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Facts don’t support siting of Lighthouse Wind

The opposition to the Lighthouse Wind project isn’t about being pro-wind or anti-wind. It’s about the siting of this industrial wind project. Everyone should be looking for facts specific to this project. That’s not what is happening in Somerset and Yates, according to the story in the Aug. 18 issue of the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (“For the Wind: Supporters say Somerset is the perfect location for turbines”).

One person is quoted as saying what he learned from meetings held by Apex about the Lighthouse Wind proposal: “I favor clean energy because it contributes to decreasing global warming.”

But that’s not true for Western New York, according to the state’s grid operator. Last summer New York Independent Service Operation (NYISO) wrote to the Public Service Commission (PSC) – which must decide whether to approve Lighthouse Wind – stating that the concentration of wind farms in the region results in grounding out zero-emission hydropower from Niagara Falls, a more valuable source of electricity because it’s not variable.

NYISO also told the PSC that there is no need for more power in Western New York and there is no transmission capacity to get the electricity downstate where it is needed.

Finally, NYISO pointed out to the PSC that variable power generators like wind and solar require close to their full capacity to be maintained in backup power plants fueled by natural gas. These backup power sources generate more greenhouse gas emissions than they would otherwise because they need to be ramped up and down in response to the amount of wind and sunlight at any given time.

These facts should give the person who believes clean energy contributes to decreasing global warming pause.

The article quotes another person as saying, “I think windmills can be a symbiotic relationship between agriculture and wind energy production.” Well, of course it is, when the farmer gets $15,000 per year per turbine. But what about the low-frequency thumping noise on quiet nights that can disturb neighbors up to two miles away? In a study authored by Jerry Punch and Richard James, titled “Wind Turbine Noise and Human Health: A Four Decade History of Evidence that Wind Turbines Pose Risks,” the authors do not take a pro-wind or anti-wind position but, rather, advocate for a “pro-health” perspective. They describe this view in their conclusion:

“A pro-health view is that there is enough anecdotal and scientific evidence to indicate that ILFN [infrasound and low frequency noise] from IWTs [industrial wind turbines] causes annoyance, sleep disturbance, stress, and a variety of other AHEs [adverse health effects] to warrant siting the turbines at distances sufficient to avoid such harmful effects, which, without proper siting, occur in a substantial percentage of the population. … It is our belief that the bulk of the available evidence justifies a pro-health perspective. It is unacceptable to consider people living near wind turbines as collateral damage while this debate continues.”

People in the towns of Somerset and Yates do not want to become collateral damage.

Yet another person interviewed said, “We have to do something before it’s too late to turn things around.” But will poorly sited wind power distract us from more meaningful contributions to the solution? So far, all the industrial wind farms in New York have contributed about 1 percent to the state’s electricity consumption, but at the environment’s expense. The Lighthouse Wind project has been named one of the 10 worst-sited wind projects, either built or proposed, in the nation by the American Bird Conservancy because of its proposed location in a globally important bird migration path.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released a report in July 2016 on their radar study of migratory birds in the Lighthouse Wind proposed project area. The study summarized in part: “Our data demonstrate that the shoreline areas of Lake Ontario are important for migrating birds and bats. We have identified behaviors that concentrate migrants along the shoreline, demonstrated that these behaviors occur regularly throughout the season, and established that migrants are flying at altitudes that place them at risk of collision with current or future wind energy development in the area. The importance of shoreline areas, as revealed by our study, highlights the need to avoid these areas as migration corridors as recommended in the Service’s Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines (USFWS 2012).”

Considering that the USFWS is favorable to renewable energy, their cautionary considerations should be taken very seriously.

We doubt any of the facts mentioned here came out at any of Apex’s community meetings or through their public relations efforts.

Pamela Atwater and Kate Kremer are the president and vice president, respectively, of Save Ontario Shores Inc.