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Answers just blowin’ in the wind

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Ohio solar market stalls

Friends: (09-25-14) This week several filings have been made with the Ohio Power Siting Board. Union Neighbors United  has requested a rehearing on the OPSB’s approval of Everpower’s motion to extend the certificate expiration date in Phase I of Buckeye Wind. Ohio law requires that extensions be granted only after applications to amend a certificate are investigated, subjected to hearing and appeal and some due process accorded to the public. UNU asserts Everpower is seeking to avoid due process because any delay in obtaining the extension would subject them to the new setback rules which require measurement from property lines. The attached UNU application  for rehearing makes the case that Everpower is simply attempting to avoid these new requirements. Moreover, UNU points to the Blackfork Wind and the Paulding County Timber Road III projects (also represented by the Vorys law firm) that filed similar extension requests in order to get around the new law that seeks to protect the property rights of landowners in and around the footprint of a wind project.
It is important to note, again, that the OPSB has failed to properly adopt its revised rules because they were not submitted to the Ohio General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. This means that the whole issue of what rules even apply to any wind development are up in the air. The ones who lose in the chaos are citizens who are trying to protect themselves and their communities. The OPSB has heaped insult on top of injury by not only leaving in question what the rules are, but also unlawfully suspending the rules for project extensions in order to accommodate the wind developers who are trying to duck the laws. What a mess.
The Greenwich Wind project in Huron County is yet another example of the regulatory chaos. The Omega Corporation, one of the entities impacted by the Greenwich Wind project, filed to extend the time period for the community to intervene in this project. They were denied. We have also attached their application for a rehearing of the Board’s denial. This is another indictment the OPSB and its failure to faithfully and fairly implement the laws regarding wind development. Further information on this and all other wind cases pending before the OPSB can be found on the OPSB website.
We will keep you abreast of what happens next in this drama. It is complicated but very much worth taking the time to understand because the future of a number of Ohio wind developments hangs in the balance.

(09-18-14) Yesterday the Ohio Senate members of the General Assembly’s Renewable Energy Study Committee were announced. We were surprised to see Sen. Cliff Hite on the list and will be curious to see if he will be as aggressive as he has been in the past in supporting the wind industry. Hite represents much of the area targeted for wind development including all or part of Auglaize, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Logan, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, and Williams Counties. Also most Committee members have significant Farm Bureau connections.
We also provide information on one of the Vorys firm’s other client’s – Blackfork Wind  being developed by Element Power, another UK based entity which is owned by a private equity firm, Hudson Clean Energy Partners.
Hudson has offices in New Jersey and China. A Hudson issued a press release this week about its success in raising $91 million. One third of these funds will support Element’s wind developments in Northern Europe. Reading the company’s profile, we note their commitment to “risk mitigated” opportunities. Risk mitigation seems to be provided by U.S. Treasury through the PTC, local PILOT and state mandates. We hope that the Study Committee clearly comprehends that it is the taxpayer and the ratepayer who enhance the return on investment for these private equity players and their limited liability subsidiaries.

(09-17-14) My goodness the attorneys for the Vorys law firm have been busy! Requests for extensions were filed last week for just about every wind project they are working on including BlackforkTimber Road, and the Blackstone  projects. Our guess – just a guess – is this might have something to do with trying to avoid the new property line setbacks as well as trying to keep the projects alive during the two year renewable mandate freeze. But the Ohio Power Siting Board may be in a state of confusion as no one knows what the rules seem to be. We will be watching this closely.
We were interested to see two townships sue a wind developer over the repair of roads in Illinois. Be sure to read the article describing the dreadful situation experienced by residents. “”You had people who couldn’t get to their homes without their cars being completely covered in tar.”

