Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Inherit The Wind Farm

Wind Power A Sound Idea, Yet An Ocean Away

With the cost of fossil fuels through the roof, and growing environmental concerns as sources of energy become more difficult to find without clearing the tundra and ejecting the caribou -- not to mention the insidious effects of global warming (and don't worry, the administration in Washington won't) -- folks from conservationists to pragmatists are looking to comparatively inexpensive, clean, and renewable sources to quell our pangs for power.

Topping the list, and fodder for much controversy on Long Island (what isn't these days?), is harnessing the vast power of a most readily available -- and completely free and environmentally friendly resource -- the wind.

There is talk -- and more than this, the prelude to action -- about wind farms off the Atlantic shore of Long Island, some 4 miles out to sea southeast of Jones Beach. Long Island Sound holds promise for another such field of blustery dreams, provided Broadwater doesn't make claim first, with it's floating natural gas facility.

The proposed Atlantic shore wind farm would harness enough of the offshore breezes to generate electricity for some 44,000 homes. Power that is clean, unlimited, and not subject to the whims of OPEC. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Nothing, say the folks at LI Offshore Wind Initiative, a consortium of "local, regional, and national environmental, civic, health, business and faith-based groups working to bring the environmental, economic and public health benefits of offshore wind energy to our region."

Plenty, say residents in opposition, including community organizations such as Save Jones Beach, a coalition of six south shore civic groups.

LIOWI tells us that in terms of fuel and emissions savings alone, the wind farm will generate enough electricity to offset significant amounts of air emissions every year, including an estimated:
489 tons of sulfur dioxide
221 tons of nitrogen oxide
235,000 tons of carbon dioxide (that's equivalent to 1/2 Billion car miles avoided)

Add to this the projection that, over 20 years, we will save the equivalent of 13.5 million barrels of oil, a savings of over $800 million (at $60/barrel).

Supporters site the following additional factors in advocating for a Long Island offshore wind farm:

• Freedom of energy supply
– Replaces dependence on foreign oil
• Environmentally sound
– Prevents emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants
• Reduces medical costs

Detractors bolster their case by pointing to:

• Visual impact
– Off the coast of popular beaches (state parks)
• Danger to wildlife
– Birds
– Fisheries
– Endangered species
• Hurts local fishing
• Energy source only feasible due to government assistance

Considerable dissension centers not so much upon the potential hazards to birds and wildlife -- the slow moving blades of the turbines, envisioned by some as giant electric knives ready to carve up untold flocks of Thanksgiving turkeys, clearly causing far less damage to the environment than existing power plant emissions or recurring spills from tankers, offshore rigs, and broken pipelines -- but rather, questionable cost saving and the visual/physical impact upon our beaches and shore communities.

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) supports the project (making it suspect from the get go), but so does the Long Island Neighborhood Network, giving it much credence.

There are the tax issues (Florida Power & Light, the project developer, stands to garner millions in both revenues and tax breaks), and the ugliness factor (although, few things are as unsightly as oil rig fires burning offshore, plumes of noxious gases spewing from power plant stacks, or oil soaked water fowl).

And then, there is the very real and immediate factor staring us right in the face: We can no longer afford to be held hostage to foreign oil, or to continue to destroy our planet by burning fossil fuels.

Yes, energy alternatives to wind power -- solar, hydrogen fuel cells, electromagnetic power, nuclear fusion -- are available. Some are years away from practical use. Others demand cost beyond the perceived benefits or are otherwise inefficient.

Wind power presents a viable -- and perhaps altogether necessary -- alternative for powering up Long Island. Despite the shortcomings of an offshore wind farm, and the vocal opposition thereto, the plan would seem worthy of further debate and consideration, and perhaps, ultimately, implementation.

While the complete answer to Long Island's energy woes may not be blowing in the wind (at least not entirely), to do nothing -- the equivalent of whistling in the wind -- is, as we have come to learn, a most dangerous fall back position.

No comments:

Post a Comment