By Kit Kennedy
Wind power offers New York a host of benefits that are poised to grow as the state scales up this crucial, pollution-free technology and works to meet the ambitious goal of getting 50 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030: 2,855 jobs so far, lease payments to rural landowners of between $5 million and $10 million in 2016, and $3.7 billion in industry investment to date.
The biggest renewable energy procurement in state history, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week and which can create as many as 40,000 clean-energy jobs by 2020, will further build these benefits. Western New York, with some of the strongest wind speeds in the state, can take full advantage.
That’s why a bill before the State Senate, S1755, to stop wind power development within 40 miles of military bases throughout New York makes no sense. Introduced by State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, the bill would effectively halt wind power development here because each of these 40-mile zones would exclude about 5,000 square miles, about the size of the state of Connecticut.
Ortt says his legislation would end what he calls “the negative impact wind turbines could pose” to military bases. But the truth is that the Pentagon already has a thorough process in place to ensure that renewable energy development doesn’t conflict with military operations.
Having worked with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to develop a primer on siting renewable energy projects, I know how rigorous the military’s review process is. If the DOD or any local base objects to a wind power project and the Federal Aviation Administration upholds that objection, it can stop the project until the technical issues are resolved.
Moreover, the Pentagon embraces wind power and is using it to help get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025 – a goal developed under George W. Bush’s administration. And wind turbines producing cost-effective, pollution-free electricity are stationed on some of its bases.
Meanwhile, the legislation would deny New Yorkers a host of advantages from wind energy: good jobs, improved air quality, lease payments to rural landowners, increased tax revenue to local governments and lower prices in our wholesale electricity markets. The legislation would also make it almost impossible for New York to meet its goal of getting 50 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030. That New York State goal is now more important than ever, given the Trump administration’s foolhardy decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
Wind power delivers jobs and benefits to our communities and our environment. Thorough military review processes are already in place. Let’s not put these benefits at risk. The New York State Senate should reject S1755 now.
Kit Kennedy is director of the energy program for the Natural Resources Defense Council and vice chairwoman of the board of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.