Also yesterday the Cumberland, MD newspaper  reported a story of the affect an Everpower project, known as Twin Ridges, is having on residents of a PA community near the Maryland state line. Noise, a constant hum, headaches and shadow flicker from 68 turbines built by Everpower are described. Residents report that they receive no resolution of the complaints they file with the company. What is perhaps one of the most surprising points made in this story by Everpower’s representative, Michael Speerscheider, is that when they measure noise levels, they “filter out” the “background noise”. Siting procedures and rules for noise differ from state to state and community to community but it would have seemed to us that a “normal” background noise level would have been agreed upon prior to building the facility and that current noise levels would assume that anything over the preconstruction background noise would be due to the wind turbines. To have Everpower claim that by using their own equipment, they are within noise limits seems odd to us.
UNU has consistently expressed concern about complaint resolution procedures which even today have not been proposed by Everpower for the Buckeye project. To read that after 20 complaints have been made by one family, the problem continues at such a level as to motivate the family to post a huge sign by their driveway saying “This is God’s Country – Why am I living in the dark, deep, depths of Hell?” is certainly troubling.
A comment filed by another resident following the newspaper story speaks to the finances of the Twin Ridges project. “Time for accountability and transparency….Twin Ridge is project name, but it is Big Savage, LLC is a subsidiary of Everpower. They received $65,408,684.00 on Jan. 24, 2013 from the US Treasury. In addition, it also received state subsidies: “Matthew Karnell, director of the Commonwealth Financing Authority’s programs division for the Department of Community and Economic Development, said the agency awarded Twin Ridges a $12.7 million grant that was essential to construction So, total federal and state subsidies equaled: $78,108,684 . Good grief.

(09-14-14) Following our concern about the “spin” from Juhl Wind on the performance of the Honda turbines we had feedback from some of you. Some reports indicated that employees in the plant are able to monitor performance daily because the performance monitoring equipment is available for all to see. Observations from some claim that performance has yet to reach expected production levels. Our local wind watcher, Tom Stacy, took a look at the report and found the PR release to be questionable. Tom contacted the newspaper and some of his concerns are reported here.
A sigh of relief went out across NW Ohio as we learned that Senator Seitz will be appointed to a seat of the Renewable Energy Study Committee.  Senator Seitz  has a level of technical understanding and a long experience in dealing with renewables. His participation will be important.
In Huron County, opponents of the Greenwich Windpark  are working to appeal the OPSB decision approving that project. According to the Sandusky Register, the group also plans to attend a local Farm Bureau meeting next Monday to question their support for the project.

(09-13-14) Yesterday, September 12th, Everpower filed an extensive amendment to its Scioto Ridge project in Logan and Hardin Counties. The filing includes approximately 70 different documents but the main amendment is attached and describes the reasons for the amendment. The important thing to note here is that Everpower filed the amendment on September 12 because the new property line setbacks go into effect on September 15th. By filing yesterday, Everpower seeks to avoid the new setback requirements that would have required them to relocate any turbines that are too close to non-participating property owners.
In the attached document,  Everpower proposes to consider two additional turbine models and to move certain turbines and transmission lines. These changes affect setback measurements, noise modeling and shadow flicker among other things. As a result of the changes, Everpower estimates on Page 23 that:
Of the 52 non-participating residences predicted to receive more than 30 hours of shadow flicker per year, 15 are pending (i.e., landowner is anticipated to become a participant) and 37 are non-participants. However, to assure a worst-case analysis, pending participants have been included with the nonparticipating receptors in the summary above. Table 08-02 summarizes the expected shadow flicker for non-participating receptors exceeding 30 hours/year predicted, comparing the results presented in the original Application with those anticipated under the currently proposed layout.

With respect to the setbacks, Everpower notes at page 32:

(c) Locations of Turbines in Relation to Property Lines and Habitable Residential Structures

The minor shifts in the five turbines do not violate any of the property line setbacks and residential setbacks under the Board’s rules at the time the original Application was filed. As noted below, the average property line setback has increased to 1,201 feet from 1,198 feet and the average residential structure setback has increased to 1,996 feet from 1,989 feet. The project’s setbacks are described below.

(i) Setback to Property Lines

Section 4906-17-08(C)(1)(c)(i) requires that “the distance from a wind turbine base to the property line of the wind farm property shall be at least one and one-tenth times the total height of the turbine structure as measured from its tower’s base (excluding the subsurface foundation) to the tip of its highest blade.” The maximum height of turbines under consideration for the Facility at the time the original Application was filed was 492 feet (150 meters), which yields a property line setback of 541 feet (165 meters). All turbine locations, including the turbine relocations proposed in this Amendment, will comply with these setbacks, and the two new turbine models proposed in this Amendment are less than 492 in total height. As currently sited, the distance between proposed turbines and the nearest non-participating property line ranges from 549 to 2,669 feet, and averages 1,201 feet. The original Application presented a range of 549 to 2,637 feet with an average of 1,198 feet. (Ed’s note: Do not be confused by use of averages!)

