What's the problem? Well, actually there are many problems, but the big
problem is that we human beings are polluting our planet and threatening the
future well-being of generations to come.
How are we doing this? Simply put, for a long time we've been exploiting our
natural resources and spending them on ourselves as if there's no tomorrow, and
now we're beginning to pay the price in the quality of our air, our waterways,
and our landscape. Our increasingly overpopulated world is becoming littered with the devices, leftovers,
and fumes of an increasingly industrialized consumer society, leaving less and
less room for nature to maintain the healthy balance we all need.
One result has been the acid rain that has rendered our Adirondack lakes
almost lifeless. Scientists have discovered that sulfur dioxide (SO2)
and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are the primary causes of acid rain. In the US, About
2/3 of all SO2 and 1/4 of all NOx comes from
electric power generation that relies on burning fossil fuels like coal.
Another result may be the more
controversial phenomenon of global warming
produced by the so-called "greenhouse effect," which is apparently
being augmented in part by the accumulation of carbon dioxide (CO2)
in the atmosphere. While CO2 is naturally
occurring, its concentration in our air has been increasing in the past century,
possibly from the
burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas to meet our society's growing
transportation, heating, and energy needs. If this warming trend continues, many
feel that catastrophic effects on the climate in general may result (the
"Inconvenient Truth" being promoted by Al Gore) while others are more
skeptical of these dire predictions (for instance, BBC's documentary, "The Great Global Warming
To address these concerns and others, our state and federal governments have
wisely begun instituting initiatives to protect our environment by fostering
conservation methods designed to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and
thereby reduce our toxic emissions.
The Local Economy
In the Town of Cohocton we face other difficulties. For years agriculture and
a number of small industries provided adequately for the community, but due to
changes in the market these have been in decline, leaving our tax base and
economic future in question. Tourism, viticulture, and recreational uses of the
land, which have been on the increase throughout the Finger Lakes region
reaching even as close as Naples and Italy Valley, have so far had little
noticeable effect on the Cohocton area.
A Promising Proposal
Recently an outside player, UPC Wind,
has entered this mix of global and local dilemmas with a proposed partial
solution, the installation of large industrial wind power plants in the Towns of
Cohocton and Prattsburgh which promise to reduce greenhouse gases by replacing
fossil fuel generation with clean wind power while providing modest local
revenues to help support individual landowners and bolster school and town tax
On the face of it, this sounds like a "win-win" idea without a downside. However, all
of us know instinctively if not by practical experience that very few things
fulfill all their promises and nothing in life
comes without a cost. That's where
problems with this proposal lie, with its promises and costs. What's being
promised, at what price, and who will be paying it? Nothing is really free.
A Serious Problem
One of the major promises put forward by UPC Wind on
their website is that "replacing energy produced by the current US average fuel supply with energy of a single 1.5 MW wind turbine annually reduces:
CO2 (greenhouse gases) = 6,900,000 lbs, SO2 (acid rain) = 36,800 lbs, NOx (smog) = 22,500 lbs.
This is equivalent to burning: 2,000 tons of coal or 6,550 barrels of oil."
What a promise! In an ideal world, the simplistic math behind these calculations
would hold true: wind turbines up, greenhouse gases down. Unfortunately, the
situation is far from simple, and it is highly unlikely that wind power will
ever successfully displace greenhouse gas production, as this
article by Jon Boone outlines in very clear detail.
The Price We Will Pay
On another downside, there are three major costs - unsightliness,
noise, and loss in property
value. The first two fall into the category of environmental pollution and
primarily have to do with quality of life, while the third has direct
implications for the financial well-being of the Town itself as well as
individual property owners.
In the Promises section to follow,
we will look at each of these costs in more detail. We will also evaluate the
claims being made about how much usable power
would actually be generated by an onshore wind power plant in our region and
what impact, if any, such an installation would have on greenhouse gas
production. Our conclusion is that the
costs of the proposed project far outweigh any potential benefits, not only to
society at large but to the residents and landowners of Cohocton.
Just to get a preliminary view, this graphic illustration depicts the size and loudness of the towers
originally selected by UPC Wind and its associates for the neighboring Town of