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Windmills split upstate towns

John Yancey stands on his property with wind turbines
from the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in background

Windmills divide towns and families throughout upstate

Profits not enough to offset intrusion for some

"Listen," John Yancey says, leaning against his truck in a field outside his home.

The rhythmic whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of wind turbines echoes through the air. Sleek and white, their long propeller blades rotate in formation, like some otherworldly dance of spindly-armed aliens swaying across the land.

Yancey stares at them, his face contorted in anger and pain.

He knows the futuristic towers are pumping clean electricity into the grid, knows they have been largely embraced by his community.

But Yancey hates them.

He hates the sight and he hates the sound. He says they disrupt his sleep, invade his house, his consciousness. He can't stand the gigantic flickering shadows the blades cast at certain points in the day.

But what this brawny 48-year-old farmer's son hates most about the windmills is that his father, who owns much of the property, signed a deal with the wind company to allow seven turbines on Yancey land.

"I was sold out by my own father," he sputters.

Click here to read the entire Associated Press report by Helen O'Neill.

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Whiff of Corruption

In Rural New York, Windmills Can Bring Whiff of Corruption

Click on image to view a slide show

BURKE, N.Y. — Everywhere that Janet and Ken Tacy looked, the wind companies had been there first.

Dozens of people in their small town had already signed lease options that would allow wind towers on their properties. Two Burke Town Board members had signed private leases even as they negotiated with the companies to establish a zoning law to permit the towers. A third board member, the Tacys said, bragged about the commissions he would earn by selling concrete to build tower bases. And, the Tacys said, when they showed up at a Town Board meeting to complain, they were told to get lost.

“There were a couple of times when they told us to just shut up,” recalled Mr. Tacy, sitting in his kitchen on a recent evening.

Lured by state subsidies and buoyed by high oil prices, the wind industry has arrived in force in upstate New York, promising to bring jobs, tax revenue and cutting-edge energy to the long-struggling region. But in town after town, some residents say, the companies have delivered something else: an epidemic of corruption and intimidation, as they rush to acquire enough land to make the wind farms a reality.

“It really is renewable energy gone wrong,” said the Franklin County district attorney, Derek P. Champagne, who began a criminal inquiry into the Burke Town Board last spring and was quickly inundated with complaints from all over the state about the wind companies. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo agreed this year to take over the investigation.

Click here to read the entire New York Times article by Nicholas Confessore.

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Hamlin Residents File Suit

Hamlin residents sue to block wind farm plans

by Michael Zeigler, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Staff writer

Hamlin residents who oppose a new town law regulating the development of wind farms have sued the town.

The Hamlin Preservation Group and 39 town residents filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court against the law, claiming it will ruin Hamlin’s rural nature and environment.

The Hamlin Town Board unanimously approved the law at a contentious meeting April 24. One board member abstained because he had signed a lease agreement with a wind energy firm

The law, which was the first passed by a town in Monroe County, allows electricity-producing wind turbines up to 400 feet high in parts of town zoned residential-very low density. Turbines may be placed within 600 feet of property lines and 1,200 feet of residences.

Attorney Arthur J. Giacalone, who represents the Hamlin Preservation Group, said about 70 percent of the town is zoned residential-very low density, including fruit orchards near Lake Ontario. He said the town board ignored recommendations of its Wind Tower Committee to establish 1,200-foot setbacks from roads and property lines and 2,640-foot setbacks from homes.

Town Supervisor Dennis Roach didn’t immediately return a call requesting his comment.



A wind superpower?

New York's future:
A wind superpower?

Wind power accounts for 1 percent of New York's generating capacity - the amount of electricity power plants could produce in a given moment if they ran full tilt. When it comes to the electricity actually generated and consumed over a full year - the kilowatt hours a customer would be charged for on an RG&E bill, for example - wind produces less than 1 percent.

To compare, nuclear and hydroelectric account for 27 percent of the state's capacity, but 45 percent of the actual electricity generated. Those two sources, for the time being, are the most economical in New York, says Gary Paslow, manager of communications for New York Independent System Operator, the organization that oversees the state's power grid. That's because of the rising cost of fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.

But New York is attractive to wind developers. There's enough wind to power the turbines, state policies require increasing use of renewable energy, and laws allow consumers to specifically choose to buy wind power.

What's tough to get at is just how much wind power New York could produce. The American Wind Energy Association, an industry group, ranks the state as 15th in the nation in terms development potential. But one of the most reliable estimates comes from NYISO. In a 2005 analysis, the organization studied 101 prospective wind generating sites in New York State.

The sites had a total potential capacity of 10,026 megawatts, says the analysis. One megawatt can power up to 1,000 homes.

But there are caveats that go along with that number: capacity is only one part of the picture, and since developers can't control when the wind blows, it's tough to predict actual output over time; the potential capacity is based on peak, not average, output; not all of the sites will be developed; and there are physical limits to what the state power grid can handle from an intermittent power source like wind.

The last bit is crucially important as a limiting factor. The NYISO study says that, based on technical factors and physics, the grid can only handle 3,300 megawatts of wind power.

Click here to read the whole article by Jeremy Moule in Rochester's City Newspaper.

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Wind energy will not reduce dependence on oil

To the Editor, Syracuse Post-Standard:

Integrity of all government-regulated and supported programs is an absolute requirement in a democratic society. However, characterizing wind energy as a "vital industry" demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of wind energy's capabilities to contribute in a significant way to our energy needs.

If your editor had attempted to understand some simple technicalities of wind energy, via even a cursory glance at readily available resources, he/she would have learned the following:

1) Wind energy is produced intermittently, frequently at times when electricity demand is lowest and not at all when demand is highest (picture a sultry summer day with AC on high is there much air moving?).

2) Because of the unpredictability and intermittency of wind generators, the whole infrastructure of existing fossil and nuclear units must remain and grow with increasing demand, regardless of the number of wind generators. As evidenced by experience in other parts of the United States and the world with significant wind generating capability, the efficiency of the controllable fossil infrastructure is reduced, contributing more greenhouse gases to the environment.

3) The list of tax and other incentives from both the state and federal governments is astounding. Look at the reasons that the Spanish company, Iberdrola, is refusing to buy Energy East unless it can also own wind farms, contrary to the recommendation of the state oversight authority.

Iberdrola would pay greatly reduced or no taxes because of the generosity of the state and federal governments toward wind farms. Guess who will shoulder the burden of the lost revenue?

4) Contrary to the beliefs of many, wind energy will not reduce our dependence on oil, foreign or domestic. About 3 percent or less of electricity is produced nationally by burning oil, and most of that generation is from burning low-grade oil residues that are unsuitable for refining into other fuels. There are many other arguments as well that are unfavorable to wind energy.

The rage "du jour" is wind energy. Questioners of wind energy are excoriated, effectively eliminating sound decision-making. Why do you think that there are ethical problems in the state requiring investigation by the attorney general? Surely you don't believe that it's because all of these enthusiastic supporters of wind energy are fighting to save the world, do you?

Frank J. Congel

Three Mile Bay

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