I have hunted, fished, hiked, stargazed and kicked back for fun in Potter County for more than 20 years. I have supported area businesses to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. In the coming years, I would like to retire there and become involved in community activities.
I have also watched with interest the lively debate about energy giant AES’s plans to build about 80 giant wind turbines in northern Potter County. If this plan goes through, I will find somewhere else to spend my leisure time.
Last weekend, a member of one of Potter County’s pioneer families said he received a phone call about leasing his farm, north of Coudersport, for wind turbines.
It looks like this project will not stop at 80. If that industry gets its foot in the door, look out!
Like many others, I like the idea of “green energy” and reducing our dependence on foreign oil or “dirty” energy sources. So, it was not until I dug deeper into the AES plan that I realized it is the classic case of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Potter County will be losing a precious resource so that a relatively few (landowners who are leasing ground to AES and the stockholders of AES) can derive financial benefits.
These turbines will look like a cross between a skyscraper mall and an amusement park. Each of them will require about a five-acre clearcut of timber, trenching across the headwaters, access roads and other environmental disturbance.
Opinions seem to differ as to the amount of noise they will generate and, more importantly, their impact on human health. Those medical studies need to be further assessed and taken into consideration.
For the record, of all the crude oil imported into the United States, only two percent is used to generate electricity. Clean electrical generation is not the problem. The internal combustion engine is the problem. An eight mile per gallon increase in car fuel efficiency would negate the need for America to import any oil from the Persian Gulf.
If we took away the tax breaks and other government incentives, AES would not be trying to do this to Potter County. Without government meddling, wind power is the most expensive way to generate electricity, because a wind farm is operable only part of the time (when the wind blows).
As far as I’m concerned, there exists no valid justification to place these giant turbines across northern Potter County and despoil a beautiful area. Once you have 80 turbines and a precedent is set, keep your eyes on Hebron, Dutch Hill and who knows where else?
Will the silent majority stand up and be heard, or will the handful of people who stand to benefit financially control the public dialogue?
3 March 2007
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