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Sucking wind in the fight for renewable energy  

Credit:  By Robert Bryce | New York Post | March 28, 2016 | nypost.com ~~

Gov. Cuomo wants New York to be getting 50 percent of its electricity from “renewables” by 2030. But if the ongoing battle over the proposed Lighthouse Wind project is any indication, Cuomo and his green allies are in for a long fight upstate.

Three New York counties – Erie, Orleans and Niagara – as well as the towns of Yates and Somerset are all opposing the 200-megawatt Lighthouse project. If approved by state regulators, the project would install dozens of 500- to 600-foot-high turbines on about 20,000 acres in Niagara and Orleans counties, both of which abut Lake Ontario.

In January, the Town Board of Yates voted unanimously to oppose the project. Yates Supervisor James J. Simon told me the fight is “about trying to preserve our rural agricultural landscape.” Simon, an associate dean at Genesee Community College, wasn’t active in politics until he saw how the push for renewable energy was going to affect Yates. He said that the attitude of the pro-wind forces has been “you all are small potatoes, and we are going to cram this down your throat.”

Some 65 percent of property owners in Yates and 67 percent in Somerset are opposed to the Lighthouse project. On February 24, the Somerset Town Board passed a law that dramatically restricts (and may, in fact, ban) wind projects in the town. Yates is drafting a similar law.

Rural and suburban residents in the United States, Canada and Europe are opposing wind energy for multiple reasons: visual blight, loss of property value, potential impacts on local tourism and concerns about the low-frequency noise and infrasound generated by bird- and bat-chopping turbines that can stand roughly half as tall as the Empire State Building.

The sentiment in New York is widespread. The town of Clayton, in Jefferson County, is considering a law that would ban wind turbines. Last July, the Town Board of Catlin passed a law prohibiting wind projects after Florida-based NextEra Energy proposed a $200 million project in the town.

In 2014, after a decade-long fight, oil-and-gas giant BP announced it was abandoning plans to build a 200-megawatt wind project near Cape Vincent. BP’s proposal was fiercely opposed by local residents. In 2007, the western Catskills town of Bovina also banned wind projects.

Rural wind resistance isn’t restricted to New York. Over the past 15 months, dozens of governmental entities have moved to reject or restricted wind projects.

Last July, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ban on large wind turbines in the county’s unincorporated areas. In January, two members of the Vermont State Senate (both Democrats) introduced a bill that would ban wind projects in that state.

Cuomo’s renewable-energy push will surely feed the backlash in New York, because it’ll require dozens of new wind projects and, thus, lots of potentially angry rural landowners.

In January, the Department of Public Service estimated that meeting the 50 percent renewable mandate would require the state to produce an additional 33.7 terawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year.

Let’s assume the state plans to use wind to get 90 percent of the electricity needed. Since 2005, an average gigawatt of wind capacity in the US has produced about 2.4 terawatt-hours of electricity per year. To meet its goal, New York will need about 12.6 gigawatts of new wind capacity.

That likely means 5,000 new turbines covering almost 2,000 square miles – nearly four times the size of Albany County and roughly 85 times the size of Manhattan Island.

Cuomo needs a dose of energy realism. If he and his allies are going to be serious about climate change, they should support nuclear energy, which now provides about 60 percent of America’s zero-carbon electricity. Rather than seeking to close the 2,069-megawatt Indian Point Energy Center, Cuomo should be doing all he can to keep it – and other nuclear plants – open and operating. Cuomo should also be supporting natural gas.

The hard reality is that the anti-wind backlash in New York and elsewhere exposes wind energy’s practical limits. Wind may be popular among urban voters, but landowners in towns like Yates and Somerset aren’t going to accept lots of new turbines. Not without a fight.

Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Source:  By Robert Bryce | New York Post | March 28, 2016 | nypost.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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