Updated: September 25, 2010, 7:35 AM
That which seemed obvious months ago was confirmed Wednesday by a representative of the New York Power Authority: Lake Ontario in Niagara County is not an especially good spot to grow a wind farm.
The depth of the lake seemed a giveaway. With a maximum depth of 802 feet and an average depth of 283 feet, the lake is far deeper than the other choice for a wind farm, Lake Erie. With maximum and average depths of 210 feet and 62 feet, Erie offers a less costly environment for installing turbines.Other detractions from siting a wind farm in Lake Ontario include the lack of a power substation and the region's aviation routes. And while the authority's Sharon Laudisi didn't rule Lake Ontario out of the project, she cast significant doubt on it. Niagara County "is definitely not the No. 1 location where a developer would say 'Ah ha! that's my spot,'" she said. That would seem to mean that a wind farm will not be built in that part of Lake Ontario unless every other more desirable spot is, for some reason, unavailable.
As far as Western New York goes, that leaves Lake Erie, which seemed the more likely spot from the start. That's not to say that a wind farm should be built there, or elsewhere in Lake Ontario for that matter. But with Erie's status rising in the preliminary scoping, planners can begin honing the proposal to something more specific.
That will allow residents and elected leaders to evaluate the project on criteria such as its appearance, its environmental impact and its economic usefulness. All will be significant. Some trade-offs may be called for, but that will depend on how much electricity can be produced at a price that makes the effort worthwhile.
This program is being enthusiastically pursued by Power Authority President Richard M. Kessel, and it is important to explore it thoroughly and critically. We have access to wind in ways that other parts of the country can only imagine and, given the costs of energy and the problems caused by carbon emissions, we cannot responsibly fail to give a wind farm serious consideration. Lake Erie should be considered the likely best location.