In an interview for a Buffalo News article about potential offshore wind turbines in Lake Erie, there was a misunderstanding of something I said. I did not say, and the Sierra Club certainly does not endorse, that we should “compromise” the survival and safety of wildlife and water with the need for renewable energy.
On the contrary, wind power is good for wildlife and for Great Lakes water. The unbridled burning of dirty fossil oil, gas and coal, with toxic leaks in water and on land, methane emissions in the air, and coal by-products such as mercury, lead and soot still arriving from Ohio, have harmed birds and fish for more than a century, and they are even more threatened by the advance of climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.
Lake freighters and other boats potentially discharge fuel and combustion products into the water. The sooner we replace these harmful fuels with clean wind, solar, and geothermal power, the healthier we and our neighbor species will be.
Moreover, the costs of wind and solar energy are steadily dropping relative to gas-fired and other fossil sources of electric power; a 70% decrease over the past 10 years for wind and 89% for solar, according to financial firm Lazard’s report, and these numbers are for unsubsidized costs. Fossil fuels have billions of dollars of annual direct and indirect subsidies while wind and solar subsidies are relatively modest and temporary. Wind and solar combined, along with rapid advances of energy storage and energy conservation, can meet all our power needs.
If proposals for offshore wind in the lakes pass all environmental tests, and earn Sierra Club approval, their construction will not stir up toxins on the lake bed. Wind structures would be prefabricated, with no drilling or other disturbance of more than a few days. Fish populations thrive around offshore wind turbines, which provide shelter for young fish. The turbines could be widely spaced and barely visible from shore.
Ellen Cardone Banks
Conservation chair, Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club