(ii) Setback to Habitable Residential Structures

Section 4906-17-08(C)(1)(c)(ii) requires that “the wind turbine shall be at least seven hundred fifty feet in horizontal distance from the tip of the turbine’s nearest blade at ninety degrees to the exterior of the nearest habitable residential structure, if any, located on adjacent property at the time of certification application.” The maximum rotor diameter of the turbines under consideration for the Facility at the time the original Application was filed was 400 feet (122 meters). If the turbine blade were at ninety degrees, the tip would extend from the base of the tower one-half the length of the rotor diameter, or 200 feet (61 meters), which added to 750 feet, yields a total setback of 950 feet. All turbines and locations, including the turbine relocations proposed in this Amendment, will comply with these setbacks, and the two turbine models proposed in this Amendment both have blades less than 200 feet in length. As proposed, the distance between the proposed turbines and the nearest non-participating residential structure ranges from 1,292 to 4,047 feet, and averages 1,996 feet. The original Application presented a range of 1,335 feet to 4,047 feet with an average of 1,989 feet. (Ed’s note: Do not be confused by use of averages!)

With respect to Indian Lake, the amendment states:

(5) Impact on Recreational Areas within One Mile

The impact on recreational areas remains as described in the original Application. Of the turbines that have been shifted, only turbine 25 is within 1 mile of Indian Lake State Park, and it was re-located to the east,
away from the park. Noise and shadow flicker were re-modeled (see Exhibits B and C of this Amendment, respectively), but results for Indian Lake State Park are the same as in the original Application. There are
no other recreation areas within one mile of the Facility.

(6) Visual Impact and Mitigation Measures

Visual impact mitigation measures remain as described in the original Application.

There is a great deal of specific information in this 44 page Amendment. The document and all related exhibits with maps and charts for specific areas can be found at the PUCO website by clicking on this link.

(09-11-14)  *Update* Another change in submitting comments to the US Fish and Wildlife Service on eagle permits.
After sending my comment by e-mail, I received the following response from Dr. George Allen (below.)

Thank you so much for commenting and if you have not done so, please consider sending a comment by hard copy to the USFWS using the docket number here and the correct address.

Docket – FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094

From: Allen, George <george_t_allen@fws.gov>
Date: Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 12:30 PM
Subject: Re: FWS-R9-MB-2011-0054-0165

I’m sorry, but I am not working on eagle regulations changes. If you wish to comment on docket FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094 (Notice on EIS for possible eagle regulations changes), you must submit your comment via one of the two methods in our 23 June 2014 Notice (Federal Register volume 79, pages 35564-35567). Comments sent to my email do not get into the docket, and will not be considered.

You may submit comments by one of the following methods.

Electronically: go to the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal . Search for FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094 and follow the directions for submitting comments. Comments due by 11:59 PM on 22 September.

By hard copy: mail to Public Comments Processing, Attention: FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Mail Stop: PDM, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803. Comments must be postmarked no later than 22 September.

Please note in your submission that your comments are in regard to Eagle Management and Permitting. Send your comments by only one of the methods described above.

We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you submit.

Sharing with you a request from our friend, Sherri Lange. Comments to United States Fish and Wildlife Service are needed.
Online comments are closed– BUT–hard copy comments are still being accepted and hard copy comments will have more “meat.”

Then–e-mail a copy of your comments to  Dr. George T. Allen at USFWS.

This is another opportunity to make a difference–please help by mailing your comments very soon.
Thank you!

