New York: Wind Power Profile
Thanks to forward-thinking companies, the alternative energy revolution has already begun in the Empire State. From Plattsburgh to New York City and Buffalo to Albany, wind turbines, nuclear power plants and solar collectors are in operation, with additional facilities in the planning stages. Even though New York is a big state with relatively diverse climates, the alternative energy that probably works best statewide is wind power. In the past, those sharp, biting winter winds from Canada were a nuisance; in the future, they will be the reason the lights on Broadway stay lit.
As demand for electricity continues to increase, government and industry will work even more closely to make use of the green energy that is suitable to each region of the country. As anyone who has lived in New York can tell you, the state is not the ideal place to take advantage of solar energy. In a map created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), it becomes clear that the Northeast (aside from the Oregon and Washington coastline) receives the least sunlight of any region in the United States. For example, the Syracuse area receives approximately 3 kilowatt-hours per meters squared each day. By contrast, the Great Plains averages at least 4 kWh/m2 and southern California averages over 6 kWh/m2. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Albany, New York experiences only 69 clear days a year and endures 185 cloudy days each year. (Phoenix, Arizona, on the other hand, is lucky enough to experience 211 clear, sunny days each year.) So solar energy is not going to fulfill all the energy needs of New Yorkers.
New York, located on the easternmost portion of a continent and surrounded by relatively flat geography, is not the ideal climate for wind. There are, however, plenty of places in the state where wind turbines could spin quite well. In a wind energy study conducted with the U.S. Department of Energy, the NREL points out that the shorelines of New York State are quite fertile ground for wind turbines. The cities and towns along the banks of Lakes Ontario and Erie receive top marks in the wind energy study. In fact, at an elevation of 50 meters above sea level, the shoreline or waters relatively close to the shore receive the rating of
"outstanding," meaning that the wind power density is between 600 and 800 watts per meter squared. (Much further inland, by contrast, the Syracuse area boasts a
"Poor" rating, translating to between 0 and 200 watts per meter squared.)
As anyone fortunate enough to visit the Hamptons can tell you, Long Island can get quite windy. In fact, this is the other turbine hot spot in New York. A few miles off the southern shore of Long Island, you'll find the same
"Outstanding" conditions as along the shores of the Great Lakes. If these resources can be capitalized upon, there would be a lot less stress on the existing power plants providing electricity to the City that Never Sleeps.
In addition to the dozens of existing wind farms, utility companies are constantly proposing new facilities. Unfortunately, these plans are often met with resistance from local authorities and homeowners. Opponents will often claim that wind turbines are aesthetically displeasing, but this is a matter of opinion. While there have been cases of wind turbines collapsing, the threat is really no different than that of any other building. Wind farms in New York, most would certainly believe, are better neighbors than the traditional New York natural gas or coal-burning power plants.
In late 2010, the New York Power Authority confirmed its plans to install turbines in the Great Lakes. Approximately two miles off of the shore of Lake Ontario, according to Nikki Rudd of WHEC-Rochester, giant windmills will soon transmit electricity to residents and businesses in Central New York. While the NYPA is taking the objections of residents into account, the agency insists that moving forward with wind farms is vital. After all, similar projects are going forward in other Great Lakes states and New Yorkers don't want to fall behind, particularly in the alternative energy movement. These are jobs that can't be outsourced in a field that will continue to grow for many years to come.
So the next time you're fishing in Oswego or guiding a boat around the Montauk shore, you may just see the slowly spinning blades of the windmills that represent a part of the New York electricity future.