Newsmaker of the month: Turbine ruling may have ripple effects on lakes

A decision to the west could have major ramifications on Western New York in the coming years. Earlier this month, by a 6-1 margin, Ohio state Supreme Court judges ruled in favor of placing wind turbines in Lake Erie.

As part of what is known as the Icebreaker wind project, the proposal includes a six-turbine wind-powered electric-generation facility on approximately 4.2 acres of submerged land in Lake Erie located between 8 and 10 miles off the shore of Cleveland that is expected to generate 20.7 megawatts of electricity. Supporters hope this small-scale demonstration project will provide information as to how offshore wind facilities interact with the environment and that will test the viability of large-scale wind facilities on Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.

Those here at home are not so sure. Across a number of properties near the lake are signs that oppose turbines in fresh waters — and for good reason.

In recent years in the Finger Lakes region, there was a battle brewing over hydro-fracking — the process of injecting water, sand, and/or chemicals into a well to break up underground bedrock to free up oil or gas reserves. The U.S. Geological Survey monitors the environmental impact of this practice across the country, from potential earthquakes to degraded groundwater quality.

Due to the lakes being a source of drinking water, the state Department of Environmental Conservation banned the practice due to worries about contamination. At this moment, no fresh-water lakes are home to turbines. This has a number of residents — including some Canadians who share the lake with the United States — worried.

“It is hard for us to imagine that with shared wildlife, water, and communities, fishing and water drinking, that there will ever be a common purpose to placing huge oil leaking bird killing economy bruising wind turbines in 20% of the world’s fresh water,” said Sherri Lange, chief executive officer of North American Platform Against Wind Power.

Lange also notes the province of Ontario is continuing an offshore moratorium in the lakes since 2011. She said at the present time there is no intention by the government to change the edict.

As for now, New York waits to see what happens in Ohio. Its impact, no matter what side of the wind argument you are on, could forever change the Great Lakes.


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