The wind power debate may never blow over.
“The issues are very complicated and intractable right now,” said panelist John Berkley, Geosciences department head. “Hopefully they won’t be forever.”
The League of Women Voters sponsored a meeting on the wind power debate that has been a big issue in the county in recent years.
“Renewable energy is a possible solution to the crisis of global warming,” said Inez Krohn, who organized the event. “We must find alternatives. Wind power is ready to come to the rescue but it must be administered responsibly.”
Panelist Bill Nowak, an expert in public power who recently started Lake Effect Energy, began by discussing the crisis of global warming. According to Nowak, there are 2.5 times more natural disasters now than there were in the 1960s. The climate is changing and the pollution caused by carbon-based energy sources, like coal, are a big concern as the possible reason behind it.
Nowak suggested the solution is simple: reduce the amount of energy used and transition to forms of clean energy.
“Of the options for clean energy, wind power is number one,” said Nowak.
The benefits of wind power are the reduction in the emission of fossil fuels, economic benefits and health impacts. According to Nowak, 43 percent of the pollution causing health risks in the United States is electric power generated.
Panelist Jon Boone, who recently made a documentary entitled “Life Under a Wind Plant,” argued against wind power. Boone stated he is in favor of green energy, but only if it works.
Boone likened the fascination with wind energy to teen pop stars.
“It’s famous for being famous,” said Boone, “not for actual performance.”
But what does “green” energy really mean? According to Boone true green energy does not exist.
“There’s only clean energy,” Boone said, “not green.”
Boone’s definition of green energy is “minimizing the human footprint on earth.” The “human footprint” is the total effect our lives on this planet have, the distance between what the earth would be like without us and what it is like now. Wind power does not fall into this category because of the effects the structures have on the environment, such as endangering birds and bats.
While wind power is clean energy, like hydropower, it still impacts the environment, according to Boone. Hydropower as well does not qualify as green for Boone either since it endangers the water supply.
A major issue for local municipalities in contact with developers about wind power is the cost-effectiveness of the venture.
“Over the long term, eventually the low cost of the power produced by the turbines would offset the cost of the project,” Berkley said, “ideally that’s what would happen.”
The question was posed to panelist Rod Pennick, Pomfret councilman who recently passed legislature for his town regarding wind power, as well.
Pennick recounted asking another municipality if their taxes were eventually lower after the project was done. He received no satisfactory answer.
“I believe the net gain to the town would be beneficial, however,” Pennick said.
This panel was put together by Inez Krohn and the League of Women Voters of Chautauqua County.
By Shirley West
18 October 2007
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