Recent writings have indicated that there is much controversy over wind energy in the area.
This is true especially in the towns of Somerset and Yates. Apex “Clean Energy,” a Virginia-based company, is proposing Project Lighthouse Wind, a project that will string up to 70 huge, 600-foot-plus industrial wind turbines along 12 miles of the pristine shore of Lake Ontario in Niagara and Orleans counties. There are some who support this activity; however, they are definitely in the minority. The fact is those opposed outnumber those that support by more than two-to-one, according to three independently conducted surveys. Those that are actively opposed number in the hundreds as evidenced by numerous gatherings that have taken place over the past three years.
Supporters say Somerset / Yates is a perfect location for these industrial turbines. This is entirely inaccurate. The Lake Ontario shore area is an unacceptable place for a wind turbine project, as it is a heavily populated shoreline community in an internationally recognized bird / bat migratory path. Issues abound!
In addition to the overwhelming negative public reaction, numerous organizations and groups have come out in opposition to this project or have expressed concerns over its impact on our area. A partial list includes the Niagara, Orleans and Erie county legislatures, the towns of Somerset and Yates, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, American Bird Conservancy, Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Orleans County Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, the Niagara & Genesee-Orleans county boards of health, Nature Conservancy, state Assembly Member Steve Hawley, state Sen. Robert Ortt, U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, Niagara Military Affairs Council, the state Office of Parks and Recreation and the state Department of Agriculture.
Apex claims Project Lighthouse Wind will bring many advantages to our community and so far the sole benefit is their offer to pay $1.5 million in local property taxes to be distributed among six taxing jurisdictions. The origin of this figure is murky. How is it Apex can decide what they will pay in taxes? If current local tax rates were applied to the claimed $300 million to $ 400 million they plan to invest, then $1.5 million in local taxes would be exceedingly low. Clearly Apex intends to invest as little as possible in our community and take away much.
Meanwhile, economic disadvantages abound, as real estate values have been known to plummet when industrial turbines arrive, Somerset Power Station is being driven out of business and the encroachment on Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will threaten its shutdown. All told, close to 3,000 or more local jobs will be placed in jeopardy along with the potential loss of one of our area’s largest taxpayers, in trade for a few permanent jobs and a few hundred temporary jobs, the majority not from our community.
It is claimed that the wind project will not impact our local infrastructure. This is an incredibly false claim! The logistics involved in the construction of these monstrous industrial structures challenges the imagination. One blade of these three-bladed monsters is an overweight/oversize load in the neighborhood of 200 feet long and 30 tons. Then, consider the tons of cement and steel required for each of the 70 towers, the tractor-trailer size nacelles for each unit, the possibility of a cement plant in the area, the miles of access roads, the miles of trenching to bury electrical cabling to connect these 70 structures and much more yet to be disclosed by Apex “Clean Energy.” This equipment will be scattered along 12 miles of Lake Ontario shoreline at 70 different locations, serviced by a crane or cranes of mind-boggling size, crashing over our roads and through our fields. The effect of the construction phase alone on our rural farming community will be devastating and the scars of industrialization will remain for a lifetime.
What do we get from Apex on this issue? Dead silence! How can this project preserve farmland or protect farming operations? It cannot! Will our children and grandchildren be pleased with the heavy industrialization of our quiet rural community? They will not!
It has been suggested we visit an industrial wind turbine Installation such as that in Wyoming County. There is no similarity. In Wyoming County, the terrain is different, it is not a lakeshore community, the population density is much less and, most important, the wind turbines are significantly smaller than the size we have been led to believe will be proposed for Lighthouse Wind.
In summary, the proposed Lighthouse Wind project is controversial and has split our community, the opposition far outnumbers those who support and is growing, many groups have issues with the project and have so indicated, the economic benefits are suspect, the impact on the local infrastructure will be extreme and claimed similarities with other industrial wind projects are misleading.
In view if the above, and considering the extreme physical and environmental issues involved, Project Lighthouse Wind should be terminated. The power is not needed; the power is not clean.
After four years of disturbing our community and not gaining its favor, Apex should go home.
James C. Hoffman resides in Somerset.
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