ALBION – When commercial wind turbines were first proposed in Brad Jones’ hometown of Italy, N.Y., he thought it was a good thing.
As an environmentalist, he had looked into purchasing a small agricultural windmill at his farm for its clean, renewable energy.
Then he started asking questions.
Semi-retired, he began to spend close to 40 hours a week researching its potential effects. Others in his community joined in and they began networking with residents in areas facing the same issue with the Citizens Power Alliance. What they uncovered made them feel quite differently about the 400-plus-foot turbines, Jones said.
In their opinion, commercial wind energy doesn’t add up, he said: Concerns include the risk to wildlife and nearby residents, the lowering of property values and the loss of tourism.
When wind farms began going up in nearby Cohocton, also in the Finger Lakes region, they were convinced. While they support wind energy and alternative fuel options, big business wind development isn’t the answer, Jones said.
Although turbines have yet to be constructed in their town, they can see clearly the turbines in Cohocton. Their view from Main Street has drastically changed, said his wife, Linda Jones.
“I used to drive down Main Street and I was so in awe of the beauty,” she said. “Because of the enormity of the windmills, what is 10 miles away seems 1 mile away.”
A full crowd listened to Jones speak at Albion’s Pullman Universalist Church on Thursday evening at the invitation of the group Save Orleans County. Jones spends many of his evenings giving presentations in opposition to wind energy on a voluntary basis, he said.
Though he touched on only some of the issues, both positive and negative, he made it clear that in his opinion, the estimated economic cost far exceeds the economic benefit.
Those in favor of wind energy say they are in favor of wind energy over coal or nuclear generated power. The Orleans Industrial Development Agency has said that wind energy could attract new businesses.
Jones outlined some of the negatives. Wind farms generate a total of four jobs, each with an $18,000 salary, Jones said. Royalties to the landowner on which the turbines stand is minimal. Federal and state production tax credits make it a profitable venture for the developer, but not for the towns. They also take valuable land that could have been developed into a home or business off of the tax rolls, he said.
From a safety perspective, they pose the risk of ice throw, lightning strikes, blade and shadow flicker and audible, low frequency noise. Properly sited setbacks can prevent harm from ice throw, but many towns have adopted regulations far less than the necessary 1,500 to 2,600 feet, he said.
Their power production in this area of the state, less than 10 percent, is very little, Jones said. There has also been evidence that the power the turbines generate can create problems with the New York Power Authority grid, he said.
The harm to wildlife, especially birds, bats and raptors, has never been scientifically studied. The bird mortality estimate for a single communications tower is 1,000 per year. How many will the 1,500 industrial wind turbines proposed in New York kill, he asked.
When property values decrease and residents move away, taxes will increase to make up for the loss, he said.
“I won’t change the way I live in my home because a lobbyist wants to make more money,” Jones said. “They’re not going to give money to your schools. They’re not going to give money to your towns and governments.”
“We’ve seen the impact,” he continued. “You’re not going to be able to sell a home with a wind turbine. … They destroy the value of real estate.”
Additional cause for concern is local air traffic. Mercy Flight is no longer able to fly through neighboring Cohocton, he said.
Wind energy developers, the majority of them foreign, make their money from the construction of the turbines, thanks to government grants, the production tax credits and renewable energy certificates, Jones said.
His personal opinion is that the government should reinvest these dollars into researching alternative solutions to increasing energy demands, he said. Some experts say the worldwide energy demand will increase 53 percent by 2030. Research on commercial fusion could be the answer to adding coal and nuclear plants to the landscape, he said.
At the local level, he advised towns to develop a comprehensive plan that states it will not allow any further industrialization.
“We live (in Italy, N.Y.) because it is absolutely beautiful. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful,” Jones said. “Why should we give up our quality of life? They have no right whatsoever. … There are much better ways to make wind energy work.”
A number of representatives from Orleans County town and village boards attended the speech, among them Medina Mayor Adam Tabelski, Medina Trustee Andrew Meier, Gaines Supervisor Richard DeCarlo, Sr., Gaines Councilman Bill Lattin, Albion Supervisor Judy Koehler and County Legislator Gary Kent. Concerned Hamlin resident Paul Lapinski was also present.
By Nicole Coleman
4 May 2008
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