Reducing consumption may be the only effective way to reduce carbon emissions

To the Editor:

Your March 19 editorial ends with the opinion that large-scale wind projects should be sited “in locations where they won’t hurt human health or the local economy,” an idea nobody should dispute. Adding new wind farms to an upstate grid that already provides 90 percent of electricity emissions-free (thanks to hydro- and nuclear power) when health and local economies are on the line does not appear to be wise. However, the editorial misses the mark by reciting the following articles of faith:

“We still believe, as we did then, that renewable energy is essential for the preservation of our Earth. Wind power is a clean and renewable energy source. It produces no pollution and is created every day by the heating and cooling of the earth. It is not affected by fuel price increases or supply disruptions. It creates more jobs per watt than all other energy sources, including oil and coal. Its cost is competitive with conventional sources. It can preserve farmland by providing steady, ongoing income for farmers while the land is still cultivated. Finally, and most importantly, there are enough reliably windy areas in the United States to produce three times as much electricity as the nation uses.”

Wind power requires the extraction and transportation of raw materials all over the world. Wind turbines will not operate without rare earth elements mined almost exclusively in China. Disruption of that supply would halt the building of wind turbines.

Wind turbine blades are not recyclable and will tax valuable landfill space. Wind farms rely on gas-fired backstop power plants when the wind slows down (or grows to more than 50 miles per hour). Wind farms cannot operate as grid-connected power plants without them.

These plants are very polluting because they are ramped up and down quickly, unable to operate at peak efficiency. Virtually no permanent jobs are created by such projects, as they are operated remotely and largely by software.

The cost of wind-powered electricity is much higher than other sources when state financing programs are considered. Nor do wind farms preserve farmland. They preserve a few farmers in the community, who sometimes vacate the land since they make much more from renting for wind project components.

Finally, the Tug Hill Plateau is about the only place in New York with optimum wind resources, and the state’s largest wind farm is already sited there. To get viable wind elsewhere requires turbines at least 600 feet tall, taller than Albany’s Corning Tower.

Reducing consumption rather than any technological fix may be the only effective way to reduce carbon emissions. Coronavirus has resulted in the first reversal since World War II of the growth in oil consumption, by about one million gallons every year. No amount of renewable energy around the world has done that.

As we take time to reconsider our priorities, wind energy should be on the list.

Gary Abraham

Humphrey, New York

Editor’s note: Gary Abraham is an environmental attorney based in western New York, working on Article 10 siting projects. Most of the information in his letter is found in “Power Trends 2019”, the annual report of the New York Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s electric grid.

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