(09-10-14) This Friday the new laws affecting wind development and renewable energy will become effective. Our friend Lisa Linowes of Wind Action has shared the attached bid and asked prices for Ohio Renewable Energy Credits (“REC’s”) that the wind developers rely upon as part of the financial analysis for project viability. The February 2014  chart shows bids for Ohio sited REC’s at $18.00 by September 2nd  the Ohio bid price on certified projects was down to $8.50. A significant loss. An article which appeared yesterday in the Gongwer News Service  discusses the expansion of REC-eligible energy under the new certification rules. Now eligible to compete in the previously protected ‘sandbox’ of wind and solar are hydro power, anaerobic digestion, abandoned coalmine recovery, methane gas from municipal waste facilities and out of state wind and solar. Predictably, AWEA and wind advocates are very unhappy.
One environmental advocate tries to claim there are “societal values” to wind that make it superior to other renewables. “”When you compare the societal values of wind and solar and traditional renewable resources, there’s much greater value than there is from allowing methane digesters that don’t even produce electricity to count as renewable energy,” he said in an interview.” We suspect many rural Ohioans threatened by a nearby wind facility would disagree with the notion of wind’s “societal benefits.” The one thing everyone can agree on – the price of REC’s in Ohio has collapsed.
In another interesting “collapse,” the Ohio Power Siting Board’s Chief of Facility Siting and Environmental Analysis, Klaus Lambeck, was terminated from his position last Friday. Lambeck has been a fixture in the wind world since SB 221, the renewable mandate, was passed in 2008. He was #2 to former OPSB Director, Kim Wissman, who was terminated earlier this year. We do not have any specific details but believe it is a good sign for all of those who seek a fair hearing and unbiased consideration at the OPSB. Fingers crossed for better days ahead.

Sometimes we wonder about how the media decides what is “news” and whether or not any critical thinking is involved in preparing a story. This came to mind this morning as we read both in the Bellefontaine Examiner and the Urbana Daily Citizen about the two wind turbines at Honda. In the Urbana paper, the story by-line credit was the politically active media group “Civitas Media” and in Bellefontaine, “Written by THE BELLEFONTAINE EXAMINER STAFF” was the by-line. In Urbana, the story ran among other “news” items described by the paper as “Submitted Story”. Here is the press release issued by Juhl Wind  of Pipestone, Minnesota, the developer and ConSolutions, the owner of the Honda turbines. It seems to us that what is being reported as a news item researched by Examiner staff is, in fact, a “Submitted Story”. Would it have been so hard for the press to write that Juhl, ConEd and Honda jointly announced whatever? Doesn’t the media have some responsibility to identify a “submitted story” as such? Evidently not when it fits their political bias.
Elsewhere, real news was being made in Allegany, New York where the Bradford Era News  and the Olean Times reported that “Close to eight years of legal battles, community upsets and neighbors bickering with neighbors over a proposed 29-wind-turbine farm project in the town of Allegany came to an end on Tuesday. The final nail in the coffin of the proposed EverPower Wind LLC farm in the communities of Chipmonk and Knapp Creek was hammered when the Allegany Town Board unanimously voted to rescind the wind overlay district.” The story is provided below. Longtime readers of the Wind News may recall that elected officials in Allegany established a wind overlay district through their local zoning as an incentive to wind developers. This wind overlay district never had the support of the community and over the next eight years the people waged a fierce battle which included electing new local government officials, engaging in litigation and ultimately, on Wednesday repealing the wind overlay district to ensure that following Everpower’s defeat, no other wind developer could build in the Allegany area.
Closer to home we also note that Antioch College  in Yellow Springs broke ground on 3,300 panel solar farm covering five acres in Greene County.

(09-08-14) As most of the focus remains on national and state elections, little activity is occurring in either Columbus or Washington. September 14th is the date the law establishing the Ohio Energy Study Committee becomes effective. We understand at this point that the Committee will not be appointed until after the November election. Similarly, it does not appear there will be a vote in Washington on extending the Production Tax Credit for wind until after the election. If the U.S. Senate goes Republican, anything could happen. We provide some updates on the PTC  as well as articles on changing views of climate change  and growing community hostility  to wind.
One issue we are looking at currently is the rules in the Ohio Administrative Code that implement Ohio’s existing renewable energy law. These rules were adopted in 2008 and it is a requirement that they be reviewed every five years. It appears that the rule review did take place and Everpower was actively involved in commenting on them. Some of Everpower’s suggestions were adopted by the OPSB and some were denied. The process requires that once the rules are reviewed and revised, they must be filed with the legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. At that point, the public has an opportunity to object to any rule revisions or interpretations. Once the JCARR completes its review, the new rules become effective. The OPSB revised its wind rules on February 18, 2014 thereby rescinding the old rules. BUT….they never bothered to file them with the JCARR. It is an open question as to whether there are any rules in effect or what the rules are. At a minimum, the OPSB looks negligent and the public is once again put at a disadvantage. We will be studying this issue and how to approach it. We will keep you advised of what we learn.

