March 15, 2011

Lake Erie wind turbines debated

WICU12 News, 14 March 2011

A hearing, hosted by The Tom Ridge Environmental Center, will help legislators decide if large wind turbines should be built offshore on Lake Erie.

The strongest winds in Pennsylvania are over the lake, and developers want to harness that energy. Proponents say wind energy on the lake would bring hundreds, maybe thousands of jobs to Erie County. Many of those jobs would be in manufacturing.

“Wind turbines typically have 8,000 parts inside them. A high percentage of that is metal parts. The other is re-enforced plastics for the most part, and control systems,” said Tim Ryan, Sr. Executive VP of Apex Wind Energy.

State Representative John Hornaman is a long time advocate of producing wind energy off Lake Erie. He wants the legislation passes quickly.

“If we dilly-dally with this thing, it’s going to be New York and Ohio getting the supply chain industry. And we, the most centrally located, are going to be left out of the loop,” he said.

Some people at the hearing were not so concerned about the economic impact. They were more concerned with the environmental impact. Tom Wasilewski has been following the wind turbine industry worldwide. He’s concerned about birds.

“If inclement weather comes, these birds have to fly lower. They’re going to be struck by these wind turbines. They’re 650 feet high in Scotland. Off of England, they’re talking wind turbines in the 850 foot range,” Wasielewski said.

He’s concerned about fish.

“These sound waves, sound vibrations, that go all the way down into the bedrock, right at the base of these turbines, they actually chase fish away,” he said.

And he says people who come to Presque Isle to see a lovely Lake Erie sunset, may see something in the way.

“You get 600 feet turbines spinning around, you’re going to see them,” Wasilewski said.

But Pennsylvania is dedicated to producing alternative energy sources, and offshore wind energy could be “the next big thing.”

Despite protests from environmentalists, Erie could be the epicenter for that development.

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