September 23, 2010
New York

Windpower talks settle few questions

By Joyce M. Miles, The Tonawanda News, 22 September 2010

After hearing two versions of the wind farm story, some Niagara County legislators still aren’t sure they’re for or against one in Lake Ontario.

Back-to-back presentations by Brad Jones, an opponent of corporate/industrial wind farming, and Sharon Laudisi, business development manager for New York Power Authority, seemed to raise more questions than they answered Tuesday about the effects of an offshore wind farm between Youngstown and Wilson.

Either presenter offered lots of opinion and speculation, but little hard data, to bolster their views of a wind farm helping or hurting the local economy.

Both billed as “experts” on the topic, Jones and Laudisi disagreed about virtually everything, from likely job creation to the likelihood of host community benefits for affected municipalities to the wisdom of wind power, generally.

Jones is supervisor of the Yates County town of Italy, which got sued by Ecogen LLC (now Pattern Energy) last year after it denied the company a permit to construct a 19-turbine wind farm. Since Jones took office this past January, his town board repealed zoning incentives for windfarm developers and effectively outlawed wind farms throughout the town.

Laudisi speaks for NYPA, which last year put out a call for proposals to develop a 40- to 160-turbine wind farm in particular areas of either Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, the latter between Youngstown and Wilson. Five proposals are under review now, according to the agency.

The experts were invited to address the Legislature ahead of a special committee’s recommendation whether the body should be for or against a local, offshore wind farm. The Legislature previously went on the record encouraging the possibility, but this past summer, opposition erupted in the Youngstown area, especially.

Where supporters saw a wind farm generating jobs and economic development in the county, opponents see it hurting tourism and driving down lakeside property values. Legislators Clyde Burmaster of Ransomville, David Godfrey of Wilson and John Syracuse of Newfane now want the body to declare an offshore wind farm is not welcome here.

The special committee’s charge, basically, is to weigh the pros and cons of offshore wind-farming. To that end, it’s seeking answers to four broad questions: What are the effects of a wind farm on the economy, environment, electric customers and the lakeside communities that would be faced with the farm?

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