A controversial plan to build offshore wind turbines in Lake Ontario to produce renewable energy was debated Monday night at the Robach Community Center in Charlotte.

Energy leaders believe wind power can reduce dependency on fossil fuels and ensure cleaner air for the future, but many residents oppose the idea. "It's not a sound scientific solution to our energy problem," said Mary Kay Barton of the Citizen Power Alliance.

The New York Power Authority, NYPA, proposed its plan to construct offshore wind turbines in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in April of 2009. Officials believe the turbines can help renewable energy make up 30 percent of the state's energy portfolio by 2015.

Barton was one of four panelists who presented alternative viewpoints on the potential impact of offshore wind turbines. She said wind is an unreliable source of energy because when it doesn't blow, backup power is required. "It's like having to have a second car in the driveway because the one you got maybe works about 10 or 20 percent of the time," argued Barton.

Mary Isselhard is part of the group Great Lakes Concerned Citizens. She and her husband own a lakefront home in Huron, Wayne County. That's one of the locations where NYPA is considering offshore wind. "This is not my backyard," said Isselhard referring to the lake. "This is my frontyard and I am very concerned about property values."

NYPA's plan would call for up to 166 turbines to be constructed. They would rise 450 feet out of the water, two miles offshore. Isselhard said that would destroy any view from the shoreline. "Two miles, that's like the Xerox Building rising out of the lake right here," she said.

Those against the offshore wind turbines are encouraging people to do their own research on the subject. Dave Bell of Greece did just that. At first, he thought the offshore turbines were a good idea. Now he believes they will only help line the pockets of those who build them. "In states where the renewable energy standard has been in effect, energy costs have gone up to consumers by 40 percent on average," he argued.

Bell said the cost of constructing offshore wind turbines is twice as expensive as those built on land. Just last week, the Buffalo News reported NYPA is considering shelving its offshore plans for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario due, in part, to construction costs.

To date, there are no freshwater wind turbines in the United States.


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