Gannon University will host a panel discussion on wind energy at 5 p.m., Sept. 25. in Room 101 of the Zurn Science Center. The discussion is free and open to the public.
The panel, organized by the Northwest Pennsylvania Green Economy Taskforce (NWPAGE) and the Clean Air Council, is called “Great Lakes Off-Shore Wind Power: Update from Cleveland and What is in it for Northwest PA?”
Steve Porter, co-chair of NWPAGE, described the panel as having a potential for developing the “quintessential clean, green energy.”
A representative from the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) will provide an update on the Icebreaker project in Cleveland, which would be the first offshore wind installation in the Great Lakes, and see if the ice that develops in the lake is a problem, along with any other potential issues. Then, two local panelists will discuss how development of offshore wind power in Pennsylvania waters can benefit the northwest region of Pennsylvania as a whole.
Members of the panel include Eric Ritter, the communications and strategy manager from LEEDCo; John Rossi, Ph.D., associate professor of history at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club Global Warming Committee and chair of the Lake Erie Group of the Sierra Club Conservation Committee; and Don Goldstein, Ph.D., professor of economics at Allegheny College.
According to Porter, Rossi will discuss legitimate concerns caused by the windmills, like the effects on fish and migratory birds. Goldstein will discuss the manufacturing process and how that can develop resources, and simultaneously create jobs.
As the moderator, Porter said he hoped to have a civil dialogue between people, but does also understand both sides of the arguments concerning the windmills.
“I look at these things and see a thing of beauty, they are aesthetically beautiful, graceful, and symbolize breaking out of addiction to fossil fuel,” Porter said. “I also recognize that people see a hideous monstrosity. I don’t understand how but I understand why they feel that way.”
If anything, Porter hopes that people who attend the panel will not only educate themselves but also see the potential in using wind energy.
“I want them to gain knowledge to learn what is going on one hundred miles up the lake in Cleveland,” Porter said. “I want them to understand the reasons why it makes good sense to do it, environmentally and economically for the region. It’s part of our future.”
Brian Hendrickson, a junior occupational therapy major and environment enthusiast, said he thinks the panel discussion will bring to light an important issue that should be on many people’s mind who live in this area.
“I think the idea of getting cheap and efficient energy is a great idea and I’m all for that,” Hendrickson said. “But the biggest issue I have is that the windmills would take away most of the scenic value that the bay has.”