(09-01-14) Today’s Statehouse news service reports that the Hardin Wind Energy project that was approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board yesterday intends to request an amendment to its approved certificate. It has been generally agreed that certificates that are amended after the effective date of the new setback law must comply with the new requirements. Surprisingly,
OPSB spokesperson, Matt Butler, is quoted as saying: “… developers of the Hardin project have requested amendments to their certificate, which will likely be the first case to test how the new setback limits will affect previously certified projects.” [emphasis added]. This bears watching carefully as it was the intent of the legislation to grandfather existing projects but not those who seek to make substantive changes.
In a follow up article on the OPSB’s action, UNU Attorney Jack Van Kley stated that the Board erred in its decision to approve Everpower’s motion without giving consideration to new scientific information and whether Phase I is adequately sited to protect the public. UNU will request a re-hearing on the matter.
In the meantime, we enjoyed several quotes from the articles below. From US News and World Report: “America is about as likely to become reliant on green energy to meet its baseload power requirements as a unicorn is to stroll down the middle of Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue during rush hour followed by a pink elephant.”
And from MAWT: “Spain provides the perfect “model” for any Country looking to destroy itself in blind pursuit of “green” energy ideology. Trying to power a (notionally) first world economy with intermittent and unreliable wind and solar power is nothing more than an infantile delusion. When the cost of the insanity is borne by millions of struggling (and probably unemployed) power consumers and 100s of thousands thrown on the unemployment scrap heap, it borders on the criminal.”
We hope the prospective members of the Ohio Renewable Energy  Study Committee are taking note of these articles.

(08-31-14) Yesterday the National Review  reported “top down” bias in the Obama Administration’s US Fish & Wildlife Administration in favor of the wind industry. Most citizens understand this bias when 30 year kill permits are issued to wind projects that have an anticipated life expectancy of only 20 years. This story is notable for the fact that two former USFW&S investigators have come forward to speak on the record about the agency wanting “an alternative energy so badly that they’re prepared to turn a blind eye on all the bad parts of it.” North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, states “I think it’s hypocrisy at its worst. On one hand, they want to be environmentally clean. On the other, they don’t care how many birds they kill doing it.”
So what is the wind industry’s response to the problem? They hired an attorney from the National Wildlife Federation to become the new Executive Director of the Wind Energy Foundation. John Kostyack reportedly worked on endangered species cases and won significant cases on behalf of his corporate clients. We assume in his new role, Mr. Kostyack will leverage his political connections and lots of spin along with the apparent legitimacy of a career in ‘environmental protection’ to fend off the mounting number of cases filed on behalf of eagles, migratory birds and endangered bats. Why are we not surprised?

(08-26-14) Consistent with expectations, the Ohio Power Siting Board approved motions to extend the deadlines for the Buckeye Wind   I project to May, 2018 and Hardin Wind  Energy LLC to March, 2018. The Hardin County project was not opposed. The Buckeye Wind project was opposed by Champaign County, Urbana, Goshen and Union Townships as well as Union Neighbors United. It is interesting to note that in trying to justify a need for extension, Invenergy blamed its Hardin County difficulties on the market while Jason Dagger of Everpower blamed the community’s efforts to protect its interests through litigation. It is anticipated that the Board’s Order approving the Everpower extension will be appealed.
The Greenwich Windpark  project was approved despite the contention that the public did not have adequate opportunity to comment on the project. Sen. Skindell, a non-voting member of the OPSB, spoke on behalf of the opponents and questioned whether the staff had considered the merits of the public’s concerns. A spokesperson for the OPSB affirmed that the staff had noted the public comments but was not persuaded by them.  Sen. Skindell (D-Lakewood) then asked whether the Staff of the OPSB had been informed by any wind developer that the recently enacted legislation eliminating the in-state renewable energy mandate or the legislation changing measurement of wind turbine setbacks would prevent any developer from going forward. The response from the staff was that they had not heard of any developer who was unable to go forward due to legislative changes. We are reminded of Senator Skindell’s previous worries that wind development would be stopped in Ohio as reported last June by Green Energy Ohio (see link to story above). It appears that his fears were not well-founded.
We continue to appreciate the ongoing interest and support of the community in this never-ending effort to protect our local economy, our families and our environment. Today’s actions are a disappointment to many but it is not the end of the road… only a bump.

