Five offshore wind power plant proposals received for lakes Erie in Ontario

Richard M. Kessel, New York Power Authority’s president and chief executive officer, announced Friday that a review process will get under way that is expected to end with one or more developers selected by early 2011.

"The goal is to try to get this wind energy project operating in the waters within five years," Kessel said during a press conference at the Erie Basin Marina.

Kessel said the identity of the developers and the sites being eyed cannot be made public until the evaluation process advances. He promised a full environmental review, including looking at issues such as aesthetics, migratory birds, bats and the impact on the lake floor.

"We will go an extra mile to accommodate any environmental challenges or questions that people raise. We want everything answered," Kessel said.

The BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf serves as a reminder of the nation’s need to move quicker toward the use of renewable energy sources, he said.

"What would you rather see in the waters of the United States of America, wind turbines or oil rigs?" Kessel said.

Kessel predicted the wind power project would be a big jobs generator, suggesting many of the parts needed to build wind turbines could be manufactured in Western New York.

"I believe this project has the capability of producing thousands of jobs. This is a win for everyone," Kessel said.

Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls, an environmental advocate who then ran for political office, also said the BP oil leak was a reminder of the need to push for environmental change.

"We know there are market forces still that push us toward the use of fossil fuels in the short term. But we have to overcome that. Only by creating a sustainable market for renewable energy can we switch the economics over the next decade to make production of renewable energy increasingly feasible," Dyster said.

Brian Smith, Western New York program director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, also praised the move toward harnessing the wind energy in the Great Lakes.

"We can walk in a new direction towards a cleaner, safer energy future for our Great Lakes. We can break our dependency on fossil fuels, and begin a new energy future by investing in clean, renewable, domestic wind energy," Smith said.

By Mark Sommer, The Buffalo News,