LOCKPORT – The movement for wind energy was stronger five years ago. Perhaps people pictured Holland’s picturesque windmills surrounded by tulips.
Certainly, windmills painted a prettier picture than nuclear reactors and smoke stacks from coal-fired power plants.
Now there’s a cautious spin. The Niagara County legislature adopted a “not in my lakeside property” approach regarding wind-power on Lake Ontario. On land, the towns prepared rules to guide homeowners, but there’s been limited interest in smaller windmills on private property.
Legislator Renae Kimble of Niagara Falls pushed the New York Power Authority to get Niagara County considered for the Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) project. “I hoped it would not only bring jobs to Niagara Falls but there was a possibility to bring jobs to Western New York,” she said.
“We need the opportunity to explore energy and make America as self-sufficient as possible and not allow a foreign government interfere with utility cost.”
She added, “I don’t object to taking a back step, but don’t stop. Explore other options.”
Clyde Burmaster, David Godfrey, John Syracuse and Kimble sat on the Ad Hoc GLOW Committee
“NYPA first made the decision which seemed pointing to Erie Country. There were no sites in Niagara County and we were miffed because we were excluded from the process,” said chairman Burmaster.
Then there was an uproar from the lake side towns and the county bowed out.
“I don’t think there is a county that has voted in favor of (off-shore turbines on Lake Erie or Lake Ontario.),” Burmaster said. “Everyone is saying not in my backyard … If it’s not dead, it has one foot in the grave.”
In Somerset, the town decided to put turbines by the sewage plant. Somerset had to put up 15 percent of the money for the turbines at the water treatment plant on Lower Lake Road which may pay for itself in 10 years.
“You have to have coal, nuclear, hydro or natural gas for the base load,” supervisor Richard Meyers said. “With wind, if that turbine is spinning, that’s less coal that has to be burned.”
“It’s in process of it now,” Deputy Supervisor Daniel Engert said. “The foundation is in place. They’ve been waiting for good weather.”
Niagara Wind & Solar has proposed a third turbine, but the town board will likely catch its breath before taking on that project. There is also a wind turbine project ongoing at Camp Kenan.
In Cambria, Duncan Ross of the Arrowhead Winery is putting in a foundation for a wind turbine.
The Town of Wilson passed a resolution against off-shore turbines in Lake Ontario. Supervisor Joe Jastrzemski feels the wind turbines are not cost effective. “Windmills are not the way to do it,” he said. “I’m not for it.”
There are issues with the view, shipping lanes and bird migration. Towers, blades and lines could get in the way.
Terry Yonkers of Youngstown is the Chairman of Great Lakes Wind Collaborative and is well aware of the issues and also the great potential of wind energy. The collaborative has 500 stake holders.
“We support development of wind energy. It’s very benign and good source of energy,” Yonkers said. “Niagara and Erie Counties shot themselves in the foot. They hurt themselves. There are some very good areas in Lake Erie. They jumped the gun.”
The GLWC is working to facilitate the development of wind power in the bi-national Great Lakes region and was established to build consensus and address issues, according to Yonkers.
He said Canadians have taken a position to close down coal plants 2014. In Somerset, the AES coal-burning plant is for sale.
Yonkers said the No. 1 issue in Niagara County is the concern over the view. He said that is difficult to address and a published artists rendition of the French Castle at Fort Niagara was disconcerting. According to Yonkers, the wind turbine pictured in the newspaper was 20 times larger than its real size.
As for the concern about shipping lanes, he said there would be no turbines in the navigation channels. Although migrating birds and bats could come in contact with the turbines, the birds usually fly at 750 feet.
In regard to storing power from wind turbines, Yonkers said, “The Niagara River has the two largest batteries in the world.”
He was referring to the pump storage reservoirs at the Adam Beck and Robert Moses plants on the Niagara River.
Yonkers, who is from Western Michigan, studied at the University of Wisconsin. He came to WNY to take a position at Buffalo State in the 1990s.
Simply, wind turbines have to be sited properly.
Is GLOW gone? “It depends on the power authorities, who they secure as developers,” Burmaster said. “Every municipality is opposed to the project. We’ll see what power authority is going to do.”
The GLOW project is still alive. “We respect the legislators’ positions and the resolutions. At present, NYPA’s procurement staff is in the final phase of completing an extensive review and evaluation of the GLOW request for proposal responses and supplemental information gathered in order to make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees for its review and assessment,” according to spokesman Connie M. Cullen, the Deputy Director of Media Relations.
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