(08-24-14) This week wind developer, Invenergy, was sued by people living near its Orangeville Wind Farm  in New York. The attorney representing the residents is the same person who sued over the Love Canal contamination years ago. It is interesting to note that Invenergy dismisses the action by stating they meet the existing rules and regulations. We often see inadequate siting laws established at the behest of the wind industry and, when problems result, wind developers act as if the deficient standards were established by an independent entity unrelated to them. We are reminded that the proposed Buckeye Wind Phase II development was initially an Invenergy project. The Hardin Wind Energy LLC project in Hardin County is also an Invenergy project.
We have attached  a recent press release issued by the Greenwich Neighbors United in Huron County to announce that the school board has voted to oppose the project. The school board states: “Although the schools in the community would benefit from the tax dollars of the wind turbines, the school board feels that the detrimental impact on the community and the school children far outweigh any tax benefit. ” The OPSB will consider the Greenwich project at its Monday meeting.
Elsewhere, the cancellation of three industrial wind projects in Alabama and Indiana are being celebrated by their communities. Perhaps wind developers will begin to seek out remote areas for their projects and understand that rural does not mean “remote”.

(08-22-14) In a late breaking move, attorneys for an adjacent non-participating property owner in Huron County have filed a request to intervene in the Greenwich Park wind application which is scheduled to be approved on Monday. This is unusual in that the time allowed for a party to seek intervenor status is far past but this late request to intervene seems compelling. In the attached  motion, Omega, a company owning 1,200 acres next to the proposed wind development disputes the developer’s claims that there is no opposition to the project. They point out that public notice was given in the local press on December 23, 24 and 27th when the public attention was directed to the holidays and the local public hearing in May was held right in the middle of planting season when rural residents were unavailable.
Also important to note is that, in its staff report in support of the project, the OPSB refers to Ohio’s in-state mandate for renewable energy. However, this mandate was repealed and cannot serve as a basis for approval of the project. The request to intervene also asserts considerable public opposition to the project and makes reference to correspondence filed by members of the public as well as State Senator Manning, Ohio Rep. Terry Boose and Senator Bill Seitz. Technical difficulties at the OPSB prevented us from obtaining copies of these letters. The upshot of this seems to call into question the extent to which the OPSB accords due process to the public. Due process – or the lack it – is central to concerns raised in Everpower and Hardin Wind’s attempts to extend the expiration dates of their projects. All three will be on the OPSB’s Monday agenda.
Elsewhere, the federal Production Tax Credit extension continues to be the subject of much speculation. In a recent energy trade paper column, A Word About Wind, the following was reported:

