For the last five years and more, we’ve been hearing more and more about windmills springing up all over the southern tier. By and large, the reports have been classic Rochester journalist-stenographer’s reports of protests to the new technology. I confess that my first instinct was to laugh this off as Conservatives railing against all things “alternative,” energy or otherwise.
But it seems clear that there are plenty of people, including Democratic Congressional hopeful Eric Massa, who think that the problem is no laughing matter. For one, he correctly points out that there are a number of environmental impacts to be dealt with; he cites damage to bird populations, but the whirring noise of the windmills would also have a negative impact on most every other species of life in the region.
Today in Steuben County and throughout the Southern Tier, we are being scammed in much the same way. We are scammed by foreign-owned companies building foreign-manufactured wind turbines that will not produce electricity. This is a threat to landowners, who will see taxes explode. It is an environmental burden, which will see bird populations destroyed. Foreign companies will take their tax subsidies and run, with no money going to the 29th Congressional District. We are going to have to live with 1,000 windmills the size of the Washington Monument.
He goes on to explain his objections on the grounds that the windmills will not provide electricity:
We are being told that we are building windmills to provide electrical power for New York State’s largest consumers. The largest consumers in New York are air conditioners in New York City. Wind is available for generation in upstate on cold winter nights. That’s when there’s enough wind to turn 450 foot towers.
I think that, at minimum, Massa does a credit to his prospective constituents in bringing the issue up for debate. To date, I have not seen a serious discussion of the environmental impact, the rate of return or the potential financial costs to taxpayers of these wind farms. The whole process is happening off the radar screens of the average Upstater, though perhaps more is being made of the issue in Southern Tier newspapers I don’t often read.
I will say that Harbec Plastics of Ontario gets about half of its total energy consumption provided to it by its single windmill, which stands towering above what is otherwise a typically flat country village. So, it’s perfectly possible to create and use energy with windmills, though there are a number of variables I’m not accounting for such as the size of the windmill and the location. I’m not sure that the “air conditioners in New York City,” Massa cites – while they are surely effective political imagery – are accurate accounting of the state’s biggest consumers. Massa shows a further, if forgivable, lack of understanding of our Earth’s atmosphere when he says the only time that there will be wind is on cold winter nights: go climb a hill anywhere in Steuben County and tell me that again.
Of course there’s wind. There is always wind, and if not, we’re up shit’s creek without a paddle.
But let’s hear from town fathers, lets here from advocates, let’s hear from environmentalists. We on the left cannot in the same breath advocate alternative energy and resist any attempts to implement it, so allowances need to be made: all forms of energy require some small amount of waste and environmental impact. There appear to have been some GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Study) work done, but according to this list of comments (PDF), there is some disagreement on the efficacy of those studies. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t actually see the GEIS anywhere in a Google search. That’s not exactly open government, is it?
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