The wind blows frequently and strongly along Potter County ridges, and that’s a good thing, says Bob White of AES, a Virginia-based company that is a leader in wind generation – using windmills to create electricity.
White spoke to about 70 Ulysses area residents at the Tri-Town Firehall, explaining his company’s plans for a “Wind Farm” in Northern Potter County.
The company presently has about 13,000 acres under lease in Ulysses and Hector townships, and plans to build from 70 to 80 large wind-powered turbines at various spots on the land.
While White displayed a map with red dots indicating potential turbine sites, he also noted that the map was computer generated and that the windmills would be more precisely located after studies were completed and a number of factors, some affecting humans and wildlife, were considered.
One of several display boards set up in the banquet room of the firehall listed more than two dozen studies that the company would perform, ranging from bird flight patterns and possible effects upon rattlesnakes to archaeological research.
White called his company “socially responsible,” saying that it would do everything it could to minimize effects upon humans and wildlife.
The main selling point of wind generation is that it is clean and environmentally sound, White told the group, providing numerous handouts and fact sheets showing that wind generated power, as it becomes more widely used, can displace much of the fossil fuel generation that now spews carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
Electricity generation is presently the largest industrial source of air pollution in the country, one sheet noted, with power plants emitting 13.2 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 7.9 million tons of nitrogen oxide, both of which are leading causes of acid rain.
They also produce 34 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted in the United States, which is the largest producer of CO2.
Wind power has the capability of producing up to 20 percent of the nation’s electrical needs, about what nuclear plants now produce, the material claims.
While White talked about the environmental and economic benefits of wind power, some in the audience were highly skeptical of his claims.
Dan Howe, who has written letters to the Leader-Enterprise opposing the windmills, which can be more than 400 feet tall, on a number of grounds, not the least of which is that they will mar the beauty of the countryside, stated the machines are unpopular in France and other parts of Europe, where they have long been in use – “Why should we be happy with them when others are saying ‘We don’t want them?'”
Someone else asked why, if wind generation is so good, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry oppose it.
Several people were concerned with the effect the construction and operation might have upon property taxes; White noted that, while the structures would be taxed, what happens then is up to the municipalities.
Others wanted to know where the electricity would go, something White tried to explain by talking about how electrons travel and by noting that the power all goes into the grid as part of the electrical pool.
When several people asked rather accusingly who would benefit from the electricity produced, and one protester noted, “One study I did not see listed is whether local people want it; the many who aren’t going to profit; will they have any say over the few that will?”
Mike Healy, an Adelphia employee and Potter County resident since 1997, challenged him, “Do you use electricity? Then you will profit.”
He pointed out that everyone would benefit if less coal is burned and that fossil fuels would someday be used up.
While a few people vocally objected to the project, most did not offer opinions either way.
The project has been brought before the Potter County Planning Commission and apparently meets all local regulations and standards, including land use regulations.
Numerous state and federal approvals and permits are pending.
By: George Petrisek/Era Correspondent
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