Monday, January 30, 2006

Wind Power Comes To New York State

Developers and environmental groups bill the emission-free power from Tug Hill as a source of electricity that can help stabilize energy prices and reduce acid rain, greenhouse gases and dependence on foreign oil, as well as generate income for New York.

Across New York, more than 5,000 megawatts of windmill projects are proposed. Current operating limits of the power grid allow for only 3,000 megawatts to be constructed, according to a report by New York Independent System Operator. The Guilderland-based nonprofit administers the state's wholesale electric market.

Reaching that mark would require more than 1,900 towers scattered across the state.

The first 120 towers of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm started spinning this month, more than quadrupling the state's wind power capacity.

This summer, another 75 windmills will be added to the site. When all 195 are in motion, they will produce more than 320 megawatts of electricity, or enough for some 250,000 to 300,000 average households, the Independent System Operator says.
But those wind farms are not without their detractors and significant costs. Building the towers requires communities to widen roads, tree stands have had to be cut, and the bucolic nature of the areas have changed with the construction - the sound of whirring rotors slicing into the wind has replaced the steady whoosh of the wind flowing through the countryside.

These communities that have permitted tower construction did so under Home Rule, but that doesn't mean that everyone in these communities is happy with the decision. Critics complain that the costs outweigh the benefits. Let's look at this more closely:
1) Critics complain about wind power, which is renewable, does not create greenhouse gases, and can be relatively cost-effective per kilwatt under certain circumstances;
2) Critics complain about gas and coal plants because of their emissions;
3) Critics complain about hydroelectric facilities because they change the hydrology and ecology of entire regions;
4) Critics complain about nuclear facilities claiming that they are unsafe, unnecessary, and create nasty radioactive waste that must be stored indefinitely in a secured storage facility.

Of those four options, which one would you think that environmentalists would get behind as a safe, renewable, and clean energy source? The answer is none - as witnessed by the complaints and opposition to building new power generation facilities using any of the aforementioned power sources. Some of the complaints simply boil down to NIMBYism, but some of the environmentalists are actually opposed to any kind of construction or expansion of power generation facilities, which means reduced economic opportunities for businesses that rely on power to operate.

Building these alternative power generation facilities lessens the demand for coal, oil, or gas power plants, but they are not a panacea. At some point new power generation facilities, and the power transmission lines to send power where it's needed, must be built to keep up with demand.

No comments: