When the New York Power Authority first introduced its plans for offshore wind turbines on Lake Ontario, Greece resident David Bell took it upon himself to get educated on the issue.
A self-described environmentalist, and “two-Prius driver,” Bell says he’s in favor of new green technologies replacing fossil fuel bases. But what he learned about wind energy put him strongly against any 450-foot wind turbines off the coast of Lake Ontario.
“Two years ago I probably thought, as most Americans do, that wind is great thing to get us off of the oil,” Bell said. “I found out as I studied it in many months of research that not only is it ineffective in offshore, they also don’t work that well onshore or produce any reasonable amount of energy that can be stored and the inconsistency they provide in energy is almost useless.”
But for now, NYPA won’t be installing any wind turbines on Lake Ontario, which were proposed as a part of the Great Lakes Offshore Wind (GLOW) project in 2009. Though NYPA received five bids for the project, each would’ve been too costly to merit the investment, and all bids were denied.
Though wind energy doesn’t have the same effects on the environment as oil-produced energy does, Bell says the environmental effects in the Lake Ontario region could’ve been disastrous, especially to drinking water. Settled contaminants in the bottom of the lake would be brought up by the burying of transmission lines, possibly adding toxic material to the drinking water of thousands.
The local fight may be over, Bell says, but he’s worried about investments in other regions.
“I can see our country wasting valuable resources on science that hasn’t been proven yet,” Bell said.
Ryne Raffaelle, the vice president for research and associate provost at Rochester Institute of Technology, who formerly worked at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado, says the best wind energy resource is offshore, with the Great Lakes deemed one of the prime locations. As such, wind research at the Department of Energy is focused on offshore developments.
“It makes a lot of sense from the population standpoint,” he said. “Ninety percent of the world’s population lives within 10 miles of water. Especially in the northeast, we have large traditional cities all out on the Great Lakes and along the seaboard, so it makes sense.”
Charlotte resident Larry Kilmer says while the end of GLOW is a victory, federal and state governments continue to pour in subsidies to wind energy, and he doesn’t see that as a wise use of taxpayer dollars. Not when wind energy doesn’t mean the same standards as the technology that’s widely used today, he says.
“Perhaps some day the technology will mature and be able to compete in the capitalistic power marketplace without government welfare payments,” Kilmer said. “That day is not today.”
Rafaelle says it’s no secret that lobbyists are hard at work to fund the special interest of renewable energy. But investing subsidies in renewable energy is key to staying competitive in the international marketplace, he says. The solar industry alone, he says, is about a $300 billion worldwide market.
“The green energy economy is going to be the largest single market in the world, and we want to be able to compete in that market,” he said. “Other countries are willing to invest heavily to try to corner that market. Unless we step it up we’re going to be left behind.”
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