perched on Fenner Ridge stand up to the hype?

Projected Fenner Wind Farm Total Capacity

Originally constructed with twenty turbines, the wind farm had a total capacity of 30 MW. The wind farm can only produce its total capacity when all turbines are working at optimal conditions.

If the wind farm operated at optimal conditions for one-hour, it would produce 30-megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity or about 30,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Since the wind doesn’t blow all of the time and turbines are periodically stopped for maintenance and repairs, wind farms are rated by with a “capacity factor.” The capacity factor is a percentage applied to maximum capacity to account for downtime.

When Governor Pataki said the Fenner Wind Farm could provide enough electricity to power 10,000 homes, he applied a capacity factor of about 35 percent for an adjusted total capacity of 91,980 MWh.

The Energy Information Agency, a branch of the US Department of Energy, estimates the average home uses 10,812 kWh per year.

Applying this to the adjusted capacity of Fenner Wind Farm, you can see that Pataki’s estimate of 10,000 homes was correct.

91,980 MWh ÷ 10,812 kWh per home = 9,945 homes.

Actual Fenner Wind Farm Total Capacity

However, fifteen years of data show that Fenner Wind Farm produced an average of around 60,000 MWh per year, not the 91,980 MWh predicted by the Governor.

The actual capacity factor for the Fenner Wind Farm is 22%, not 35% and the power production was only enough to provide 6,251 homes with electricity.

Did the turbines meet their projected goals?

No, the wind farm fell short of its target by about 37%, but the wind farm did produce clean, renewable electricity, to power over 6,250 homes.

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2 Comments

  1. Dianne

    Where is the power routed to?

    Reply
  2. Ed Hinchey

    Diane, that is a great question. I assume it is routed to the New York State power grid through an inter-connect. Some, newer wind and solar PV generation is used locally first through the creation of smart/micro grids, but I do not think New York has installed any of these grids yet. I suspect the energy is sold to the grid at wholesale prices. I think I’ll check that out and either respond to you here or directly to your email address if you send it to me. My email is ehinchey@indieScientists.com.

    Reply

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