State, wind energy developer need protections for Barre with many unknowns in ‘experiment’
After reading the many comments posted on the State’s DMM site regarding the proposed wind project in the Town of Barre, it occurs to me that what we have here is an experiment: We have a new approval process (Section 94-c); we have a project using larger machines than have ever been used in a densely populated rural part of the United States (680 ft. tall); and the wind resource is far from ideal.
All the experts, on both sides, are of necessity basing their opinions on extrapolations of past experience with different conditions. So we don’t really know whether people’s health or property values will suffer, or whether the project will actually produce the amount of electricity promised.
If the state is going to use the people of Barre as subjects in this experiment, it should also provide some measure of protection for them in case the promises and assurances made to them by the state and the developer turn out to be false.
A fund should be established to pay claims from those injured by the project during its construction and after it is operational. The corporations benefiting from the project should finance this fund.
Baseline property appraisals and health assessments should be conducted at project approval, and changes monitored throughout the process. The amount of electrical energy both generated and consumed by the project should be monitored and made public regularly, to see if the project lives up to the claims that justified its public support.
This is really the only way to be fair to the people whose lives will be disrupted by this project. Complaint resolution procedures have often proved to be inadequate, leaving people to spend their life savings on lawsuits where they are often outmatched by corporations with far greater financial resources.
At the same time, knowing that there may be real repercussions for building a project that is causing demonstrated harm, all wind developers working in New York State will be encouraged to be on their best behavior. Why do we care about this? Well, if the state is to meet the ambitious goals it has set for renewable energy production, it will eventually have to construct similar wind developments throughout the state, even around Cooperstown, or in the Hudson Valley, or out on Long Island.
If the Barre experiment fails, public pressure against future projects may spell the death of on-land wind development in the State of New York.