The leaves are out, the fish are biting, and the best defenders of the Adirondack Park—the black flies—are swarming. As the black flies swarm, so too are big issues facing the Park. Victories are followed by a steady march of new threats.
A good deal of this issue of The Park Report is dedicated to an analysis of industrial wind power in the Adirondack Park. This is a major issue. It’s one that is welcomed by many as a compliment to the Park’s historic landscape and mission, but decried by many others as a threat to the same. The Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA) has not taken a position on this controversial issue yet. We have invited members of the local community, as well as other individuals with larger perspectives who follow this issue closely far beyond the borders of the Adirondack Park, to share their views for and against wind power. The RCPA continues to fact find on this issue and scrutinize the existing and proposed wind farms across New York. Information in this report is an update to our members of the fact finding to date.
The proposed wind farm on the outskirts of North Creek is the first of its kind in the Adirondacks and we’re very interested in hearing from members.
Please write and email us your thoughts about a wind farm in the Adirondack Park.
Two victories on the Forest Preserve are worth trumpeting. First, Governor Pataki officially signed an official classification that creates the new 10,700-acre Bog River Wilderness Area. The centerpiece of this new Wilderness area is Round Lake, transferred earlier this year to the State of New York from the Nature Conservancy, which had worked for five years to protect this wonderful lake.
The State of New York, through the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) also prevailed in a lawsuit against the Town of Horicon, which had attempted to take over the management of hiking trails and snowmobile trails on the Forest Preserve and declare them as “roads” open to motor vehicles and All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). A judge found that the State of New York owns lands on the Forest Preserve and sets all management policies. The RCPA has followed this lawsuit closely and encouraged the state to challenge the Town because the stakes were so high. Had this action by the Town of Horicon gone unchallenged, there would have been a howl urging many other local governments in the Adirondacks to assert control over parts of the Forest Preserve and seek to allow motor vehicle uses. This would have been a huge step backwards.
RCPA members are vital to our success and enormously helpful. It is because of your steadfast and generous support that victories are won to defend the Adirondack Park.
Peter Bauer, Executive Director
Cold wind blowing in the Adirondack Park
Wind energy has long been promoted as an alternative to fossil fuels. Rising energy prices coupled with generous tax credits, accelerated depreciation programs, and State mandated renewable standards, have sparked developer interest in transitioning wind energy away from fringe, off-grid implementations into the mainstream. Today wind is generally but incorrectly perceived as a viable response to energy costs, greenhouse emissions, and global warming.
To be clear, wind energy facilities are not farms, parks, or eco-tourist centers. They are bulk electric generating stations, with very large footprints.
Modern turbines stretch 400-feet -- base to blade tip -- from steel-enforced concrete bases buried 35+ feet below the land surface. The bus-size nacelle holds the three-blade assembly whose 270-foot diameter sweeps an area 1+ acre in size. Operating at 15-18 revolutions per minute, the tip speed can reach 200 mph.
New York’s most rural areas are being showered with industrial wind proposals. Why? Because the wind resource in rural NY is abundant and least encumbered by buildings or structures, other than trees, which are frequently mowed down.
Rural NY offers large land tracts, landowners disposed to sign away their property rights for pennies, and a manageable number of non-participating residents to mollify should nuisance issues arise. Wind developers benefit from the fact that few rural communities are equipped to review large-scale development of any types. Typically, zoning is limited or non-existent, and cash-poor communities respond favorably when asked, “What would it take to get your support.” Promises of job creation are compelling but fleeting. Jobs are primarily limited to the construction period, measured in months.
Looking past economic opportunities, many are swayed by the belief that wind energy has a global benefit as it will reduce our use of fossil fuels and offset greenhouse gas emissions.
Know your facts there as well.
According to the Adirondack Wind Energy Park website (http://www.adirondackwind.com/index.html), the project will have up to 10 towers each able to produce 2.7 MW of electricity for an installed capacity of 27.0 MW. The turbines may be reliable, but the fuel source (wind) is anything but. Wind turbines generate electricity only when the wind is blowing, and within the right speed, usually between 8 and 56 mph.
Since wind is intermittent and largely unpredictable, industry standard for actual capacity usage is closer to 30%, dropping the anticipated electricity output to 8.1 MW on average.
Lest we get too excited about even that 8.1 MW, it’s worth referencing the March’05 document prepared by GE Energy for NYSERDA (both strong proponents of wind energy) titled The Effects of Integrating Wind Power on Transmission System Planning, Reliability and Operations. Section 7.4 Summary states the effective capacities of inland wind sites in New York “are about 10%, due to both the seasonal and daily patterns of the wind generation being largely “out of phase” with the NYISO load patterns.” In other words, the wind does not blow when demand for electricity is high, on hot summer days in particular.
So the 27 MW project will achieve an effective capacity—when needed for reliability-- of only 2.7 MW. We cannot expect ANY existing electric facility to be turned down or off should the project go online. Simple conservation measures alone would save this amount with none of the adverse impacts including property devaluation, noise, bird kills, disruptions to wildlife corridors and bird migration paths, destruction of view-sheds, aircraft warning lights, and strobe-like blade flicker.
Wind power is a poor producer of utility-scale electricity. Developers understand this, but their focus is anything but electricity. They’re in it for the tax benefits and green-tag sales.
Communities that become enamored with the ideal of Wind power must understand these realities. Nearly half of the Adirondack Park is constitutionally designated to be “forever wild”. Before industrializing the other half with wind turbines everyone should weigh-in thoughtfully and with the facts on whether the benefits outweigh the impacts. From my perspective, I am not persuaded.
 The Energy Information Administration (www.eia.doe.gov) shows a total electricity capacity for NY at 36,000MW.