Upstate NY towns embroiled in fight over tall wind turbines

November 27, 2016 by George M. Walsh
In this Aug. 25, 2016 file photo, people gather to protest the installation of windmills in Somerset, N.Y. A battle of clean energy vs. the environment is playing out in western New York over a plan to build dozens of wind turbines that could be among the nation's tallest, rising 600 feet above the scenic shores of Lake Ontario. (Joed Viera/The Union-Sun & Journal via AP, File)

Clean energy and environmental interests usually go hand in hand. But in western New York, they are battling over plans to build dozens of wind turbines that could be among the nation's tallest, rising 600 feet above the scenic shores of Lake Ontario.

Apex's proposal to plant 70 propeller turbines amid the farms and towns east of Niagara Falls is still in its early stages, but it has already generated thousands of pages of comments, studies and legal documents considered by state regulators.

Wildlife groups are concerned the turbines could disrupt a major flyway for migrating birds. Local lawmakers worry about flight operations being compromised at a nearby military base. Residents fret about potential health threats from noise, which are still being studied, and say views could be dominated by structures taller than any skyscraper in upstate New York.

"There's nothing this size on land," opponent Pam Atwater said of the turbine towers proposed by Apex Clean Energy. "We're not even really talking about aesthetics or anything like that. But of course it's going to have an impact. The terrain here is flat. You can see for miles."

It's a debate playing out as rapidly improving technology for towers and turbines allow the industry to move on to increasingly taller structures.

Federal Aviation Administration records show that the vast majority of the hundreds of proposed turbines the agency is reviewing for air safety would stand at or just below 500 feet. But two other projects in New York—one in central New York, one in the northeast corner—have submitted plans for a combined 70 turbines from 640 to 656 feet tall, and there are several projects with towers topping 600 feet in the works in Texas and Kansas. The tallest towers in the world now top 700 feet and operate offshore in Europe.

Charlottesville, Virginia-based Apex, a major national wind farm developer, said it hasn't settled precisely on the turbine size for the project named Lighthouse Wind, but noted that taller machines offer greater yield.

"Currently in New York the tallest wind turbine is just under 500 feet," Apex development manager Taylor Quarles told The Associated Press. "But certainly the trend in the industry is to go higher as the consistency and wind speed, essentially the quality of the wind, does tend to increase with elevation."

Seventy turbines is the high end of its proposal, he said, and it may require only 50 or 60 of the larger machines to achieve the project's goal of generating 201 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 50,000 average New York homes.

"There is this phase where what used to be the offshore type of size is now migrating onshore for more wind resources," said Yates Town Supervisor James Simon, a wind farm opponent. He said that makes people in his community and the neighboring town of Somerset, essentially, "guinea pigs."

Atwater notes that "they're designed for offshore use, so there is no place you can go and no one who can tell you what the impact's going to be."

Retired truck driver Howard Pierce, whose home in Yates is across a street from one boundary of the project, said he isn't worried about environmental issues as much as the payments landowners will get for leasing to Apex.

"The No. 1 industry in our town is farming, and the wind farm would give these farmers a steady income every year," Pierce said. "This would not depend on the commodity prices."

The project is one of the first tests of a new state regulatory regime, known as "Article 10" for the 2011 law that took the power to approve major energy projects out of the hands of a mix of local and state authorities and gave it to a single state authority, the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. There is not yet a timetable for when the panel will make a decision.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set a goal of meeting half the state's energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. One of the challenges to that goal has been a lull in wind projects since 2013. Installed capacity grew in leaps from 2000 to 2012 and then stalled, with almost no new capacity added in recent years, according to federal Department of Energy statistics.

That has opponents worried the process will be biased toward approving the project.

Republican Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who opposed Article 10 and Lighthouse Wind, is giving the process a chance.

"I'm going to trust that they're going to take, not with a grain of salt, not in one ear and out the other, but seriously take the locals' concerns into consideration," he said.

Explore further: Companies propose deep-water wind farms off Hawaii shores (Update)

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gkam
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 04, 2016
It may not be an appropriate place for WTGs. They cannot be forced on the people any more than coal plants should be forced on us.
Eikka
not rated yet Dec 04, 2016
achieve the project's goal of generating 201 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 50,000 average New York homes.


The average New York household consumes 103 million Btu per year (30,186 kWh) excluding transportation. That makes 3.45 kW per. Source:

http://www.eia.go...f/ny.pdf

https://en.wikipe...New_York
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. March 4, 2005. p. 7.16. Retrieved 2009-05-02. "Capacity factors of inland wind sites in New York are on the order of 30% of their rated capacity. Their effective capacities, however, 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."


Therefore 201 MW of wind power is enough to power roughly 18,000 households - not 50,000 households as the article claims.

Consistently, an article about wind power is exaggerating wind power.
gkam
1 / 5 (7) Dec 04, 2016
Perhaps you could do that computation using kWh, and find out otherwise. I think you put house heating into the electric category.

