Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We Really Need to Start Working Together - Now Wind Turbines are Bad - Maybe all alternative energy projects should be permitted by PADEP ?

NOT My Work !
"If there's an ideal spot in Lancaster County for wind turbines, James Warner said, Turkey Point is it.
The winds howl around the cliffs at the western edge of Manor Township. For 22 months, the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority maintained a 180-foot tower to measure the gusts and determine whether they are strong enough to generate power for the neighboring Turkey Hill Dairy. They are, said Warner, executive director of the waste authority. So the authority and PPL want to spend $9.5 million, including $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds, to erect two 360-foot turbines and generate one-quarter of the dairy's daily needs. "We're looking to leverage our assets," Warner said of the site and the winds that blow across it, "to promote renewable energy."

But this "green" project makes Kim Van Vleet and a growing chorus of opponents see red. Van Fleet, a biologist for Audubon Pennsylvania, calls the studies that preceded the proposal wholly inadequate. "They need to do at least another two to three years of studies" on bird migration, said Van Vleet, who fears the turbines could kill bald eagles, shorebirds and songbirds."We're not against them doing a renewable [energy] project," she said. "But we really need to re-examine wind power on biological issues and ecological impacts. There are definite drawbacks."

Both locally and nationally, such drawbacks are cited by a growing number of people who may, in theory, support "green" energy projects — but who often have grave concerns about proposals in their own communities.
Both the Obama and the Rendell administrations have made the development of renewable fuels a priority, and renewable energy projects have grown in number and scale. But many hit political or legal roadblocks that delay or even kill the projects outright; and while proponents say the local objections may be understandable and valid, they have the cumulative effect of stymieing the nation's move to alternative sources of energy.

Twice in the past decade a proposal to build an ethanol plant in Conoy Township sparked major opposition. Just last week, the Lancaster County Planning Commission recommended that East Drumore Township officials reject a proposed solar farm, saying that preserving farmland is more important. The situation has grown so common that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce runs a website called Project No Project (pnp.uschamber.com), a "repository of stalled and stopped energy projects" that details how "green power" often runs afoul of "green tape."

"These projects are being killed," said Bill Kovacs, the chamber's senior vice president for environment technology and regulatory affairs. "This is the story all over the country.  Last week a project that could be the poster child for the battle between renewable energy and local opposition finally received federal approval, after years of delays. The Cape Wind project, off Massachusetts' Nantucket Sound, would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, covering some 25 square miles and generating enough electricity to power 200,000 homes. Proponents say it will "deliver annual reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road," according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

The project has been mired in legal and local challenges since it was proposed in 2001. Many complaints are aesthetic; opponents, including the Kennedy family, say the turbines will hurt fishing and boating, and have a "destructive" effect on the local scenery. Others say the project violates "environmental laws and laws protecting the rights of Indian tribes in the area," the Journal reported. Locally, opposition to large-scale projects tends to be more pragmatic.

Last Monday, the Lancaster County Planning Commission reviewed plans for a 15-megawatt solar farm on an 88-acre tract in East Drumore Township. The planners — in the words of commissioner Matthew Young — deemed the proposal by Radnor-based Community Energy Inc. to be "a wonderful project — well done, well-thoughtout."

But despite the fact that the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture himself, Russell Redding, attended the meeting to support the proposal, the planners unanimously gave it a thumbs-down. Installing solar panels, they fear, would take the farmland out of production, putting even more pressure on a scarce and invaluable resource. "The commission is very supportive of alternative energy production, but we have a responsibility to be good stewards of a soil that's of national and global importance," said James Cowhey, planning commission executive director

Community Energy President R. Brent Alderfer remains upbeat, noting that if done right, the project might actually benefit local farmland. "We would not disturb the topsoil," Alderfer said; posts would merely be driven into the soil to support the panels, and the panels spaced far enough apart to allow sunlight to reach the ground. The company would then plant grasses that can restore soil nutrition. "We fully expect to show that after 20 years [the site] would have better soil nutrition than when we started," Alderfer said.
The company has not yet submitted its formal application to East Drumore Township; that could come within the month, Alderfer said. V. Merril Carter, chairman of the township board of supervisors, said the county planning commission's recommendation "would have a bearing on our decision, but this is still going to fall in our laps.

