Community reacts to Water Authority’s proposed wind turbine

02/01/2012 8:00 PM |

The Suffolk Times will publish a guest column and several letters on a proposed Suffolk County Water Authority wind turbine in Laurel in tomorrow's paper.

The Riverhead-News Review will publish several letters on a proposed Suffolk County Water Authority wind turbine in Laurel in tomorrow’s paper.

Pick up a copy to read what your neighbors have to say. In the meantime, here’s a sample from tomorrow’s op/ed pages.


What’s the benefit?

Are there really any advantages to a wind turbine? I unknowingly thought so until I had to quickly educate myself when I heard the Suffolk County Water Authority intended to place one at perhaps my favorite place on earth, Laurel Lake and the adjacent preserve.

What surfaced from my research were government studies, newspaper stories and scientific data that covered installations gone awry from Maine to California, as well as all over Europe. Wind turbines can create serious issues depending on where they are situated. It’s all about location, location, location.

The most basic issue here is SCWA’s inappropriate choice for the placement of a wind turbine in an area that is a clean water source for the North Fork and Suffolk. The area is a heavily wooded, pristine preserve bordered by residences and also home to all manner of plants, birds and wildlife.

I am concerned about the health hazards from noise, vibrations and infrasound that can cause neurological problems, sleep deprivation, visual disturbances and even developmental issues in children one mile away. Data also suggests that there is a very real threat of fire from a malfunction of the turbine itself and a highly increased risk of fire from lightning strikes.

A fire atop a 150-foot turbine complicated and fueled by 200 pounds of hydraulic fluid cannot be handled by the local fire department, which lacks the foam and equipment to reach that height. The fire would easily spread and jump across the canopy of trees, engulfing the preserve and endangering homes on Laurel Lake, The Cottages, Laurel Links and the Estates, and maybe even as far as Farmveu.

The threat of fire would be constant and the residents and fire department would be helpless, with no hydrants anywhere and almost no access or egress in and out of this area. All of these hazards exist, yet there is no solid evidence of a cost benefit. To make matters worse, there will be nearly two decades until a payout, maybe longer. Evidence from Europe, where they have been using windpower far longer, is showing no cost savings due to irregularities in the power grid that have to be balanced due to the vagaries of wind thrust. Even more fossil fuel is consumed to balance the grid. Gone are cost or environmental savings.

Is this a case of the emperor’s new clothes? It sure looks like it. But Laurel Lake is not the place for a test site. It is way too important to Mattituck and the entire North Fork to endanger this environmentally precious spot.

Terry Koch-Bostic