A typical US household does not draw more than a little over a kW for distribution purposes.

Time for a re-figure.
gkam
1 / 5 (7) Dec 04, 2016
"30%"?

Wind turbines are not expected to run 100% of the time. Remember?

Yet they are cost-effective, and taking business from nukes and coal, the two main troublesome sources, dooming them to second-tier, follow-up status.
Uncle Ira
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 04, 2016
70 of them 600 feet tall? Well I for one Skippy would think it would be cool having them in the neighborhood. You could start a whole tourist industry from peoples coming to see your 70 windmills tall as a 50 story building.
Edenlegaia
not rated yet Dec 05, 2016
Yet they are cost-effective, and taking business from nukes and coal, the two main troublesome sources, dooming them to second-tier, follow-up status.


Taking both business and lands. Until we have better design and efficiency from them, and build them somewhere else (sea?), they will be troublesome as well. The only good point is the nuclear waste they....don't produce. A problem people are still working and making progress on.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Dec 05, 2016
Wind turbines use very little land (google for aerial photos of windfarms, the land underneath can be used for farming and the wind turbines reduce wind speeds which means less soil erosion)
Looking out the window I can see a number of them dotting the horizon - and no: they are not an eye sore.

Seems to me that all the hubbub is just NIMBYism.

Whether wind farms are taking business is debatable. They also create new jobs in construction and maintenance (and these jobs are secure for the foreseeable future, wheras those in fossil fuels are not). Just keeping jobs alive for the sake of keeping jobs alive is not a good long-term strategy.
Eikka
not rated yet Dec 05, 2016
Perhaps you could do that computation using kWh, and find out otherwise. I think you put house heating into the electric category.


I did: BTU is kWh. and I put space and water heating into the "powering a house" category, as in, the power (energy per time) used by a household. 56% of NY household power consumption goes to space heating and another 18% for hot water.

Wind turbines are not expected to run 100% of the time. Remember?


That was my point. Whenever a news article about wind power posts a figure like 201 MW they always, without fail, try to make belief that it's sufficient to power a large number of households that it simply will not do because it is not on all the time.

The claims are only true if by "powering a household" they mean temporarily providing equal amount of power some times, but that's just a bullshit metric. I can personally "power" a whole household with just my muscle power - for about two seconds.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2016
the land underneath can be used for farming and the wind turbines reduce wind speeds which means less soil erosion)


They also cause local warming which causes higher water evaporation and irrigation costs, and more irrigation causes more erosion and nutrient runoff. The devil is always in the details.

and no: they are not an eye sore.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For someone who gains practically nothing from these things, the mere fact that they're there ruining the vista is a reason good enough to oppose them.

And the locals don't really gain much. The farmers get a bit of rent on the land, but the jobs they bring are minimal because the equipment and expertise comes from elsewhere and the profits from the subsidies go the same way. The electricity also leaves the county and state at very cheap rates because of the out-of-phase problem with local demand.

gkam
1 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2016
Eikka, you are wrong again. We do not use electricity for space heating generally,so it is false to allege we do.

We get the idea you do not like changing from coal to wind and solar. Sorry. It is progress, whether you like it or not.

I think Indian Point is due for closing soon. We may need more wind turbines.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2016
The argument that wind turbines bring jobs is specious at best, because the whole point and principle of cheap wind power is to set up a number of stand-alone fire and forget generators that require minimal intervention or maintenance, as cheaply as possible without large and expensive landscaping operations.

You don't want them to create jobs, because that would imply the turbines are expensive to install and maintain. You want them to generate electricity.

Eikka, you are wrong again. We do not use electricity for space heating generally,so it is false to allege we do.


Whoooosh goes the point over your head.

How are you ever going to substitute gas and oil in heating and hot water if you're not going to use renewable energies such as wind power to do it? That's why "powering a household" has to mean truly powering a household and not just some of the household power demand.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2016
Think about it. If I put a solar panel on the roof of my car and connect it to the battery to run my headlights and radio, am I powering my car on solar power?

No I'm not. The engine is still running on gasoline. It isn't a solar powered car just because the electricity comes from the sun - all of the energy the car uses has to come from the sun before we can honestly claim to have a solar powered car.

It's the same thing with households.

What is the main purpose of a house: to provide you with shelter and heat. It does so by burning 75 million BTU of gas a year. If you run the lights and television on wind power, is your house powered by wind? No it isn't - it's still powered by gas, just the same as how the car is powered by gasoline.

gkam
1 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2016
We are not trying to eliminate all petroleum now. You know that, but have to have some silly argument.

Every Btu we replace with renewables puts us ahead, step-by-step, the intelligent way.
gkam
1 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2016
"You could start a whole tourist industry from peoples coming to see your 70 windmills tall as a 50 story building."
----------------------------------

Perhaps they are more sophisticated than that.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2016
We are not trying to eliminate all petroleum now. You know that, but have to have some silly argument.

Stet-by-step, the intelligent way.


Again, whoosh goes the point over your head.

