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Another Voice: State’s renewable energy program should be extended

By Harold Ross

When people hear that I work as a logger, driving a team of horses as I harvest trees from working forests in Arkwright, Chautauqua County, they assume that I am an old-fashioned kind of guy who is not a fan of modern technology, such as wind turbines. However, this is not the case. I believe that technology is an integral part of life, intertwined in everything we do. One common denominator exists among the modern benefits technology affords us: they require electricity.

When you picture power being generated, you might picture large strip mining pits, destroying the land that we work and love. While no solution to our energy dilemma is perfect, there is one way to maintain our modern lifestyle without ripping apart our beautiful, natural landscapes: by using wind power.

Like my decision to use horses to move logs, using wind turbines to make electricity is the cleanest, smartest and safest choice for our community. Both rely on local resources for fuel – the turbines rely on the strong winds to create power for our homes, while my horses convert the hay they eat into the energy needed to move logs. And neither releases dangerous chemicals into the air we breathe.

In a way, using wind turbines for power is even more beneficial than my horses, because wind farms also generate reliable jobs for our community in construction and operation. Additionally, wind farms will provide significant revenue through the substantial property taxes the wind energy producer will pay, which will benefit our children by increasing funding to our schools.

Currently, a wind farm is being developed here in Arkwright. I am proud to say that part of the facility will sit on my land. My neighbors and I have worked for years to try to make a wind farm happen here, and finally the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard program made it happen.

Under this program, clean energy companies compete with each other in a market to offer the best projects at the best price, driving down the cost of clean power and giving our customers the biggest bang for their buck.

This successful program is ending in 2015. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the chance to continue it – and make it stronger – and I believe he should. Without an updated renewable energy policy, rural communities like Arkwright will lose the opportunity to boost local revenue and generate much-needed jobs.

Relying on local resources to meet our power needs is a smart idea for Arkwright – just ask anyone who has ever seen my horses move logs without burning a gallon of gasoline brought in from the Middle East or the Gulf of Mexico. Cuomo should make sure that New York has a new renewable energy program that attracts clean energy companies, and the job security they’ll provide, to our state for a long time to come.

Harold Ross is a logger in Chautauqua County.