Provided image

This opinion piece was written by city of Ithaca residents Richard Entlich and Ilene Gaffin. It was NOT written by The Ithaca Voice. As always, we are eager to reprint alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To do so, contact us anytime at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com.

[do_widget id= text-55 ]

During several decades as residents of Tompkins County, one of our priorities has been to make lifestyle choices that support environmental sustainability, from walking to work to installing solar panels on our roof. Thus we were excited when we learned that a community-driven project called Black Oak Wind Farm (BOWF) was being planned in Enfield, home to the best wind resource in Tompkins Country, and was looking for local funding.

We chose to invest in BOWF, not as a pathway to wealth (the project gives investors zero return for at least ten years) but as an investment in our planet’s future, and a way to say “Yes” to an energy source far cleaner and safer than the fossil fuels and nuclear power that local residents have been criticizing for years.

We were especially impressed by the community aspects of the project, and the obvious care and attention that its designers have given to minimizing risks and annoyances to the lives of nearby residents.

In reviewing the project’s background, we learned that over its ten-year history, it has undergone rigorous environmental review, numerous public hearings, and a dramatic downsizing (from 20 to 7 turbines) in order to address the concerns of neighbors and town officials.

This was important to us because it demonstrates BOWF’s willingness to sacrifice revenue in order to be a responsible community actor.

We were surprised, therefore, to hear that despite the lengthy and meticulous review process, substantial added expense for the quietest, safest, and most sophisticated turbines available, with permitting approved, and having already purchased part of its equipment, BOWF is facing delays that may threaten its viability.

Some Enfield residents are raising objections based on fears that have been discredited by researchers or that simply aren’t relevant to the kind of turbines planned. While no technology is 100% safe, in terms of the risk to people and the environment, including to those in closest proximity, wind farms are substantially safer than the power sources we currently rely on most heavily.

Furthermore, failure to complete BOWF will have a host of negative consequences. Ten years of effort will have been wasted. Millions of dollars, mostly invested by Tompkins County residents, will be lost, likely putting a severe damper on the willingness of local residents to fund other community energy projects.

The Town of Enfield as well as nearby school districts will lose numerous economic benefits and infrastructure improvements that the project would otherwise have brought (see this link <http://www.blackoakwindny.com/faq/community-benefits/>for a full list).

Many good-paying, local construction jobs won’t be created. The County will lose the research, educational, and even tourist benefits that BOWF would bring. And local municipalities and educational institutions that have made a commitment to sustainability and fighting climate change by switching to clean energy sources will be that much farther from achieving their goals.

Solar power is wonderful, but it alone, even if paired with aggressive conservation measures, cannot overcome dependence on nuclear power, coal, oil, natural gas, and all the risks and toxic effects that accompany them. As Tompkins County’s demand for electricity continues to grow, additional alternative energy sources, including wind, are needed.

When operational, BOWF’s 7 turbines will cleanly and quietly produce more than twice the electricity annually as all of the currently operating solar panels in Tompkins County combined, especially at night and during wintertime when solar output is absent or weak. With over 70% of all electricity in New York currently generated by gas- and nuclear-powered plants, the gently spinning turbines of BOWF will provide a graceful reminder that local, clean, and safe alternatives to fracking gas and splitting atoms are available in Tompkins County, and we are committed to using them.

Others who share that commitment may want to attend the public hearing <http://townofenfield.org/public-hearing-march-28-wind-energy-facility-permit/>on the newly revised BOWF plan, taking place at the Enfield Elementary School on Monday, March 28, 2016 at 7:00PM.

[do_widget id= text-61 ]

Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.