"No one really knows anything about this yet," he said; so far he's only gotten one letter from a resident complaining about the project.
But even if local opposition doesn't materialize, Cowhey said the project still should be shelved.
Given that solar farms require wide-open, sunlit spaces — which in Lancaster County means farmland — solar farms simply might not be a good fit here, he said.

"Maybe it's better located where the community doesn't treasure that resource like we do here in Lancaster County," he said.

Great Article - to read more

My Comments
If we are concerned about losing local control - this is one way to ensure we will not have it for long.  If we contiunously stall good projects out of fear we will not make any progress and the industry will lobby to take more of the control out of local hands. These types of local decisions are probably part of the reason why the Oil and Gas Legislation is controlled mostly by the State.  If we want alternative energy projects to be permitted and controlled by the state, local agencies need to continue to make bad decisions.

For most large scale alternative energy projects to be cost effective there are only certain areas where these projects are technically feasible.  If we prevent these projects in the most suitable areas out of local fear - this decision not only impacts the local community - but all residents of the State.   For example - there are only about 4 sections of Luzerne County where wind turbines are even feasible - Local agencies eliminated at least one - this is sad.  We complain about fuel and energy costs - lack of jobs and when a solution comes up that will help (not solve the problem) - we say we like wind - solar, but we do not like it here how about over there where it will not work, cost more (remember we pay this cost), or will not be as efficient.

The fear a solar farm will cause us to lose "valuable agricultural land" - ok if the farmer could make a living on the farm using solar panels or a combination of biofuels (switchgrass, etc) - this may save the farm, create local jobs, etc.  If we can not put solar and wind turbines in the east or off the coast and we can not put them out west because of potential impacts to the desert - then what are we do due.  I agree farmland is important, but this is not just a local asset - it is a State Resource that is owned by a citizen that is paying taxes.

If Drill Baby Drill is not the right direction - we need to back an effort to stop this endless effort to stall solid projects, because of missing or not having all the data.  We will never have all the data.

We need to establish alternative energy sources, I would love it if people would conserve, homes were made energy efficient, and government was efficient.  I do not want to adversely impact the environment, but as a scientist we sometimes have to make a "good guess" as professionals we have to use our "professional opinion".  We may not have all the facts - but if we waited to get every last piece of data- would never get anything done.  I would love to power my house with solar or wind - I can not because I do not have the space or sunlight - I may have been able to do this if the Bear Creek Project was approved - it was not.  I can not put up a turbine - because if it falls over it could land on my neighbors home - but both he and I can have trees that are larger, weight more that could take out our respective homes - this is a joke!

We need to stop this approach to alternative energy development and study after study.  The industry needs to conduct an evaluation, licensed professionals need to evaluate and review, regulators review, apponents argue permit with the State,  and if project is suitable regulators review, permit and monitor.   I would strongly consider adding a pre- and post-construciton monitoring of the project to evaluate impacts and then have the energy company cost 100% of the cost, 100 % of the implement to mitigate, and cover 100% of all damages.   If these local agencies do not start looking at the interest of the state citizens, then I believe that PA Law should change and take some of the control out of their hands - I do not like this approach and I do not want this to happen - but when you give someone the FACTs and they are impacted more by a persons guess, fear, or question - this is not the way decisions should be made. 

Also - maybe a Non-profit Organization needs to form to fight local decisions that prohibit or stall alternative energy projects - Something Titled - Pennsylvanian Coalition for Alternative / Renewable Energy and the Environment.

On the ethanol end - I would wait until cellulosic is figured out, but I imagine the community would be ok if the plant created alcohol and not ethanol.

No comments:

Post a Comment