Bullshit metrics that don't measure reality result in bullshit statistics and information. If you continue with the false metrics you will eventually reach a point where on paper the combined power of your wind turbines "power" more households than there exists, yet you don't actually have enough energy to run them.

Imagine yourself explaining that to voters who thought their tax money was doing something good. Promise a horse, deliver a donkey.

It's a meaningless number that is simply misleading people to think that they're getting more for their money than they really are. Mis-informing the public is a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot.
gkam
1 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2016
Now you are just blabbering. We know what we are getting from wind turbines, we have had them for 40 years here. Where do you live?

Yeah, I get my house heat from gas, It is the way it is set up. But we use little as possible, and our house and automobile are powered by electricity gotten from our own PV panels.

Where do you get yours? What kind of sources?
Uncle Ira
4 / 5 (4) Dec 05, 2016
"You could start a whole tourist industry from peoples coming to see your 70 windmills tall as a 50 story building."
----------------------------------

Perhaps they are more sophisticated than that.


I still think it would be cool. Choot, the Big Sleazy does not even have that many 50 story buildings. You don't think peoples would come to see them all?
gkam
1 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2016
Don't know. Put lights on the bladetips? Would bladelights reduce bird and bat kills?
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2016
Where do you get yours? What kind of sources?


Roughly a third from renewables, about another quarter to a third from nuclear power, the rest are load following fossil fuels and imports. Almost none of it is wind or solar power, and the average grid market price is around 45-50 $/MWh before transmission fees. That means I'm about 60% CO2 free already

There's nothing gas powered in my house, so I can readily accept wind and solar power should there be any available. The problem is rather that they're not available when I need power.
gkam
1 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2016
'Tis true many places are not suited for solar PV. I happen to live in a place where it works really well. And I am surprised to be saving as much as we are, since the panels produce more than promised.
Uncle Ira
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 05, 2016
Don't know. Put lights on the bladetips? Would bladelights reduce bird and bat kills?


They would have to put lights on them for airplane rules. But as the mechanical engineer sort of Skippy, I would travel to see that many enormous windmills in one place as a modern technologic marvel, eh? 70 windmills 600 feet tall in one place would be a fun machine to see. For me I mean. Maybe nobody else would think so, but I do.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2016
Would bladelights reduce bird and bat kills?


No, because they don't hit the blades very much. They hit the turbulence behind the blades and get internal bleeding in the lungs from the rapid pressure change.

And it's not like they have very much choice anyhow, because bats fly up to the sky to hunt for insects by riding the thermal plumes that start to lift off the ground around sunset, and those winds carry them through the wind farms.
gkam
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 05, 2016
Just got the accounting from the utility regarding our use of power, minus the amount we generated. For the house and car, we saved about $3k this year. The EV saved more than the house, since it replaces gasoline which is over $2.50/gallon.

Embrace pollution-free power. Let your Diesel-driving neighbors know what they are doing to your air.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (2) Dec 05, 2016
Among other things, antalias_physorg admits windmills reduce the speed of moving air. I said that and was told I was crazy, that conservation of energy does not apply to windmills. And since when was soil erosion a problem here? If there are farms, there never was significant soil erosion. If soil is blown away, more is blown in.
And note Uncle Ira's contemptuous dismissal of the feelings of people there. Uncle Ira says the sight of the windmills could attract tourists. But a quality of a tourist is that they don't have to live there! "A nice place to visit". A display of disdain for people's feelings characteristic of "science" supporters.
Windmills, in fact, prevent equalizing of air temperature over large regions, distribution of soil and the spreading of seeds. With solar farms, windmills actually harm the environment worse that "fossil fuels". That's a reason no one admits it's chemtrails that cause climate change, to keep alternative energy.
Zzzzzzzz
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2016
Eikka, we get it that you are not in favor of renewable power sources. But when you accuse the industry of exaggerating, and in the act of that accusation exaggerate yourself, you do not build credibility. There are other examples I have seen in your postings in which you speak as though from a high knowledge level, when in actuality your knowledge level is sub par. Some of those can be found right here in this list. That kind of thing does not build credibility either. I for one have a tendency to view your claims with significant skepticism.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Dec 06, 2016
"You could start a whole tourist industry from peoples coming to see your 70 windmills tall as a 50 story building."
----------------------------------

Perhaps they are more sophisticated than that
Oh i think george kamburoff would be mesmerized by the sight.

"Most people are able to combine ideas that have consistent thought themes, but psychopaths have great difficulty doing this. Again, this suggests a genetic restriction to what we have called the Juvenile Dictionary. Not only are they using extremely restricted definitions, they cannot, by virtue of the way their brains work, do otherwise. Virtually all of the research on psychopaths reveals an inner world that is banal, sophomoric, and devoid of the color and detail that generally exists in the inner world of normal people."

'Ooooo mommy look at all the big propellers! Did they build those just for me?'

'Of course precious you are the most important person in the whole wide world aren't you?'

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