By Pamela Atwater
Plans are afoot to blight the pristine skyline of Lake Ontario’s shores. Apex Clean Energy, a company based in Charlottesville, Va., wants to install 70 industrial wind turbines in the rural towns of Somerset (Niagara County) and Yates (Orleans County).
Projected to be as tall as 620 feet, the turbines would be the tallest in New York State. They would overshadow every building in Western New York, including the 38-story One Seneca Tower (529 feet) in downtown Buffalo. Save Ontario Shores (SOS), a citizen coalition of property owners in the towns of Yates and Somerset, was formed to oppose the installation of these behemoths.
New York State in 2011 removed constitutional home rule from local communities pertaining to the siting of electrical generation. The voice of residents and taxpayers needs to be heard.
Residents of both affected towns have responded in opposition in multiple surveys. The Somerset Town Board is 100 percent opposed and the Yates town supervisor, who had not opposed it, was voted out of office in November. The legislatures in Niagara and Orleans counties are on record against it.
New York State Sen. Rob Ortt told a packed meeting at the Barker Fire Hall on Dec. 8, “This project needs to stop. My focus is to kill the project.”
People around the world who live near turbines report a variety of health issues. Dr. Christopher Ollson, hired by Apex as a medical expert, at a Dec. 3 meeting of the Niagara County Board of Health brushed aside our concerns about the negative health impacts of turbines. “If people are concerned, they should see their local physician,” he was quoted as saying.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists have said wind turbines should not be sited within 3 miles of Great Lakes shorelines, because they would kill countless migratory birds and bats. Indications from radar studies in the area are that the Lighthouse Wind project would pose a “severe” threat. Local and national ornithological organizations, in reviewing regional multiyear studies and bird counts, concur.
In addition, the future of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is at stake. Wind factories interfere with military flight operations, which could play a major role during the next round of military base closings. More than 3,000 people are employed at the base. Rep. Chris Collins has written to the Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration voicing his concern.
The installed wind turbines in New York State produce only about 25 percent of their rated capacity and are heavily subsidized. The potential contribution to renewable energy of this particular project does not begin to balance the negative impacts to the community.
In the end, Lighthouse Wind just doesn’t make sense.
Pamela Atwater is president of Save Ontario Shores.