Both the science and the motivations behind the promotion of offshore wind turbines were taken to task Tuesday during a community meeting on plans to install the large structures in Lake Erie.
The meeting, organized by Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie, attracted about 70 people to the Southtowns Walleye Building, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, to hear from local anglers, biologists and lawmakers on the potential impact the plan might have on the water supply, fisheries and the ecosystem of Lake Erie.
“There’s no reason for this,” said State Sen. George Borrello, R-Jamestown. “This is just virtue signaling on the part of a bunch of radical environmentalists and to the benefit of a lot of people that are going to put a lot of money in their pockets as part of this. And that is why we can’t jeopardize Lake Erie for somebody’s personal financial gain.”
Borrello introduced legislation in the State Senate that would ban industrial wind turbines in freshwater lakes in New York.
“I forced it into a committee and it was voted down with very little discussion,” he said.
Of concern to Borrello and others attending Tuesday’s meeting is a yet-to-be released $1 million study by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, that was ordered by the State Public Service Commission on whether wind power on the lakes should be part of New York’s green energy portfolio, including whether the turbines can be placed on floating platforms instead of being anchored to the lake beds.
A law passed in 2019 committed the state to generating 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and all of its electricity from sources that don’t produce any carbon emissions by 2040.
Those goals include 9,000 megawatts of power from offshore wind by 2035 – enough to power 6 million homes, according to NYSERDA.
Borrello and others at Tuesday’s meeting not only questioned the likelihood that offshore wind turbines could help the state reach those goals, or that the results would be economical. Opponents said the structures, which would be as much as 460 feet tall, would increase energy costs from $20 per megawatt hour to $95 per megawatt hour.
“Quite frankly, they’re very costly,” Borrello said. “The power is intermittent, and the reality is that, in New York State, we are now importing more power than we ever have. Instead of doing a responsible transition using natural gas as a bridge fuel and considering other things like hydroelectric power, we are pushing this one-trick pony idea that we just have to have wind turbines and solar panels.”
Sharen Trembath of Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie described the fight against installing the structures in the lake as “a David and Goliath battle,” as she alluded to the dangers of toxins from the region’s industrial past contaminating the source of drinking water for more than 11 million people who rely on Lake Erie.
Republican Erie County Legislator John Mills of Orchard Park, in a brief interview with The Buffalo News before Tuesday’s meeting, said installing turbines in Lake Erie would be unprecedented.
“There’s no wind turbines in any fresh water lakes anywhere in the world. They are in the oceans, but not in the fresh water lakes,” Mills said.
“The ironic part of this whole wind turbine project in Lake Erie is that the backup power – when the turbines aren’t circulating – the backup power for the grid comes out of a coal-burning plant in Pennsylvania,” he added.
He and other opponents of have accused California-based Diamond Offshore Wind Development of conducting its own secret studies on the feasibility of offshore wind turbines on Lake Erie.
“They put a buoy out there off Silver Creek, N.Y., to test the wind velocity and waves and stuff last year,” Mills said.
Borrello said he had little faith the state study, which was scheduled to be released this past spring, will be fair.
“It’s loaded with people that will actually benefit from having these wind turbines in the water,” he said of those responsible for conducting the study.
“There are no experts on hydrology. There are no experts on wildlife, ecology, nobody that truly understands the potential negative impacts. It’s packed with people that are green energy advocates. So I have no faith that this study is going to come out with anything that will be considered fair or objective,” Borrello added.
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