Buffalo, NY – The search for clean, renewable energy has never been more important than right now. A number of alternative energies are being developed, and wind power is being touted as one of the most promising.
Western New York has it’s share of wind farms, from the shores of Lake Erie to the rolling hills of Wyoming County. Wind power has many advocates, but a lot of people are questioning it as well.
Can wind power be the answer, or is it just a lot of hot air?
Much of the opposition to wind power has been well documented, from the negative aesthetic effects of having giant structures dominating otherwise pastoral countryside, to noise pollution and a dcrease in property values for nearby landowners. The wind industry is also heavily subsidiozed, and there are those who believe tax dollars should not be spent on an unproven technology.
John Droz, Jr. a physicist and a long time environmentalist said, “I’m not for or against wind power, if it can be proven scientifically to be an appropriate power source added to our grid, then fine, I’m for it. Our environmental policies are being determined by lobbyists instead of science,” he said.
Mark Mitskovski, a former wind power executive believes otherwise.
“It’s not an issue of proving itself. The issue is – what are you willing to give up, meaning both in terms of societal and environmental end of facts for the power production that you utilize. In my opinion, wind and solar and these are less damaging,” Mitskovski said.
Many point out that the inconsistent nature of the wind is it’s greatest failing as an energy source. Proponents acknowledge that weakness, yet argue that wind technology was never meant to be an energy panacea. Rather, seeing it as an interim technology that should be used until the next platform is reached.
Another major concern is what’s inside wind turbines.
An important comoponent of turbines and most other modern electronics are Rare Earth Elements, or “REE’S.” Wind turbines require up to 4,000 pounds each of these precious metals. Not only is strip mining for Rare Earth Elements damaging to the environment, but the export of REEs is controlled by one country, China. It’s strangle hold on Rare Earth Elements is considerable, producing 97% of the world wide exports.
Western New Yorkers are concerned about another wind power project, a proposal for a large wind farm in Lake Erie itself.
Mitskovski said he is optimistic.
“I don’t see a downside to developing in water. I believe many of the criticisms are unfounded, and certainly if you look at the Europeans both in terms of avian and aquatic life, there is no substance to their story. Other concerns regard dredging of old toxins lying dormant on the lake’s floor, and the much higher price tag such a project would command,” he said.
Droz said, “Of all the choices we have, wind was the highest cost. This is the government saying this, this isn’t my opinion, the government is saying this is the highest cost.”
This, then, is a stormy debate which is far from over.
One thing both sides may actually agree upon is that a more open discussion on our country’s energy policies is sorely needed.
Mitskovski said, “It’s unfortunate that as a country, we have not had a true, honest debate about where power comes from, and what the costs are involved. And so you have these running battles betwenn different entities.”
Droz warns, “Everyone, every citizen in New York State is affected by this – every single citizen. And they ought to be concerned.”
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