In April, I attended a meeting with Diamond Wind where the company presented a proposal to place 50 wind turbines in Lake Erie, from Buffalo to Dunkirk. By the end of their presentation every person in attendance was opposed to the plan.
I believe if people would take the time to weigh the pros and cons of this proposal, most would come to the same conclusion that I did: Wind turbines do not belong in Lake Erie or in any of the Great Lakes.
My argument falls into three categories: their effect on the environment; their economic impact; and the aesthetic importance of Lake Erie.
Concerning the environment, Lake Erie provides not only our drinking water but water for nearly 12 million people. Turbine placement would stir up contaminants that will affect that supply.
Damaged turbines could spill oil and lubricants into the water. In winter, turbines might need to be de-iced and those chemicals would also fall directly into the water or onto ice. We cannot let this damage happen.
As for economics, the Diamond Wind proposal has a plate-rated capacity of 200 megawatts. But that is only when the wind is blowing and all turbines are spinning. No wind means no electricity.
But even on windy days, the New York Independent Systems Operator has curtailed wind-driven generation because the grid cannot accept the power due to transmission constraints. New York has an aging grid that has problems moving electricity. The grid system needs massive financial investment and without it wind turbines are just white elephants.
Secondly, the Diamond Wind representatives clearly stated electric rates would rise to support their plan. Rates are also going up to support the state’s offshore wind project in the Atlantic Ocean. We cannot afford higher rates.
Finally, concerning the aesthetic importance of Lake Erie, I find it surprising the level of support Sierra Club has for turbines in Lake Erie. On their website there is a quote from Nancy Newhall which reads “(We cannot) violate our parks, forests, wildernesses … to ruin for all time what all time cannot replace,” yet they find it acceptable to violate Lake Erie to fight climate change.
Lake Erie is the great moderator of Western New York’s climate. It provides us with fresh drinking water and supports abundant wildlife. I think the panorama that is Lake Erie and its unbroken horizon should remain untouched for future generations’ enjoyment and sense of place.
Many other great panoramas are protected from development. The Great Lakes deserve the same.
Paul Michalec is chairman of the Town of Evans Conservation Advisory Commission and Climate Smart Task Force.