Guest Column: Wind power can play a role in Southold

02/02/2012 6:00 AM |

A meeting recently took place at Mattituck-Laurel Library regarding the Suffolk County Water Authority’s proposed wind turbine in Laurel. I was somewhat offended by the authority’s interest in having locals attend this meeting, as there was only a tiny public announcement in the papers calling for a public hearing on this topic.

How do they expect to get consensus from the community when many people were not aware this meeting was taking place?

As the former chairwoman for the Southold Town renewable energy committee, I understand the concerns of the community as it relates to wind turbines and I hope the following information will prove to be informative.

It was important to the committee to ensure we obtained input from the community addressing local concerns, including noise levels and bird migrations. In addressing public concerns, we collaborated with the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club and discovered they were not concerned about wind towers interfering with bird migration paths in Southold Town. As a result, the renewable energy committee received an endorsement from both organizations.

The committee then drafted the town’s first agricultural wind code. Today, there are several wind towers in Southold and more and more wineries are expressing interest in pursuing alternative energy solutions. They should be applauded for their interest in reducing their carbon footprint while becoming energy efficient.

Although noise is a valid concern, a wind turbine produces fewer decibels than a washing machine, which is in the 50-75 dBA range. Hair dryers produces 60 to 95 decibels, while a snow blowers can reach 105. A ringing telephone is 80 dBA and the sound of a shotgun being fired is about 170 dBA.

As for aesthetics, wind towers are much more attractive than the power lines LIPA has running through the Laurel Lake area and the rest of Long Island.

In 2004, wind energy in California produced 4.258 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, about 1.5 percent of the state’s total. That’s more than enough to light a city the size of San Francisco.

As for turbines catching fire, let’s be sure we’re comparing apples to apples. The wind turbine company in this case is Northern Power Systems, also the manufacturer of the turbine located on the Half Hollow Hills Nursery property in Laurel, which to date has had no fire issues. Palm Springs, Calif., has had hundreds of turbines for many, many years and I don’t recall reading of any fires.

Coal-burning plants are not the answer to our energy issues, as they contribute to the demise of our air quality and public health.

For the past 12 years Suffolk County has received an “F” air quality grade from the American Lung Association, so it is incumbent on all of us to ensure we do the right thing for the people of this community.

Wind and solar are the cleanest forms of alternative energy available and emit no emissions. The wind turbine proposed at Laurel Lake will reduce carbon emissions by 104 metric tons a year.

I agree with Southold Town that the SCWA cannot assume it is excluded from doing its due diligence and ensuring that the project is in line with town code requirements. That means conducting a comprehensive impact study before attempting to move ahead.

The SCWA cannot steamroll people and expect to gain community consensus.

In 2003, I installed a 6,900-watt solar system on my home. My November LIPA bill was $9.62, although my December bill was much higher due to the Christmas holidays, at $40. Alternative energy is the only solution to reduce our carbon emissions and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

Ms. Domenici is a resident of Mattituck.