By Kathleen Gasperini
New support for Upstate NY wind power has arrived just in time. With the historic signing of the Climate and Community Protection Act on July 18th by Governor Cuomo, witnessed by climate champion and former Vice President Al Gore, New York has just taken world-leading climate action.
One week previously, on July 10th, ACE NY and New Yorkers for Clean Power (NYCLP) launched Friends of Upstate NY Wind, a website and resource center that fits perfectly with the new climate bill plans.
What the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act does is set New York on a path to achieve carbon-free electricity by 2040 and an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This takes significant development of renewable energy such as solar, offshore wind, and land-based wind power.
Upstate New York is fortunate to have vast quantities of potential wind power to meet our clean energy transition goals and do our part in leading climate action for the health of our planet.
However, today, while Upstate New York thrives in some ways with its natural beauty and draws many thousands for recreation and tourism, there’s a darker side in the declining lifestyle of a decreasing population. Fewer farmers, and limited job opportunities have plunged some areas into economic despair.
An answer may be blowing in the wind. As a renewable resource, it is part of the new energy economy that can also help save farmers who lease portions of their land for responsibly sited wind development. Wind power can also bring in jobs.
In some areas, like Lowville, New York, where wind power development has already taken shape, this is already happening.
“I like the view from the top,” says wind turbine technician Gregg Kloster from Lowville, NY. “I am mechanical and so this job is a good fit for me. It’s good paying, great benefits, and I’m home every night. It’s good for the family.”
Others, like Susan Campbell of Lyndonville, NY, say that wind power development is preserving farms in her area by allowing families to stay on farms they have owned for generations thanks to the revenue provided from wind power developers. It also provides tax benefits for the community and supports local schools and fire departments.
While local community support for windfarm development is encouraging, there has been a growing number of voices from those who believe wind turbines are going to ruin their way of life. A great deal of misinformation has been distributed and is gaining traction among many Upstate NY communities, resulting in an increasing number of towns placing moratoriums on wind development.
“We do not want misleading information about wind energy to cost residents, especially farmers and construction workers, the opportunity to prosper and thrive in the state’s new energy economy,” says Anne Reynolds, ACE NY’s, Executive Director. This is one reason why ACE NY took the lead for developing Friends of Upstate NY Wind.
By disproving myths with facts, Friends of Upstate NY Wind provides updated, accurate information regarding the benefits of wind power, including energy diversity and security, construction jobs, tax revenue and economic development, farmland preservation and public health. It also aims to be a networking location for those who feel isolated in their efforts to promote wind development. Friends of Upstate NY Wind is, well, friendly. It provides a place for supporters to reach out, request information or resources, and feel that they have our support and our friend-supporter groups too, ranging from environmental nonprofits to labor unions.
One of the hardest challenges we face with wind power development in New York State is convincing some that we are truly entering the age of a new energy economy. Opting out simply isn’t an option. But this can be especially hard for people who may not believe that manmade climate change is even happening.
Friends of Upstate New York is a tool to help shift the conversation. For Upstate New Yorkers, we are among the fortunate ones because we have a choice for a renewable clean energy resource. Like the farms that feed our families, the power of our wind is the next great opportunity to grow and create a sustainable future for new generations of Upstate New Yorkers.