Due to ‘ignorance,’ expectations faulty, Minnig concludes
Revolts against wind power, from Cherry Valley to Cohocton, seem to have had no impact whatsoever on the blue-ribbon panel that developed recommendations for New York State’s energy future.
If anything, Lt. Gov. David Paterson’s Renewable Energy Task Force report may actually pave the way for Albany to overrule “home rule” limitations on turbines in the interest of expediting wind-farm developments.
“Facilitate permitting” is one of the goals in the Wind Power Development section of the Paterson panel’s report, released Monday, Feb. 25.
“State agencies must strive to minimize, to the extent possible, the regulatory risk that affects the pace, scope and scale of wind-energy development by enunciating long-term goals and eliminating regulatory impediments,” that section reads.
It exhorts state agencies to ensure they “reinforce the goal of economic and environmentally sound wind-energy development.”
It encourages the re-adoption of Article X, which expired in 2003; that state law takes decisions on power-plant siting away from localities, putting it in the hands of the state. And it urges that wind farms be covered in the revised Article X.
“They keep paying homage to local control, but the suggestion is this local input is going to be advisory,” said Andy Minnig, one of the leaders of the Advocates for Cherry Valley, which, through encouraging adoption of local regulations, becalmed Reunion Power’s 24-turbine project on the town’s East Hill.
“That scares the hell out of me,” he said. “They can say: We listened closely to you guys, but you’re wrong.”
Wind power has remained an article of faith with such organizations as the Natural Resources Defense Council, but Minnig laid that to “the depth of ignorance” about the unrealistic expectations for wind and the impacts when 400-foot-tall turbines are erected in populated areas.
In an interview, Minnig kept referring back to “the simple arithmetic” that shows wind power doesn’t add up.
The Maple Ridge Wind Farm on Tug Hill, for instance, has 191 turbines on 21,000 acres and a “maximum exploitation of site” of 300 megawatts, Minnig said. That is, the wind would have to blow constantly at the optimum rate to achieve that output.
Wind-power advocates such as Carol Murphy of Alliance for Clean Energy New York, who served on Paterson’s panel, are pushing for 7,000 megawatts of wind energy, which would require a half-million optimum acres like Tug Hill. (A half-million acres is about 800 square miles; Otsego County totals 1,000 square miles.)
“Most sites upstate are not like that,” said Minnig. Tug Hill is a flat plateau, turbines can be spaced regularly. On ridges like East Hill, those efficiencies aren’t possible, he said.
While the panel includes people like Murphy, it also includes people like Paul Tonko, the new head of the NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research Development Agency. While an assemblyman, Tonko was caught in the middle of a wind-farm debate near Gloversville, part of his Schenectady-based district.
“I think that legislators are far more aware of the subtleties in the argument then they sometimes let on,” said Minnig. “The outcome may be determined by the amount of arm-twisting the governor can exercise.”
Governor Spitzer got a little more arm-twisting power this week when Assemblyman Darrell Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, narrowly defeated Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, in a special election, splitting the state Senate 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats for the first time in decades.
Aubertine at one point was considering putting 50-100 turbines on his farm on the St. Lawrence River.
29 February 2008
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