President Trump continues his years’ long dispute with wind turbines, claiming that wind turbines diminish home property values, cause cancer, and “kill all the birds.”
Wind turbines have not been found to diminish home values of nearby properties or cause cancer. According to numbers aggregated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, cats are a bigger scrooge to the overall bird community than wind turbines. The most recent estimate places the number of bird deaths at the paws of cats at 2.4 billion. Collisions from wind turbines on land killed a small fraction of birds in comparison to the damage that cats and glass buildings cause to the general bird population. Land wind turbines were responsible for over 200,000 bird deaths while collisions from building glass are estimated to be responsible for nearly 600 million bird deaths. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not provide estimates for deaths resulting from offshore wind turbines.
As the wind power industry grows and expands, the renewable’s relationship to its environment is coming under more intense scrutiny. While the relationship between wind turbines and different types of bird populations, particularly apex birds, is understudied, there is some evidence that turbines can hurt those populations. Hawaii, home to many endangered species, has taken extra steps to protect species that could be vulnerable to wind energy. The state requires all potential wind projects on both private and public land to have permits and conservation plans for the bird and bat population. Hawaii also documents animal mortality data from independent, third-party experts, with some wind farms subjected to steep fines for killing any federally protected birds.
As wind turbines become more common, reforms in this spirit could help alleviate some of the drawbacks of the new energy source.
Initially, Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott claimed that it supported the South Fork Wind Farm but did not want the cable buried under Beach Lane. Interesting, Wainscott made no objection earlier in the year to East Hampton Town and Suffolk County burying nine miles of water pipe in Wainscott roadways (including Beach Lane) when the water quality of Wainscott’s aquifer was called into question.
Next, C.P.W. argued that the cable should come ashore at Hither Hills. The plan was to bury it under Montauk Highway from Hither Hills through Amagansett and East Hampton Village and then up Route 114 to the Cove Hollow Road substation. This would be very disruptive to homes, businesses, and traffic along this 11-mile route. This would take two off-seasons to complete. When asked why this was preferable, Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott had no answer. F.Y.I., Beach Lane has six year-round residences.
Now, C.P.W. is opposed to the wind farm because the price negotiated with LIPA is too high. The agreement between Deepwater/Orsted and LIPA (which was approved by the New York State Public Service Commission) was the result of a public bid, which Deepwater/Orsted won because it provided electricity at the lowest cost. Now, four-plus years later, new wind farm bids are coming in even lower. Such prices will benefit South Fork residents since PSEG prices are based on a mix of all the prices it pays for the electricity it delivers. Lower prices for power from the newer wind farms will lower PSEG costs, and thus bills to consumers will go down.
Recently, C.P.W. claimed, without any supporting details, that within five years there would be more efficient and affordable ways to solve the power needs on the East End. Ninety-nine percent of scientists agree climate change is a current crisis. We need immediate action to address South Fork power needs, air pollution, health risks, sea level rise, as well as the existential crisis of climate change.
Finally, C.P.W. complains that Orsted is breaking its promise to explore the Hither Hills route in the Public Service Commission settlement negotiations, which are ongoing. Significant time was spent on the Hither Hills route during those negotiations, and on Jan. 8, at the request of C.P.W., an additional settlement negotiation will be held to allow C.P.W. to present its alternative route.
Orsted has gone out of its way to cooperate with C.P.W. The only deception has been on the part of C.P.W., which has little credibility. Clearly, C.P.W. is just a small, moneyed Nimby group who wants electricity for Wainscott without any involvement or inconvenience on their part.
It’s time for C.P.W. to get with the program and support the wind farm, which will provide electricity to 70,000 South Fork homes, including the 700 or so in Wainscott.
Question: how would the decreasing cost of Wind Power in general affect the SFWF (South Fork Wind Farm) project and the resulting per cost/kw to LI ratepayers?
Answer: It does not affect the cost of the SFWF as the cost is agreed upon for 20 years in the contract between LIPA and Orsted. But the average cost of offshore wind power in the LIPA portfolio is likely to continue to drop as newer and much larger projects are procured and the U.S. offshore wind industry grows. LIPA has said that they plan to buy another 90 MW and then some 800+ MW in the future as part of the NYSERDA solicitations for 2400 MW (see the LIPA fact sheet on this blog: page 3 top right graphic).
Question: Isn’t that an argument for waiting and getting our energy from the larger future projects on Long Island, west of the South Fork, that will be cheaper?
