Monday, March 4, 2019

Debatable: Should Renewable Energy Be An APA Priority? Yes

APA Building in Ray Brook NY“It’s Debatable” appears in each issue of the Adirondack Explorer. This essay by Adirondack North Country Association’s Sean Connin is a companion piece to “Debatable: Should Renewable Energy Be An APA Priority? No” by John Droz Jr., physicist and environmental advocate at Brantingham Lakes.

Locally sourced renewable energy — whether from wood, water, wind, sun, geothermal, or plant and animal waste — is important to the park’s future. It provides a multiplier for local economies, builds on traditions of self-reliance, and can provide environmental and social benefits. The trick is to design these renewable projects and practices to fit the local landscape and to provide value to communities. Such convergence can emerge through bottom-up strategies that optimize wealth retention at the local level and that benefit from equitable frameworks for land-use and energy policy at regional and state levels. The Adirondack Park Agency must lend its capacity to these outcomes and secure a best fit for resource use, protection, and quality of life within the park.

The larger challenge goes to ensuring that land-use regulations and planning in the park keep pace with renewable energy developments and opportunities. And that they effectively apportion economic and environmental value as part of the agency’s review and permitting decisions. Renewable energy projects provide solutions to a host of environmental concerns yet can also impact park resources. A public purpose solar-storage project, for example, can create cost savings that benefit local taxpayers as well as provide power during outages. At the same time, regulatory concerns for viewsheds or adjacent wetlands need to be addressed.

The agency’s current land-use guidelines and policies do not offer a method to reconcile contrasting benefits and trade-offs with renewable resource buildout. This limits the agency’s ability to make fair, well-reasoned regulatory decisions, or to differentiate the actual impact of renewable energy installations relative to traditional forms of development. For example, it is unclear how setback requirements apply to subsurface geothermal systems or to lot size requirements for ground-mounted solar arrays connected across separate landholdings.

This January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a Green New Deal that commits the state to procuring 70 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by year 2030–up from the current 50 percent target. New York’s power sector is also working overtime to integrate distributed renewable energy sources and storage into the grid. New York’s will be a future built on cleaner/greener infrastructure, transportation, businesses and services.

Prospects for building vibrant local economies around renewable resources in the park are less clear. The state’s clean energy agenda currently favors “large-scale” renewable projects and private-sector ownership, which may not accord with the values and goals of some communities. Regulatory uncertainties and lack of local planning and zoning for renewable energy can further inhibit investments that build community capital and resilience. At risk is the opportunity to attract a new generation of families to live and work in the park.

Yes, renewable energy should be a priority for the agency. Their investment is critical to supporting the state’s goals for building a clean-energy economy and to establishing guidelines for renewable development that preserves the park’s resources and effectively serves the needs and interests of its communities.

Dr. Sean Connin is Clean Energy Program director for the Adirondack North Country Association.

Read the Adirondack Park Agency’s proposed policy guidance supporting renewable energy development here.

Photo of APA Building in Ray Brook.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

12 Responses

  1. frank Murtagh says:

    Mr. Droz has a long history and incentive to deny climate change, oppose renewable energy sources and profit from unrestricted coastal development. Perhaps this can be made clear when he spouts his “scientific research and analysis.
    So much for the 99% of us who have no understanding of science, or should we say his beneficial “science”

    • Frank: If there is something that I wrote that you can prove is wrong, it would be more productive to provide that evidence, instead of an ad-hominem comment.

  2. Peter says:

    Does renewable energy in the Adirondack Park means building more dams and draining our lakes and rivers for hydro power? Another source of renewable energy requires clearing our forests for wind and solar energy. The development of these forms energy require hugh costs and are not cost effective.

  3. John McCormick says:

    Wind turbine’s in the Park Is that what will have to occur to Make the green energy goal’s of our “Progressive” governor/presidential maybe candidate??
    Shame shame say I a green sort of a retiree that burns wood/biomass to stay warm

    • terry v says:

      Really you burn wood? way worse than coal, thats disgraceful.
      While I enjoy a fire in the woods or in a ring in my yard every now and then heating your house with wood is about the worst thing for the environment.
      Whenever I am someplace that has wind turbines it raises the hair on my neck and empowers me.
      Like seeing a eagle while out kayaking or a Bobcat or a bear on a hike.
      All the high peaks that are suitable for wind should have a turbine or 2.
      Texas the “big oil state” leads in wind power. That could be NYS

      • Paul says:

        “heating your house with wood is about the worst thing for the environment”

        This not accurate. Trees that produce wood “consume” carbon as they grow. Burning wood is not necessarily carbon neutral but if forests are managed well this can be a good source of energy from an environmental perspective.

        “worst thing” – totally false.

  4. Paul says:

    If you look at the “policy” it doesn’t really do much of anything:

    Not sure what all the debate is even about?

    The APA “supports” this or that. What does that even mean?

    • Paul:

      If the RATIONALE for the APA policy is accepted, the next step is that there will be industrial wind energy in the Park — just like in everyplace else in upstate NY.

  5. Sean: Good job on your commentary. Three observations:

    1) You rightly identified “regulatory uncertainties” for industrial wind energy. Most citizens are unaware that there are zero wind-energy specific rules for New York State. On the one hand the State has mandated an increasing amount of wind energy, but they have dumped the regulatory matters into the laps of local communities — who have little if any expertise in that area.

    2) You indicated that industrial wind energy “provides a multiplier for local economies”. That is certainly the sales pitch of the industry, but studies done by independent experts strongly disagree. On the Key Documents page of “” is a document that lists at least ten (10) areas where wind projects can be a local economic liability.

    3) You wrote that Wind “energy projects provide solutions to a host of environmental concerns.” I’d like to see the documentation (from independent experts) for that claim, as I’ve never heard it made before. The real question is “what is the NET environmental impact” and if we just consider the studies done by independent experts, the NET environmental impact is almost certainly negative.

  6. Boreas says:

    “The real question is “what is the NET environmental impact” and if we just consider the studies done by independent experts, the NET environmental impact is almost certainly negative.”

    I can’t think of any energy generation solution that would have a POSITIVE NET environmental impact. Virtually nothing involving humans has a positive environmental impact. The pertinent question is which system(s) have the LEAST negative environmental impact? A good project for the rare, perhaps mythical, “independent experts”.

    • Boreas: You’re right that there are environmental liabilities to every form of energy. However, wind energy is being falsely marketed as environmentally benign. For an extremely environmentally sensitive region as the Adirondack Park, we need to have an objective and comprehensive understanding of the WHOLE picture. So far with wind energy that has not happened anywhere else in NYS. We simply can not allow an environmentally ravaging energy source to deteriorate the Park.

  7. Antonio says:

    When i built my house”just outside blueline”
    Couple things stopped me from going off grid
    First state will not issue a c/o unless you are tied to the grid
    Also all requirements in state rebates/credits make it costly to go green
    Cost for off grid solar house would have been $5k-$10k self install with regular licensed electrician assistance
    Following state guidelines which had to be on grid, had to be installed by “certified” solar installer raised the cost to well over $20k for same 5 kw set up
    20 years later am still on grid
    Ny state alt energy laws are all written in favor of existing utility corps