October 25, 2006
New York

Whirlwind of Controversy Swirls Around Windmills of Glimmerglass

Are gargantuan windmills graceful or an eyesore? How efficient are they?

Such questions have caused a rift among environmentalists discussing plans to place power-generating windmills near Cooperstown, N.Y., some within sight of the scenic vistas of the Glimmerglass National Historic District.

Some environmentalists want strict siting guidelines when taking into consideration natural, historic, and scenic districts in the area. Others champion windmills as benefiting the area and reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

“They’re visually offensive,” an Advocates for Stark spokeswoman, Susan Brander, said of the turbines – as many as 75 – that Community Energy proposes to place on private land in the towns of Warren and Stark in southern Herkimer County. The blades’ tops reach about 400 feet high.

A founder of the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association, Robert Boyle, likens them to “enormous Quisinarts.”

Ms. Brander added: “You could put one in the MoMA as an oddity, but they’re planning 75 ugly turbines here. I don’t need a 400-foot monster whirring at my horses.”

Manna Jo Greene, the environmental action director of a group that favors windmill projects, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, offers a different perspective. She said the tapered structures are “tall, graceful poles like pinwheels,” whose form symbolizes clean energy.

“Any energy project – whether it is coal-fired, oil-fired, nuclear, hydro, or wind power – has to be examined closely,” Mr. Boyle said. He said he fears the windmills at the proposed Jordanville Wind Farm could endanger local groundwater.

He also said the motion of the windmills could possibly lead to fractures in the local underground limestone caves, while Ms. Brander said the blades may cause shadow flicker (interruption of the sun’s rays).

Ms. Greene said the windmills reduce New York’s dependency on fossil fuels.

David Little, vice president of development for Reunion Power, which aims to build 24 windmills in Cherry Valley, to the east of Cooperstown, said the State Environmental Quality Review Act provides for extensive studies and research. “The permitting process in New York is among the most rigorous in the country,” he said, adding: “We think wind power should be given a fair hearing.”

“It’s a clean, renewable source of electricity,” the sales and marketing operations manager for Community Energy, Paul Copleman, said. He said he anticipates that the Jordanville project would enter commercial operation by late 2007.

The president of the environmental group Otsego 2000, Henry S.F. Cooper Jr., said he is in favor of clean energy but fears that turbines will have an adverse impact on several historic and cultural districts of national importance. Through the writing James Fenimore Cooper, who influenced the Hudson River School, he said Otsego Lake is a key source in the shaping of America’s outlook on nature, conservation, and the environment. “It’s arguably the Walden Pond of New York State,” Mr. Cooper, an ancestor of James Fenimore Cooper, said.

In “The Deerslayer,” Cooper described the lake as “a broad sheet of water, so placid and limpid, that it resembled a bed of the pure mountain atmosphere.”

n Cherry Valley, the town planning board has hammered out an ordinance that would restrict windmills by requiring they be set back 1,200 feet from property lines and 2,000 feet from homes. The ordinance is “more restrictive than needs to be to offer protections that they’re seeking,” Mr. Little said.

Ms. Greene said the windmills also would be a source of income to the agricultural community sector. Mr. Little said the windmills would provide tax payments for the local jurisdiction. He also said Reunion Power is in discussions to provide a 50% discount on local residents’ electricity supply.

The editor and publisher of a Cooperstown newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal, Jim Kevlin, expressed caution about the windmills. “It’s an industrial use in a residential and rural setting,” he said. “They’re powered by tax breaks.”

The vice president of Advocates of Cherry Valley, Andrew Minnig, called the term “wind farm” a “gross inaccuracy,” saying they look more like “commercial wind factories.” Ms. Greene said the aesthetics of the windmills is “very subjective.”

The president of Advocates for Springfield, Harry Levine, said he was concerned what impact the windmills might have on a region that relies heavily on tourism. The general and artistic director at Glimmerglass Opera, Michael MacLeod did not take sides on the issue of the windmills but said, “We want to attract as many people, and if the extraordinary natural beauty that surrounds Glimmerglass is impaled in any way, that might affect our viability.”

Mr. Boyle said he is upset that Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a Poughkeepsie-based organization, sent out an e-mail supporting the Jordanville project. Meanwhile, Environmental Advocates of New York, located in Albany, has favored the Cherry Valley project.

Speaking about Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Mr. Boyle said, “You have to be site-specific. They are not only not looking at the actual site, they’re not familiar with the site.”

Ms. Greene acknowledged she had not visited the Jordanville site, but maintained, “We have done our homework.”

By Gary Shapiro – Staff Reporter of the Sun


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