Many residents of Erie County are not yet aware that Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper is on the board of LEEDCo, a largely taxpayer funded organization in Cleveland, Ohio, (recently sold to Fred Olsen Renewables of Norway) with plans to put wind turbines in Lake Erie. A big promoter of the project, Dahlkemper wants turbines offshore in Erie County and she often refers to all of the green jobs that will come our way as a result, but you need to keep in mind, the whole premise of the project is building wind turbines in Lake Erie. How many people have given that serious thought?
If you live along the shore or just enjoy sitting on the shore and taking in the view of the water, it’s hard to imagine what a major utility scale wind installation in the lake would look like. Complicating matters, is the fact LEEDCo has no official rendering on their site to give you any idea:
At this time there are no official renderings of the project. As part of the Feasibility Study released in 2009 on behalf of the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force, visual renderings were developed from a number of vantage points along the lakefront, but do not reflect Icebreaker’s seven-mile distance from shore.
You would think in the intervening seven years since the feasibility study they might have come up with some renderings, at least they would have if they really wanted you to see them. On the other hand, it’s easier to brush off questions about what they would look like by using nonsensical comparisons, a quote often seen in many articles about the project is:
… from shore they will appear to be about the size of half a dime on the horizon.
What does that even mean? If you look at the horizon and hold up a dime near your eye you can totally block the view, or placed far away, you wouldn’t even see it, but they don’t want you to think carefully, they just say “dime” and want you to quickly imagine “small.” Neat, but deceptive, verbal trick.
A university studies the impact on tourism from offshore turbines
The Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy at North Carolina State University recently studied the potential impact of offshore wind installations on tourism, important, not only in North Carolina, but widely recognized as essential in our area, too.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Since many vacationers like to rent houses on the ocean shore to enjoy the view, the university digitally altered a photo taken off the Town of Nags Head, NC and inserted 144 wind turbines as they would appear at various distances offshore. They wanted to know:
… how a utility-scale offshore wind farm could impact coastal tourism. In particular, the researchers were interested in how families who rent vacation properties along North Carolina beaches would react to a utility-scale wind farm placed at the beach by their rental.
… respondents were asked whether or not they would re-rent their vacation property if the view over the ocean included wind turbines.
The results were surprising.Eighty percent of respondents would either not come back to the same vacation spot if turbines were built offshore, or said they would require such large price discounts to re-rent at the same location as to be unrealistic.
It seems wind turbines are not visually appealing to tourists, in fact, they substantially lower the value of the experience along the beach.
The photo shown above from this study, represents wind turbines 5 miles out, the LEEDCo project will be (according to the latest information) 8 miles out, slightly further than the photo, but the view will be very similar. (Be sure to click on the photo to see it full size, it really makes a big difference!)
Do tourists, residents and homeowners in Erie County matter?
With all of the attention paid to tourism by county government and our county executive, you would think the impact of wind turbines would make them hesitate to promote a project like this. Of course, the other possibility is they never gave it any thought or asked any questions. Maybe every project they get involved in is separate in their minds without any recognition they might be working against one another. Why would you promote tourism while you, simultaneously, promote a project that hurts tourism? Fascinating!
If you own a home or acreage along the lake, would a huge cluster of wind turbines affect your property value? One major component of the price of property by the water is the view. Does Kathy Dahlkemper care about that? Does the wind developer care? You certainly do, maybe you should let her know what you think.
Why so many turbines in one place?
Some of you may wonder why the photo above shows so many turbines. The Icebreaker project off Cleveland has only six, except it’s a demonstration project to work out the installation procedures. If everything goes as planned, they want to build more, a LOT more, numbers vary, but 1600 is a number frequently cited. 1600 wind turbines! The turbines will not be evenly spread throughout the lake over a long distance but will be built in clusters close to where they can connect to the power grid onshore. Where would that be? We don’t yet know, but the Erie County shoreline isn’t that long and anyone with property along the lake should keep that in mind.
And then, there are the blinking red lights
If you look at the photo in this article, you also need to imagine the nighttime view because many of those towers will be required to have a blinking red light at the top to warn away any aircraft in the vicinity. Those will be hard to ignore. A pleasant evening by the shore staring at blinking red lights, … kinda spoils the moment, doesn’t it?
Oh, and don’t forget, the sun will set behind the turbines so every time the sun goes down there will be moving blades in front of it. So much for our famous Lake Erie sunsets.
Erie County residents, it’s up to you
Many Erie County residents have not been paying attention to this project, it’s not on your radar, it’s way over in Cleveland, so why worry? Well, it’s coming our way and with the wholehearted support of our county executive, we could be one of the first areas to see these installations after Cleveland. Now that LEEDCo has received another $40 million Department of Energy grant to move into the construction phase, Erie County may be on the front lines of this project very soon. Look at that photo above one more time, is that what you want to see when you look out over the lake? If not, maybe you should speak up and tell Kathy Dahlkemper and county council what you think. If you wait until the construction begins, you’ll be too late.