New York State Wind Myths and Facts — The Truth About Wind Power
Click on the Myth to see the underlying Facts!
+ Myth: A wind project will cost my town money.
Fact: Local upstate taxpayers will not have any additional costs related to a wind project. And developers proposing to build a project in your community will pay both lease payments and local taxes. Lease payments are made to landowners who have turbines on their property, and “PILOT” payments are made to taxing jurisdictions in which a project is located.1 Furthermore, “decommissioning plans” for wind project removal and “intervenor funds” for additional local compensation are a part of the permitting process for wind projects in NYS.2
PILOT Agreements and Payments
Most power plants and other significantly sized development in NYS pay property taxes in the form of “PILOT payments.” For wind projects in upstate NY, these taxes are normally paid to the County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) under a long-term “PILOT agreement” negotiated by your local IDA, and then the revenue is split between the County, Towns, and School Districts in the project area. These payments can be so beneficial that some upstate localities have lowered or eliminated their property taxes since they receive enough revenue from wind project PILOT agreements to finance their operations.
Restoration and Decommissioning Plans
“Restoration and Decommissioning Plans” are a requirement of the permitting process for wind projects in NYS and are put in place in the event the project cannot be completed, and for decommissioning of the project at the end of its useful life. These plans must include a schedule and source of sufficient funding for decommissioning and site restoration activities. And for wind projects, these plans must also include guaranty/security agreements between the developer and the landowner or municipality. So, decommissioning a project will not cost a town.
Intervenor Funds and Fees
“Intervenor Funds” are provided to local municipalities and other local parties at several stages in the permitting process and can be used to defray potential expenses such as administrative or legal fees to ensure locals are not burdened with these costs. Intervenor funds are a requirement of the permitting process for wind projects in NYS and are collected by an “intervenor fee” on the project developer per kilowatt (kW) of capacity of their proposed project. Funds are given to local parties by the Department of Public Service.
+ Myth: Wind projects cause health problems.
Fact: Independent studies across the globe have repeatedly found no adverse physical health effects from wind turbines (click here to see excerpts from 25 health reviews). And residents in upstate towns such as Lowville, Fenner, and Cohocton have been living with wind turbines for more than a decade without physical harm (Click here for a map of existing wind projects in NYS). Meanwhile, the negative health effects from other forms of energy generators – from fuel mining, to transporting fuel, to fuel spills, to burning fuel, to fuel byproduct disposal – has been extensively studied and proven beyond a doubt to be detrimental to our health.
Wind Turbine Syndrome
Frequent misinformation on this topic includes something called “Wind Turbine Syndrome.” A health study prepared for the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Health found that the reported phenomenon of Wind Turbine Syndrome is not linked to any physical health effects from wind projects. And the American Psychological Association has concluded that symptoms associated with Wind Turbine Syndrome are actually linked to the expectation of symptoms, not the wind projects themselves. In other words, media reports of Wind Turbine Syndrome and other misleading information can have folks so convinced that they will experience a symptom that they report having the symptom whether the supposed cause is present or not.
+ Myth: Wind Turbines make noise that causes health issues.
Fact: Several studies have conclusively determined that sound generated by wind turbines has no impact on human health. When standing closer than 1,000 feet, sound levels from wind turbines are typically no more than about 35-45 decibels, equivalent to a kitchen refrigerator running. The light swishing noise from turbines is much quieter than other types of modern-day equipment frequently used in upstate NY, and two people can easily hold a conversation directly underneath an operating turbine. Even in generally quiet upstate NY areas, the sound of the blowing wind often drowns out any noise from the wind turbines themselves. And modern wind turbines are designed with noise in mind, serving to further minimize any sound created from the spinning turbines.
NY Sound Standards
To ensure any noise created does not negatively impact neighbors, wind turbines are required to be located certain distances from residences and roads. New York has recently set a precedent that wind turbines must be placed at least 550 feet from any public roads and 1,000-1,500 feet from residences.
+ Myth: Wind projects hurt the environment more than they help.
Fact: Energy projects have some of – if not the most – stringent environmental review process of any form of development in upstate NY. Wind projects must identify and minimize any impacts to wetland, streams, forests, or farmland. Concerns specific to wind projects also include harm to birds and bats due to collisions with turbine structures. Federal laws and State guidelines place many requirements on wind projects to protect ecological resources and depending on the level and type of wildlife impact estimated for a proposed wind project, appropriate avoidance, minimization, or mitigation strategies are developed. [For instance, NYS has set a precedent that wind turbines are only allowed to kill 1 bat every 10 years.]
Environmental Organizations Endorse Wind Power
Large-scale wind projects are endorsed and promoted by numerous environmental organizations, such as those that are supporters of Friends of Upstate NY Wind. This is because the environmental benefits of clean energy such as wind power far outweigh any potential minimal impact they have in the process of construction or operations. While projects do have local environmental impacts, as does any form of development, these potential impacts are scrutinized over years of review and study and any potential impact to the environment is mitigated to the fullest extent possible in coordination with state agencies responsible for environmental stewardship such as the Department of Environmental Conservation.
+ Myth: Wind projects cause electric reliability concerns, or you have to build more gas power plants to back them up when the wind isn’t blowing.
Fact: New Yorkers won’t ever experience power outages or blackouts due to the addition of wind turbines to the electric grid. By adding wind projects to the system and using that energy when the wind is blowing, the need for other existing generators, such as gas plants, goes down. When wind energy isn’t being generated, there are already existing generators on the grid ready to fill demand. States such as Texas and Iowa already generate large portions of their electricity from wind power and have shown no need to build additional fossil fuel generators as a result, instead, they use less fossil fuel generation to meet their demand.
Federal Government Weighs in on Grid Reliability and Security
As further evidence to support wind projects, a recent study by the Trump Administration’s Department of Energy revealed that renewables do not hamper electric grid reliability and can actually serve to increase grid reliability and security. Also, the U.S. Department of Defense has put out numerous statements in support of renewable energy as a matter of national security and is working with the U.S. Department of Energy to help increase renewables penetration in our country.