Representatives from the wind development company Iberdrola gathered in the fire hall Friday evening to educate the community about the impact of possible wind energy towers.
One of the five biggest electricity companies in the world, the Spanish owned company purchased the project from the company CPV in late 2007, said New York Development Director Skip Brennan. Their casual meet and greet Friday was their official introduction to the community, he said. Concerned residents filled the hall to capacity collecting informational handouts, reading posters and discussing their thoughts.
Although CPV set up meteorological towers in various quadrants of the Town of Barre about a year and a half ago to collect data, Iberdrola has yet to bring a proposal for a certain number of 400-foot commercial towers to the town board, Brennan said.
“I think it’s an exciting opportunity for the town,” he said.
Ira Gates, a retired City Administrator and Batavia resident, came to the event in support of the towers, he said. Interested in leasing his own land for the towers, he feels alternative energy sources are “the wave of the future” to solve the country’s growing dependence on foreign oil and ever increasing rates of pollution.
The towers’ visual impact will be no less obstructive than the numerous power lines and telephone polls that crisscross the region, he said.
“I feel we have to get away from the oil imports. Too much of our oil money is going overseas,” he said.
Barre Center resident Andrea Rebeck, an architect who owns a local historic preservation and design company by the same name, attended the meeting out of concern for her 1829 brick home on the National Historic Register. Road traffic carrying in the large pieces for wind tower construction could potentially damage her home, which was built without reinforcement, she said.
She opposes wind farms in the Orleans County area for other reasons, too, she said. Based on research she found online through the American Wind Association, she feels the area does not produce enough reliable wind to sustain the towers: wind in the area is generally a class two compared to the required class four wind speeds.
Pointing to a meteorological map from the same Web site, the only area in the county with wind in the class four categories is along the Lake Ontario shoreline, she said.
Rebeck is also concerned about the towers’ electricity capacity. Studies have shown that when the natural wind power becomes too strong, the towers shut down and need to be started using gas powered generators, she said.
The “human toll” isn’t worth the potential benefits, Rebeck said: the concrete blocks the towers rest on are often larger than a house and wind companies restrict landowners’ property rights.
The potential negative effects on wildlife and the noise, flicker and vibration effects on neighbors also worry her – so much in fact, that she submitted 70 pages of information to the town board last July when they held a public hearing on wind energy regulations. She was the only one present and they adopted the law immediately after.
Guy Smith, a Gaines resident who owns land in Barre, believes wind towers in the county would drive people away, ruining the beauty of its untouched, rural landscapes.
“Why do they want to put wind energy where there isn’t wind?” Rebeck said. “This is big money making at the highest level. They will be here for a long, long time.”
Darlene Benton reasons that the world’s energy crisis can be solved with less invasive means. Owner of the Paradise Healing Arts Center on South Main Street in Albion, she attended the meeting on the request of some of her clients who own land in Barre.
Wind towers could negatively affect the county’s Erie Canal tourism potential, she said, calling the area a “spiritual mecca on the planet.” The decision to build wind towers should benefit everyone, not a select few, she said.
“I feel strongly about the research around wind towers. The benefits are very, very miniscule,” she said. “It’s more appropriate in places that are less populated.”
“We’re focusing on the symptoms instead of the cause. We need to change our habits. … If everyone did something with solar energy, it would be so productive,” she said. “It’s just one more plot. We’ve gone toward the corporate mentality instead of the everyday person.”
By Nicole Coleman
24 February 2008
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