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Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of four stories detailing The Post-Journal debate between 150th state Assembly candidates – incumbent Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, and challenger Judith Einach, D-Westfield.
The challenger Judith Einach, D-Westfield, for the 150th state Assembly seat said it will be a “tricky walk” for communities to respond to the state’s goal of having 50 percent renewable power by 2030.
One way the state is trying to reach that goal is through wind farms, which has been a contentious subject for several communities in Chautauqua County where wind farm projects have been approved.
Einach said she wants to warn communities about approving wind projects. She said people should be wary of windmill companies going out of business and leaving behind windmills and the high cost of having to tear them down. She added that a large windmills’ lifespan is 20 years, with them degrading overtime.
“Developers are expected to take care of decommissioning them and returning the land to previous condition, but what happens if the wind company goes bankrupt? You cannot expect them to take care of the clean up. It cost $25,500 to decommission one windmill. So be aware. Know with whom you are dealing.”
Einach said wind farms aren’t the only way to meet the state’s goal of 50 percent renewable power by 2030. She said there are also solar and geothermal energy sources.
“These are very viable ways to shift our energy generation that can get more and more people off the grid if done well,” she said. “Therefore, it will reduce the burden on the grid or they can sell back to the grid.”
Incumbent Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, said he has helped to pass legislation dealing with small energy assistance, property tax reductions for solar panels, financing for sustainable energy loans and tax exemptions for green renewable energy investments. He said it is important for state officials to balance environmentally responsible green energy with the impact on businesses and rates for residents.
“The job for the state is to balance the need to keep rates as low as possible with the desire to move forward in a responsible manner,” he said. “We can maximize the opportunity for economic development while being environmentally responsible.”
Both the incumbent and the challenger agree zoning for wind farms has to be analyzed. They both support local zoning over the ability for the state or county to supersede a municipality. Both of the candidates also agree that upgrades are needed to the electric grid.
Goodell said part of the reason NRG pulled out as a county energy supplier because of the cost to reconnect and improve the electric grid to bring the plant back online.
“The cost estimates to upgrade the grid for NRG were substantial,” he said.
Both candidates said they understand the need for an energy producer in Dunkirk. Einach said she is glad to hear state officials are still working on this issue because it is very important to the second largest city in the county. She said, if elected to office, she will continue the work Goodell has started to find an answer for the lakeside community.
Goodell said, along with state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, he is still working to get the NRG plant occupied by continuing to look at available options. He said there are opportunities for new energy producer.
“This is a real opportunity and we are continuing to fight for that,” Goodell said.
NRG Energy Inc. decided in July against repowering the plant from coal to natural gas. Because of that decision, no one is quite sure what the future holds for the plant.
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