Answer: it’s important to remember that the rate impact is spread across all LIPA ratepayers, so while the cost of the SFWF may be higher, this will be shared with all LIPA customers, and we will benefit from the lower cost of future projects together with all LIPA customers. See LIPA fact sheet.
All of LIPA’s power supply and transmission cost (and almost all distribution costs) are spread over LIPA’s 1.1 million customers. That is all over Long Island. So we all benefit from future projects having lower prices.
It is also important to remember that as a result of spreading costs over a large number of customers the average residential ratepayer impact is minimal. As per LIPA’s fact sheet:”The South Fork Project Portfolio, which includes New York’s first offshore wind farm, two utility-scale battery storage systems, and new energy efficiency programs will cost an average residential customer on Long Island between $1.39 and $1.57 per month.”
In addition, we benefit from lower price risk. In comparison with LIPA’s conventional power supply which includes contract provisions requiring payment of all future fuel cost (of unknown amounts), renewable power supply has no fuel cost and does therefore not expose ratepayers to the risk of fossil fuel price uncertainty for the typical 20 year term of the contract.
Lastly, regarding LIPA’s anticipated South Fork transmission upgrades: With it’s 2015 South Fork RFP selection, LIPA used a “combination of transmission, demand reduction, storage, and offshore wind projects and meets the reliability needs of the South Fork at least through 2030”. In other words, had LIPA not selected the SFWF along with energy storage and demand reduction programs (called South Fork Peak Savers) the need for transmission upgrades would be greater and needed sooner.
Letter to the Editor in the East Hampton Star East Hampton December 2, 2019
At check-out in Brent’s Store in Amagansett, a wizened fisherman blamed state regulators for the fact that the tags he’s allocated now allow him to catch barely enough fish for his own family table. And as a New York Times headline announced, “The Scallops Are All Dead.”
While we look for local influences, we ignore at our peril the fact that it is a global problem.
This week, to pick one from a thousand stories, The Washington Post profiled Tombwa, Angola, where in the 1990s there were 20 fish factories processing tons of fish coming from the sea. Now there is one factory left. The fish species recently thriving there have collapsed in the overheated water. Trawlers ranging from distant ports are gobbling up what remains.
Ten years ago Bill McKibben wrote, “Climate Change is about whether you eat or don’t eat.” Deniers called it alarmism.
This year, as temperatures in Bordeaux reached 106 degrees, the vineyards were parched and wine production was down 13 percent. Corn production suffered the same fate.
In the American Midwest unprecedented rain bombs flooded the fields and destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of crops. Last year (or was it the year before?) multi-year drought destroyed countless acres of nut orchards that had been prosperous for generations in California. A recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate report predicts a 2 to 6 percent decline in worldwide crop yields per decade going forward, at the same time as population swells.
Sidewalk experts, including the entire Republican Party, still scoff at the science. “These scientists can’t make up their minds. One day it’s drought, the next day it’s flood! Which is it, they don’t know what they’re talking about. They can’t predict the weather next week, and they claim to predict it 20 years from now. Gimme a break!”
More people now understand that we should have listened to James Hansen when he was informing the American Congress 30 years ago about climate disruption. Imagine how far we could have come in 30 years toward slowing the onset. Still we dither instead of taking personal responsibility for the problem.
Drive down any street lined with parked cars and note that most of them are SUVs. Their growth in popularity has canceled out the benefits we might have gained in the incipient move to electric vehicles. We burn as much gas now as we did before electrification because mammoth SUVs use more gas than the smaller cars we used to drive, not to mention the sky parade of private jets roaring in and out of our airport. So much for self-regulation in the face of global catastrophe.
Demagogues and religious zealots around the world can turn men without hope into terrorists. This is just the beginning. The World Bank projects 143 million climate-displaced migrants by 2050, and stresses that this is a lower bound estimate, with the numbers certain to go much higher, perhaps sooner, assuredly later.
As we approach the 2020 elections, no matter how you have voted in the past, if you care about fish, or food in general for the children you love, remember that we have two parties in this country with radically different attitudes about climate change. Forget about the personal foibles of candidates that the media love to dwell on.
Remember that one party makes its living serving the interests of the fossil fuel industry. The other party is finally listening to scientists and young people who will inherit this planet, and committing to meaningful action. Climate change is no longer about 2100, Bangladesh, or polar bears. It has come to this: not just in the long run, but for millions alive today in America, including the fisherman at Brent’s, nothing else matters.