Rain and snow whipping off Lake Erie this week could be considered anecdotal evidence supporting the results of a yearlong scientific study discussed Thursday in Buffalo:
Erie County’s shoreline is a good wind energy resource.
In 2002, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) agreed to finance a study of shoreline winds by Erie County and Ecology and Environment of Lancaster to determine the potential for generating wind power.
"We knew, for a long time, that there was a potential along our waterfront with respect to the development of wind energy resources," said Thomas Hersey Jr. of the Erie County Department of Environment of Planning.
The final report, issued this past summer, was discussed Thursday in the downtown library by representatives of the various agencies involved in its creation. A copy of the report is available on the Internet at www.erie.gov
Jennifer Harvey was the project manager for NYSERDA, a public benefit agency that’s funded by fees from utility bills. "The biggest question was: Do we have enough wind?" Harvey said.
According to Deepali Weyand of Ecology and Environment, the number of sites studied was narrowed to five: the General Motors property in the Town of Tonawanda is the northernmost; then the former tower on Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority property along Buffalo’s waterfront; a mostly undeveloped inland site in South Buffalo owned by CSX Corp.; the International Steel Group (former Bethlehem Steel) property in Lackawanna; and the Southtowns Sewage Treatment Facility in Hamburg.
The International Steel Group property ranked first.
"That seemed to be the site that offered the most in terms of developing an urban wind farm," Weyand said.
Factors contributing to its top ranking included its 1,100 acres, access to electrical transmission lines and the fact it’s a brownfield.
Obtaining the necessary state and federal permits to pursue a wind energy project can take up to 18 months, the audience was told. But municipalities can help prospective developers by reworking local zoning laws to specifically address wind-powered structures.
"This study is very important," said Robert Knoer, chairman of the Wind Action Group, an organization seeking to position Buffalo as a regional leader in renewable energy.
"We need to look at it in terms of what does it mean to our community – in terms of jobs," Knoer said. "We would like to harness this wind power in Western New York . . . to serve the community."
For communities on which power-generating wind turbines are erected, "the benefits really come from the taxes," Knoer said in response to a question.
Someone asked: What’s the next step?
"The next step is to get the information out to everybody: people, developers," Knoer said. Developers have been coming to Wind Action Group meetings, he said.
"There already is interest," Knoer said.