Yates is a bad fit for big turbines, for many reasons

Posted 20 October 2015 at 12:00 am


“Please don’t let outside influence change our town.” That was wind-turbine proponent Harvey Campbell’s appeal in his recent letter to the editor regarding wind turbines in Yates. His statement is loaded with irony.

I have done “research” on wind turbines as well and have been contributing to environmental groups for decades. Mr. Campbell may recall the maxim, “One size doesn’t fit all.”

Energy from wind is generally inexhaustible. Though it is great for a place such as Roscoe, Texas, in my view, it would be incredibly more environmentally disruptive here. And it is much more disruptive than roof-mounted solar panels.

In a desolate, under-populated, environmentally sterile, location such as Roscoe, wind turbines make perfect sense. Provided one views Orleans County as a relatively lifeless and under-populated environment, the environmental cost of an industrial wind turbine project would be minimal here. No one I know views Orleans County in this way.

Similarly, most of Yates teems with life and biological diversity. It is in the Atlantic Flyway. Four years ago, researchers from The Nature Conservancy described the trees at Lakeside Park in nearby Carlton as “dripping with warblers” during the spring migration. The Park is used by migratory birds to rest and refuel before crossing Lake Ontario. As with Orleans County generally, lakefront environmental assets are priceless.

Years ago, the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) made it clear to the Orleans County Legislature that solar energy is a viable alternative here.

I assume he is sincere when Mr. Campbell contrasts open space-consuming solar arrays with ½ acre turbine footprints. I certainly agree that, in most cases, erecting solar panels in open space makes little sense, especially for us. Roof-mounted panels are clearly preferable.

However, though I assume he means well, Mr. Campbell stands reality on its head with his fallacious suggestion that wind turbines take up half an acre. The access and service roads necessary to erect and service turbines consume far more space and rapidly disappearing woodland habitat. (This puts aside the fact that solar panels can be removed as readily as they are installed and that is hardly the case with 500 foot industrial wind turbines.)

We live in a relatively densely populated rural area even if that sounds oxymoronic on its face. The setbacks for wind turbines would, in most of Orleans County, place them in the middle of wooded areas. The space consumed would be important, increasingly threatened, wildlife habitat.

Unfortunately, what could happen in Yates may not stay in Yates.

Sincerely yours,

Gary F. Kent