The Lies and deceptions by the wind industry are well documented. What makes this local Board and officials think that this project is any different?
On the road to truthiness
SEPTEMBER 21, 2018 | Perry White | Watertown Daily Times
We recently ran a story about opponents of the Galloo Island Wind Farm project demanding that developer Apex Clean Energy be disqualified and denied a permit because of apparent lies made in more than one application filing.
Our editorial board determined we would support the opponents’ demands because permitting for wind projects is far too important to let material falsehoods become the rule. And the history of commercial wind developers, here and elsewhere, indicates that lies and misstatements of fact are commonplace.
Over in the towns of Yates and Somerset, Apex announced a hearing and public informational session on its proposed Lighthouse Wind that was scheduled to be held in the town of Medina. Medina is not within Lighthouse Wind’s footprint. When questioned by town officials, they were told Apex tried to get a site closer to the affected area but were shut out.
But officials subsequently learned, according to a letter to the editor in the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, that before complaints started to arise, none of the likely available spots within the project area had been contacted by the company.
There is a lot of concern within the communities on the south shore of Lake Ontario about the Lighthouse project. Town elections have swung on the issue, with candidates opposed to the project being elected to office after the controversy took root.
Somerset has enacted local zoning laws that put strict limits on various aspects of commercial wind projects. The opponents clearly outnumber the proponents, and these two towns have spoken pretty clearly that the majority should prevail.
Apex, meanwhile, has left both towns largely in the dark. The Union-Sun reported that even after an Oct. 2 public meeting was announced for Lyndonville, town of Yates, “An Apex spokeswoman declined to say whether specific details of the proposed project, such as tower height or locations, would be presented at the forum.”
The hallmark of this ongoing process has been a refusal to share information with the public or even public officials. The inability to commit to revealing project information at its own public informational session is astounding.
According to the Union-Sun: “In July, the company said it plans to erect 40 to 50 turbines that are less than 600 feet tall. That’s a downsize from past project plans, which called for 60 to 70 turbines at … heights of over 600 feet.”
To date, the company has not revealed where the towers are planned or any other important details sought by the community. Nor has it suggested how 50 turbines will generate 200 megawatts of wind power on lower tower heights; in other areas, it has been achieved with 400-foot towers with far larger than previous generation rotors.
For example, Copenhagen Wind towers are about 100 feet taller than the older Maple Ridge Wind facility, boosting per-tower output with larger blades and nacelles, the tower generating units.
There is a pattern of obfuscation and exaggeration by commercial wind developers. Apex, for example, points to 100 property owners’ signatures on a letter of support.
But between Somerset and Yates, that would yield a very low percentage of the total parcels. And it is likely that every property owner who will receive direct financial payments from Apex would feel compelled to sign that document, putting a large number of the 100 in question.
Apex and other developers routinely point to the vast economic development potential of their projects, pointing proudly to the tax benefits counties, towns and school districts will receive. They do not, however, explain that those payments depend on payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreements that provide PILOT payments of pennies on the dollar compared to full taxation of the projects once built.
The wind companies also rely on a complex series of mergers and subsidiary companies that often obscure who the real owners are. You can be guaranteed, however, that not one dime of the profits from these facilities — profits almost entirely dependent on subsidies paid by taxpayers — will ever land in an upstate New York bank.
The other economic benefit that developers cite is the number of jobs created. They can point to big numbers during construction, but that never exceeds a full calendar year. Copenhagen Wind, which could go online in November, was started last fall. But the bulk of construction labor was hired in this calendar year for a 40-turbine project.
Once the project is online, the long-term job benefits typically range between five and seven workers. The jobs claim is a huge misdirection, employed by every developer who has come to upstate New York pushing projects.
All of this is why the siting board should reject the Apex application and ensure no subsequent applicants with any connection to Apex be allowed to reapply. Apex is working its way through Public Service Department review for Lighthouse Wind. And if the lie over Galloo is allowed to stand, it will be a sign to every wind developer, and especially Apex, that the siting process under Article 10 of Public Service Law is a mere formality on the way to a rubber-stamp approval.
Perry White, on a steep downhill slope to going, going, gone, is the managing editor of the Watertown Daily Times. Reach him, quickly now, at firstname.lastname@example.org.