Monday, February 26, 2007

Divide and Conquer ... or The Proper Role of Government

Several articles appeared today in the OD about the Herkimer County wind farm projects. The articles suggest that the debate is focused on the need for renewable energy vs visual impacts to and diminution in value of neighboring properties. However the articles understate the extent of the negative impacts.

If wind energy was cheap, and if the host communities would benefit from same, there would be little concern. That is because people are willing to put up with some visual blight and inconvenience if they know they will benefit. Unsaid here, however, are the facts that the power these wind farms would produce is neither cheap nor needed by the communities and counties hosting the facilities. Upstate, we are relatively awash in power. Therein lies the real problem.

Power produced here will benefit people living elsewhere. Not only will the wind farms' immediate neighbors suffer impacts, but so will everyone living along the route of the power lines that become necessary to take the electric "product" to "market." The impacts are not only visual, but also economic (in that properties along the way will lose significant value) and potentially to human health.

So, "divide and conquer" becomes a potential strategy for anyone wanting to put up a power line. Dangle the prospect of making lots of money in front of potential wind farm landowners and you produce supporters of power lines. Of course, with a windfarm-powerlines setup, there will be some winners and many losers if purely market forces are left to control.

This is why we need government: to regulate behavior to maximize the number of winners and minimize the number of losers. If the windfarm-powerline connection was recognized, it might be possible to set up a regulatory scheme where such facilities are located where they will create the least amount of harm -- and perhaps provide compensation for those unavoidably affected.

But no one in government is leading the way. Herkimer County amazingly is planning on PILOTing these projects (agreements to encourage their development by reducing their taxes). If Herkimer County feels it is getting a benefit from these projects, then it is justified in providing the agreements. However, Herkimer County should then be expected to take its fair share of the impacts by accepting the alternative route for the NYRI power line that would pass through its southern towns.

3 comments:

Kim said...

Is there a possiblity that BOTH the wind turbines and the NYRI power line would go through? I can't imagine both there.

I hate the idea of the NYRI power line, but I really don't know that much about the wind turbines. I'll have to do some more research into those. From what little I've heard about them, it seems like there is both good and bad involved.

KnightRyder said...

I have a friend whose property borders the windmills that can be seen from Route 20, outside of Waterville, New York.

I was told that these so-called wind-driven makers of electricity are frequently in need of repairs and that it is questionable there is economic value as an alternative source of power.

It is not that we do not need alternative forms of power, however, I do believe that some people are either dreaming and/or living in fantasy land when thinking that wind-driven mills will be [in part] a solution to viable sources of energy.

Perhaps, we need to be looking at research and development in the area of solar energy - even in the North Country. Just because we do not have the same weather conditions say, as Florida, California or Arizona; however, through research and technology who knows what can be achievable.

What I do know is that when the price of gasoline coupled with our monthly winter National Grid heat and electricity...this area's elderly community are on the verge of financial ruin. Something has to give or ALL will be lost...jobs, our youth, and what residual industry that currently exists.

Aside from these wind-driven mills; I still remain curious as to who the principals are in NYRI? Why the failure to identify the names of these corporate officials?

There certainly is a lot to be said about these type(s) of company's that spring out of nowhere, however, have high-power backers whose name(s) may never be known to the public.

Let's do the right thing and start making life for our young and old alike; more tolerable and cheaper on all fronts.

Incidentally, great article. Well written and based on facts not hyperbole.

RomeHater said...

I was just making this argument recently. If the Utica area had gone forward in their municipal power idea last year, (just around this time) wind farms and hydroelectric would be economical and sustainable sources of power. If maintenance costs could be kept reasonable, it could provide a hedge agaisnt rising energy prices.

However...

They decided to play it safe and let NatGrid decide who they would serve and where they would get the power. Wind farms are becoming "cost effective" because of well meaning fools "buying" wind power and state regulations on the generation of electricity. All the extra revenue from green purchasers goes into building wind farms. What the energy companies don't tell you is that they are already bound by NYS law to deliver a certain percentage of power from renewables. Therefore, your clean energy surcharges are being used to defray a business expense that was inevitable.