December 8, 2005

Chautauqua wind: threat to birds, no benefits

The New York Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the avian risk assessment (ARA) produced for a wind project in Chautauqua County. It is withering in its criticism of the ARA's assumptions, methods, and conclusions. A PDF (13 MB) of the document is available at Chautauqua Wind Power. It also takes issue with the claimed benefits.
While electricity derived from "green" energy sources other than fossil fuels will reduce harmful emissions, the placement of wind turbines within an avian flyway certainly would not have greater environmental benefits to wildlife. ... The ARA authors argue that producing electricity from nonrenewable sources will have greater social, environmental, and economic impacts. However, there is no indication that the [Chautauqua Wind Project] will replace any other electricity source .... (pages 35-36)

We agree that there are serious consequences associated with burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, and we support energy policies which promote renewable sources, such as wind and solar, to provide alternate forms of electricity. However, construction of wind energy facilities will not reduce air pollution emissions at existing power generation facilities. Coal, oil, and nuclear generating facilities must be kept in operation and online to provide the main source of electricity, especially when the wind resources are not turning the turbine blades. The intermittency of wind, coupled with the fact that the times of peak availability of wind resources in a given location may not coincide with the times of peak demand for electricity, makes wind energy less suitable from an energy standpoint. ... Due to the intermittent nature of wind-generated electricity, none of the existing coal, oil, or nuclear powered generation facilities will be shut down or run as reserve units. (page 36)

New York State has pushed for reducing air pollution emissions at existing power plants ... Operating changes in these power plants will be more effective at reducing emissions than constructing thousands of wind turbines across the landscape. (page 37)
In other words, discussion of the shortcomings of other sources is irrelevant, as those sources will not be reduced by the construction of wind turbines. Only the shortcomings of wind power itself need be discussed. Because their contribution will be minimal (if measurable at all) any negative impact is reason to reject construction.

(Another analysis of the Chautauqua ARA was done by Mark Duchamp.)

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