ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: Having it both ways — Growing NIMBYism | Environment

America must realize that there is no easy or quick solution to our energy problem.

The energy issue – in my humble opinion – is not a matter of politics but rather must be determined by a real business plan. America has been spoiled for so long when it comes to energy that any change or disruption will take us out of our “God-given” comfort zone. Americans can no longer say “let them eat cake” to the servants of alternative energy.

Governor Hochul’s recent proposals move forward to replace fossil fuels. She realizes that our best, and currently most efficient, alternatives to fossil fuels are wind and solar power. These are the cheapest forms of electrical power generation today, while nuclear power is the most expensive not only to build but also to maintain, by far.

This change, however, comes at a cost. Even if New York State can replace most of its electricity needs at current usage levels, the question remains as we phase out fossil fuels: can we keep pace with growing electricity use for AI and electric vehicles? Not only that, will the public accept it? For now, they don’t all agree.

The voice of the opposition

The challenge of providing the energy of the future faces opposition. I see that many members of our local communities are unhappy with solar and wind energy. They see that agricultural land is being converted to produce solar energy. For them, this disrupts the rural setting of our land.

Agricultural land is more advantageous for solar energy because it is flat, does not require clearing, and is close to power lines. This appears to be the motivation to move into agriculture and instead seek out less farmable land like the many landfills and “brown” sites like those left by coal burning facilities that require massive cleanup budgets.

The real reasons

I get misty-eyed every time a “concerned citizen” expresses their opinion on alternative energy as an environmental risk. There has been a lot of opposition in our district and adjacent districts regarding wind turbines on Lake Ontario. Wind power on Lake Ontario has been shown to provide a substantial portion of renewable energy for New York State’s future.

Another example of “concerned citizens” is Ohio, a red state that has approximately 1.38 million acres of farmland devoted to corn for ethanol production. The good citizens of Ohio have been protesting the advent of solar farms, which currently occupy approximately 92,000 acres. That translates to a ratio of 1 to 15 acres, or 6.7 percent of current acreage, for “corn to ethanol,” so to speak. Yet, not a word from these good citizens concerned about the cultivation of corn with ethanol and its ramifications. Which indeed impacts the environment in terms of water use, harmful runoff, effect on the jet stream, use of pesticides and herbicides.

This is the reality

Impact on Animals: Concerns about solar panels harming animals generally stem from land use changes associated with large solar farms rather than the panels themselves. These farms can disrupt local wildlife habitats, especially if they are not properly managed. However, with appropriate planning and environmental considerations, the impact on wildlife can be minimized. (Popular science)

Water pollution: The potential for water pollution from solar panels is often linked to the construction and decommissioning phases of solar farms, rather than the panels directly contaminating water. For example, poor soil management during the construction of solar farms can lead to soil erosion and sediment runoff, which can contaminate local water sources. This is a manageable problem with proper erosion controls and compliance with environmental regulations (Popular science).

Fire Risk: Although solar panels can technically catch fire, such incidents are extremely rare. The main causes of fires are usually related to faulty installation, product defects or external influences such as water ingress into connectors. Proper installation and maintenance are essential to mitigate these risks (The fire protection association).

NIMBY worries about the wind

Health problems: Wind turbine noise is a common complaint. Residents report problems such as trouble sleeping, headaches, dizziness and other symptoms attributed to the noise from the turbines. This includes low-frequency noise and infrasound, which some consider harmful even though they are not always audible (The Heartland Institute).

Environmental impact: Concerns extend to the impact on local wildlife and ecosystems. For example, concerns have been raised about potential effects on marine life, including increased whale mortality, although studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have not established a direct link. with the activities of wind turbines. Instead, whale deaths have been attributed more to entanglements with debris and large vessel traffic (Focus on New York).

Community disruption: The South Fork Wind Farm project, which plans to install 15 wind turbines off the coast of Long Island, has faced opposition because of the proposed route of its power cable. The Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott (CPW) says construction of the cable would disrupt the local landscape, increase traffic and pose a fire hazard. They also raise concerns about chemical contamination from a Superfund site at a nearby airport (Coalition of Governors for Wind Energy).

Economic and aesthetic concerns: Some opposition comes from fears of decreased property values ​​and the visual impact of wind turbines on the landscape. This is particularly strong in tourist and resort areas like the Hamptons, where local residents have launched major campaigns against projects perceived as harming their environment and way of life (Coalition of Governors for Wind Energy) (Focus on New York).

We all want clean energy, clean and abundant water and safe disposal of our waste. But apparently we prefer aesthetics over real environmental issues. However, some factions don’t like seeing windmills in our windows or disrupting our lake view or solar panels altering the rural landscape. It appears that these factions will not apply the same measure of concern when it comes to fossil coal-fired power plants or coal ponds that dump toxic materials into our lakes, as well as the storage of dangerous spent nuclear fuel, cost of military intervention to protect the oil. shipping or hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

In conclusion (in my humble opinion*)I support using rooftops as the primary source for solar installation, and then using uncultivable land, especially landfills and brownfields, as a second choice. Wind turbines can easily be installed on land, with an efficient grid system. We also need to be concerned about the profit motive behind these large solar field installers who can cherry-pick their installation sites. Installing solar panels on existing roofs is much more advantageous and cost-effective. We should also reconsider solar fields instead of “ethanol corn” and clear-cutting corn for future ethanol corn. It is a fact that solar fields produce much more energy than corn to produce ethanol for the same unit of space. If we have to complain, let’s offer a solution too.

* The author’s opinion is always humble.

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