It’s time to burst some bubbles about renewable energy generation in the north country.
There has been considerable recent opposition to wind and solar farms. I’m familiar with and am sympathetic toward the reasons: the visual impact of wind turbines and solar arrays; that these installations pave over farmland and lead to wildlife habitat fragmentation; that turbines will kill birds; that we lack sufficient grid capacity to carry renewable power out of our area.
So why should we build more? And, of course, the perennial tension: Why should our upstate environment be negatively impacted in order to provide power to downstate?
To these objections, I reply: the climate crisis. The north country is blessed with the resources to actually do something about an existential threat to life on Earth. We have land and wind that we can use to build zero-emission energy generation. If one accepts the worldwide scientific consensus that human activities — chiefly burning fossil fuels — have been causing the Earth to warm and catastrophic effects to follow, we all have to accept responsibility to do something about it.
Will we have to see wind turbines? Yes — just as we see cellphone towers and power lines. Will we have to accept that some farmland will be used for solar energy farming instead? Yes — just as some farmland is converted to housing and shopping developments. Will wind turbines kill some birds? Yes — as do buildings, cars and cats.
There are trade-offs to any human technology. There is no free lunch.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has led the state to do its part. The new Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040. It’s time for us in the north country to step up and do our part, too. St. Lawrence County needs to support the new Office of Renewable Energy Siting, which will streamline the process of approving wind and solar installations, bringing us clean energy jobs and revenue.
I call on our county legislators, town councils and Northern New York friends of the environment to all use our power for the good of the north country, for our children and grandchildren, and for the planet. We don’t have more years to waste. Please! It is time to get out of our NIMBY bubble and get on board with responsibly sited renewable electricity generation throughout our region.