Another Voice: Wind turbines offer economic and environmental opportunity

Article by Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Energy Committee Chair Bob Ciesielski; reposted from Buffalo News:

In 2016, New York’s Clean Energy Standard committed to supplying 50 percent of our electricity from renewable energy. The plan to scale up further on renewable energy will help reduce dangerous pollutants, lessen climate change and protect our public health. It is also set to create thousands of good paying, family supporting jobs right here in New York. Our state already receives more than 26 percent of its power from renewable energy, with enough wind energy to power 600,000 homes.

The proposed wind projects in Niagara and Orleans County are two such opportunities. More than 200 farmers and landowners have signed leases permitting the installation of wind turbines on their properties in the towns of Somerset, Yates and Barre. A total of 40-50 turbines are proposed for each of the two wind projects. If constructed, wind turbines would provide a stable source of additional income to farmers who often have to deal with the unpredictability of milk and produce prices.

Leasing a portion of their property for the production of wind and solar power has become a substantial “second crop” for farmers across the United States. Nationwide, farmers receive over $200 million annually in lease payments.

In Lewis County, the Maple Wind Ridge Farm on the Tug Hill plateau has paid more than $18 million to farmers through 2016. Seeing the benefits of wind projects for their residents, the Lewis County Board of Legislators recently voted to support the expansion of wind turbines.

Renewable energy also protects the planet and our farmers from calamitous climate and weather change. Extended winter thaws followed by winter freezes damage fruit trees and vines. Increased and prolonged torrential rainstorms are caused by a 5 percent greater moisture content in the atmosphere. Paradoxically, overall warmer global temperatures also extend dry periods into severe droughts.

The development of large-scale renewables often brings up questions regarding effects on birds, bats and public health. While no source of energy is impact free, the facts are clear: well-planned wind projects have minimal impact on birds, bats, and other wildlife. In fact, New York has one of the most rigorous siting processes in the nation, often referred to as Article 10. Through this process developers must do transparent site-specific studies that evaluate the impact their projects have and mitigate as necessary. After construction, developers are required to provide rigorous monitoring and oversight from both state and federal agencies.

Studies in North America show that property values near wind turbines remain steady or increase somewhat after installations are completed. A study of 50,000 home sales near 67 wind facilities reveals no loss in real property values.

In Europe, Denmark is about one-third the size of New York State and has 6,100 wind turbines. Wind power provided 43 percent of that country’s electricity in 2017. An impressive 91 percent of Danes support the expansion of wind power.

In the United States, states like Iowa and South Dakota are generating 25 percent of their electricity needs from wind alone.

As the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization, Sierra Club supports the continued expansion of wind energy across New York. The facts are clear: we need a rapid transition away from dirty, outdated fossil fuels like coal, oil, and fracked gas, which means we must ramp up quickly on responsibly sited renewable energy projects.

By developing responsible wind energy here in Western New York, we can protect our climate while bringing much needed economic investment to our communities.


  1. rmpbklyn says:

    Wind farms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet’s wingspan. Though the blades appear to move slowly, they can reach speeds of up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.

    Bob Sallinger with the Audubon Society of Portland said wind farms across the country have killed more than 80 eagles over the last decade.

    “If you have dozens and dozens of them on the landscape it is basically a giant Cuisinart for birds,” said Sallinger. “Bald eagles took decades to recover … we almost lost them because of DDT. Golden eagles are a species biologists are concerned about because they appear to be declining.”–257599781.html

    “Improperly sited and operated wind energy facilities can kill significant numbers of federally protected birds and other species,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, urging developers to follow the Service’s Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines. “That’s why it’s imperative that wind energy developers work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to minimize these impacts at every stage in the process.”
    Commercial wind power projects can cause the deaths of federally protected birds in four primary ways: collision with wind turbines, collision with associated meteorological towers, collision with, or electrocution by, associated electrical power facilities, and nest abandonment or behavior avoidance from habitat modification.

    A recent study by federal and state scientists found that U.S. wind turbines could kill up to 1.4 million birds of all species per year by 2030 as the wind energy industry continues to expand.

    “Chokecherry and Sierra Madre, the largest onshore wind farm planned in the United States, would annually kill 10 to 14 golden eagles, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projected in a draft environmental study released Wednesday. That figure represents a substantial reduction from the 46 to 64 golden eagle fatalities estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2012.

    ” The U.S. Bureau of Land Management estimated in 2012 that all 1,000 turbines would kill 46-64 golden eagles. The Fish and Wildlife estimate, which applies only to the first phase, takes into consideration measures including wind turbine siting intended to reduce eagle deaths. ”

    “I estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities) at 51,630 megawatt (MW) of installed wind-energy capacity in the United States in 2012,” writes K. Shawn Smallwood, author of the study that was published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

    Killing large numbers of eagles and other birds can land a wind farms in court, as happened in 2014 when Portland, Oregon-based PacifiCorp pleaded guilty and was fined $2.5 million for killing 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds over five years at a Wyoming wind farm.

    Bill Evans has researched the impact of wind projects on birds and bats for 20 years. Evans was qualified as an expert in avian acoustic monitoring and nocturnal bird migration. He said that a number of species in Ontario, including the Purple Martin, have been in long-term decline, but Stantec did no surveys of Purple Martins during late summer when large numbers gather to roost. Evans noted that Purple Martin collision fatalities are increasing at Ontario wind facilities and made up 6.09% of all bird fatalities in 2014, higher than in 2012.

    Based on methods commonly used across the rest of North America, Smallwood estimates that Wolfe Island kills 21.9 birds per turbine per year. This is nearly twice the number reported by Stantec using searches only within a 50-foot radius, less than half of standard practice. Smallwood considers Wolfe Island one of the most dangerous wind projects on the American continent.
    “The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said that sonar, being used in seismic surveys to map the ocean floor “to find the best places to site windfarms, could be causing the whales to become disorientated and swim dangerously close to land. ”

    Kay Armstrong, who lives near a wind farm in Ontario, Canada, has reported that her home is now “virtually uninhabitable” due to the infrasound from the turbines disturbing her sleep and making her feel dizzy. She also says that local deer are agitated and awake all night, that birds are flying around all day rather than going to roost, and that seals in the area are suffering miscarriages. —non raptor issues too two people die from explosion at wind turbine: airplane safety concerns —-ca

    There are currently more than 4,000 turbines by the Altamont Pass.

    Wind turbines at Altamont Pass kill an estimated 880 to 1,300 birds of prey each year, including up to 116 golden eagles, 300 red-tailed hawks, 380 burrowing owls, and additional hundreds of other raptors including kestrels, falcons, vultures, and other owl species. The APWRA is an ecological sink for golden eagles and other raptor species and may be having significant impacts on populations of birds that are rare and reproduce infrequently.

    “Last June, the Los Angeles Times reported that about 70 golden eagles are being killed per year by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, about 20 miles east of Oakland, Calif. A 2008 study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency estimated that about 2,400 raptors, including burrowing owls, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks—as well as about 7,500 other birds, nearly all of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—are being killed every year by the turbines at Altamont.”

    Most of the bats die because their lungs collapse when they run into low air pressure around the tips of the wind turbines — not because they hit the towers or blades.

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