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Green energy has risks for Lake Erie

Commentary: Turbine debate keeps spinning

Recent letters by those who promote offshore wind turbines in Lake Erie (Jan. 9) make assumptions and comparisons that deserve questions. Lake Erie wind may be abundant and free, but machinery needed to convert it to electricity is expensive, unreliable and environmentally disastrous.

Fossil fuel has simply morphed into the Wind Turbine Industry. Their marketing tactics come from a timeshare sales playbook. They thrive not by energy production but by politics, subsidies, tax breaks and wishful thinking. Petroleum based components, mining, concrete and steel are the heart and soul of wind turbines, their manufacture bringing destruction to environments in other countries. We are unaware so we can call ourselves clean.

I have observed the “Steel Winds” turbines we already have on the Lackawanna shoreline for 12 years. Does anyone know if production ever reaches advertised “capacity?” They constantly draw electricity from the grid; to run their computers, prime machinery for motion, power their flashing red lights … whether or not there is wind.

It would be interesting to see their electric bill! They function in only a certain range of wind speeds, in light breezes and very strong winds they are still as statues.

They were motionless for months at 2020’s end, undergoing $21 million in repairs. They are as fussy as the wind is fickle. It’s anyone’s common sense conclusion, no need to even see data, that “homes powered” would be mostly dark and cold.

Lake Erie is precious fresh water for millions in the U.S. and Canada. It is a vast wilderness where ships are visitors just passing through. All commercial shipping ceases in winter. The turbines would be permanently out there, getting a constant thrashing in harsh weather.

Will their “drip pans” catch the oil leaks or be tipped and power washed by waves and rain? Do we have the blind faith that oil changes will be neat and tidy, substantial amounts in each machine under pressure and suspended high above our drinking water? Will frozen blades have chemical de-icers applied?

Would companies care if they stir up our toxic past as trenching is done for high voltage cables?

Lake Erie fish, with different biology and less living space than ocean fish, will have the concrete bases plunked onto their spawning beds. Currents and nutrients will be displaced. Vibrations from the spinning motion above will be carried down to the depths. Hundreds of feet up the migratory paths of flying creatures will be a deadly gauntlet run. None of this even begins to compare with the static structures we already have that are confined to areas and not sprawling for miles.

Our lake and its wildlife has had 50 years of painful recovery from past industry and we take for granted our hydropower that can be vastly improved. Knowing all this, what motivates people to promote Lake Erie’s re-industrialization by global companies into a disruptive miles long power plant and be convinced that wildlife and our Earth will be the better for it? Is it true love for this Great Lake and the planet, or is it something else?

Mary Hensen is an East Aurora resident and member of the Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie.

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