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Opinions aired on proposed wind farms

Winds of change are blowing on the Western New York horizon, but not everyone thinks harnessing them is a good idea.

The topic of wind-energy development is one that's being talked about more and more as commercial developers consider building windmill farms on area sites.

On the one hand we have an abundant wind resource, a struggling economy and an opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions, reuse some brownfield sites and generate revenues for municipalities and landowners.

On the other are concerns about the logistical and environmental impacts wind developments might have and questions about the overall benefits to be gained from wind energy.

Valid, important and sometimes competing claims have been coming from both directions. As developers consider establishing wind farms in areas like Lackawanna, Sardinia, Sheldon and Somerset, the debate is heating up.

The Lackawanna City Council has approved a plan by BQ Energy to locate an eight-turbine project on lakefront land that once belonged to Bethlehem Steel Corp. Wyoming County, now home to an active wind site in Wethersfield, would get a second wind farm if Invenergy LLC gets approval for an 86-turbine, 129-megawatt site it hopes to construct in Sheldon.

"We are in a position to build this project in the spring of 2007," said Eric Miller, senior business development manager for the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The topic of wind-energy development is one that's being talked about more and more as commercial developers consider building windmill farms on area sites.

On the one hand we have an abundant wind resource, a struggling economy and an opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions, reuse some brownfield sites and generate revenues for municipalities and landowners.
 
On the other are concerns about the logistical and environmental impacts wind developments might have and questions about the overall benefits to be gained from wind energy.
 
Valid, important and sometimes competing claims have been coming from both directions. As developers consider establishing wind farms in areas like Lackawanna, Sardinia, Sheldon and Somerset, the debate is heating up.
 
The Lackawanna City Council has approved a plan by BQ Energy to locate an eight-turbine project on lakefront land that once belonged to Bethlehem Steel Corp. Wyoming County, now home to an active wind site in Wethersfield, would get a second wind farm if Invenergy LLC gets approval for an 86-turbine, 129-megawatt site it hopes to construct in Sheldon.
 
"We are in a position to build this project in the spring of 2007," said Eric Miller, senior business development manager for the Chicago-based company. Invenergy says estimated payments to Wyoming County, the Town of Sheldon and the Attica and Yorkshire-Pioneer school districts would total $773,800 under payment-in-lieu-of-taxes and host community agreements the company expects to reach with those communities.
 
In Niagara County, AES Somerset LLC is considering development of a 20-to-60-megawatt wind-turbine system to supplement its coal-fired energy plant, which generates 675 megawatts annually.
 
"We're very excited about the Somerset location, because it would result in smart growth of a fossil fuel generating plant," AES project engineer Jon Reimann told Business First in February.
Opinions sail both ways
 
"I think anecdotally, you would hear more voices in favor of windmills than against," said Paul McAfee, spokesman for the Town of Somerset, which is drafting zoning legislation in anticipation of future proposals from AES or other developers.
 
McAfee said the town has taken pains to learn about potential impacts on wind-farm neighbors, such as ice throw, shadows and strobing in the daylight hours, noise and the visual impact on the landscape.
 
"There is what I would call a healthy level of debate within the (town) board and the community. I don't think this is anything that is likely to interfere with the eventual adoption of legislation permitting construction," McAfee said. But, he added, "Most people I have seen speak in favor of windmills don't really know what it means."
 
Lawyer and green-energy advocate Robert Knoer wishes more municipalities would look at how a wind development might affect them, and do so proactively. Too many, he said, address wind development only after a developer has announced a proposed wind site, issuing special-use permits rather than drawing up zoning ordinances to address the specific issues surrounding wind projects.
 
"You should be ready. You shouldn't be driven by developers," said Knoer, a partner in Knoer Crawford & Bender LLP and chair of the Wind Action Group, a local organization that promotes wind development, but does not advocate for specific projects. "You should be driven by what's important to your community."
 
Knoer also thinks developers should get the public involved earlier when they're considering a site for a wind project.
 
"A lot of times, you don't know about a lot of these projects well in advance. It kind of sneaks up on the community," he said. "It's bad for the perception, bad for the process, bad for the developer and bad for the community."
 
Sardinia resident Sue Sliwinski found out that an industrial developer wanted to put a wind farm in her town four years ago when she got a call from someone representing the company, now known as Horizon Wind Energy.
 
Sliwinski has become something of a crusader since that time, collecting research and testimony on how wind developments impact communities as far away as Denmark and Nova Scotia, and as near as Madison and Wyoming counties. She's a founder of National Wind Watch, an anti-wind group formed last year.
 
Sliwinski said the biggest negative impact of commercial wind turbines is the noise they generate. "It's unnatural. It's louder than the ambient noise, the rustling of the trees and all that. It's the pulse from an unnatural, uneven sound. It's described by people who live near wind turbines as something you don't get used to," she said, noting that some people do not find the noise bothersome.
 
"I believe that commercial wind utility-scale turbines that are hooked directly to the (electricity) grid are an environmental and economic folly," said Sliwinski. "I don't believe that they are going to help our reliance on fossil fuels. I believe our electricity costs will go up rather than down," she said, citing studies from Europe.
 
Knoer believes the negative impacts of wind farms are few and can be appropriately addressed through public hearings, legislation and siting agreements.
 
"There's very little downside," he says. "If we're wrong, take it down and there's no footprint left. That's very different from nuclear and coal energy, which leave an impact long after they're gone."


Source: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/121...

APR 2 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2005-opinions-aired-on-proposed-wind-farms
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