What will happen to US wind after 2016? That is the question that lingers unanswered as Republicans and Democrats in Congress fight over the wind production tax credit (PTC).
The wind PTC is a subsidy regime that supports the construction of wind farms. It expired at the end of 2013 and, despite plans from the Democrats to reintroduce it earlier this year as part of a tax extenders bill, this was scuppered by Republicans in Congress.
There is no sign of the Republicans backing down. On 13 August, Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo led a group of 54 members of Congress in calling for a permanent end of the PTC. It called the PTC one of the “most anti-competitive and economically harmful tax provisions”, and said even a one-year extension would cost US taxpayers around $13.4bn.
This makes the 2013 edition of the US Department of Energy’s ‘Wind Technologies Market Report’, which was published earlier this week, more interesting than most. For one thing, it shows how split opinion is about what will happen to the PTC and what this would mean.
Consultancies IHS and MAKE respectively forecast that 8.4GW and 5.1GW of extra wind capacity would be added in 2016, with both assuming that the PTC would be extended for 2016. But Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Navigant based their forecasts, of 3.6GW and 2.8GW added respectively, on the assumption that there would be no PTC extension.
In May, we said we expected the PTC to be extended for 2016. Given subsequent battles in Congress we now think this is less likely – although, like those working in the US, we simply don’t know. Uncertainty like this can never be good for the market.
But our overriding feeling from the energy departments 96-page report is that there are actually a lot of reasons to be positive, PTC or no PTC.
The funding of projects held steady in 2013 due to the low level of activity, but has picked up this year. Investors appear confident that sufficient capital will be available to finance projects, and several investors – including NRG, Pattern and NextEra – have spun-off yieldcos as a way to raise capital from public equity markets.
Wind energy is also looking more competitive. The cost of energy in wind PPAs reached an all-time low of $25/MWh nationwide, compared with $70/MWh in 2009. This must be good news for wind as it is in competition with other energy sources including shale gas.
And the cost of turbines has also dropped by around $600/kW since 2009 and 2010, to now around $1,630/kWh, although this was partly due to the limited number of projects that were completed in 2013. Again, this can only help the wind sector to compete.
We don’t believe the US wind sector is in the midst of a boom, but this report also shows that it isn’t all doom and gloom.

(08-20-14) The Ohio Power Siting Board has placed three industrial wind items on its Agenda for August 25th.  Everpower’s request to extend the expiration of its Phase I certificate by means of a motion without a hearing or public input will be considered. UNU, Champaign County and the townships all filed objections to the motion. (See today’s Springfield News Sun) Invenergy has also requested an extension of its certificate for their development in Hardin County. Like Everpower, Invenergy made its request by Motion to avoid a hearing. Invenergy’s request for a 36 month extension does not appear to have been challenged by anyone with the exception of one citizen. The third project is Windlab Development’s proposal to place 2.4 MW Nordex turbines in Huron County.
In news from Scotland, the government has announced it will conduct an investigation into low frequency sounds from wind turbines and their effect on health and wellbeing. A number of people in that country are questioning why there are no standards for these emissions. Elsewhere in Scotland, Everpower owner Terra Firma (which also has significant ownership interests in wind company Infinis), has announced Infinis has put off decisions on building two projects totaling 98MW until impact of the Scottish independence referendum is clear. People in Scotland are due to vote on 18 September about whether the country should remain part of the UK. Infinis said it would not start work on its 55MW Galawhistle or 48MW A’Churach projects in Scotland until it knew the vote result and its impact on energy policy. Infinis stock continues to decline.

(08-06-14) In the course of Everpower’s efforts to extend the expiration date of their certificate of approval to build the first phase of Buckeye Wind, there is much going back and forth. While Urbana Township and Champaign County were able to meet the deadline for objecting to Everpower’s request, Goshen and Union Townships requested an extension of ten days to file their comment because they needed to take action on the record at their meetings last night. Attached  is Everpower’s motion to deny Goshen and Union Township the opportunity to object and to deny their request for an extra 10 days to get their comments in. Everpower asserts that the rules are the rules and they should be enforced. It is ironic then that Everpower on August 4th, files a Motion for a Waiver of the OPSB rules that would require them to file an application to amend their certificate. This motion is attached.  Everpower asks that the procedural rules not only be suspended on their behalf but that the Ohio Power Siting Board expedite action on Everpower’s behalf.
In seeking to justify why the County, townships, UNU or anyone else should be denied the right to object to the extension of the deadline for Buckeye I, Everpower argues “Neither justice nor efficiency nor economy would be served by further work elevating form over substance.” “Protracted delays due to extensive briefing of procedural issues that are not material to the substance involved are contrary to a policy of facilitating a just, efficient and inexpensive determination of the matter.” Everpower is arguing that it will cost the Ohio Power Siting Board money to process an application so why not just waive the requirement they submit one? They claim it would be just ‘more efficient’ to grant their motion and forget the due process that the community is entitled to. This certainly raises questions on what kind of a “community partner” Everpower would be if the project is ever built.

(07-31-14) This week objections  to Everpower’s motion to extend the 2015 deadline for building the Buckeye I wind facility to 2018 were submitted to the Ohio Power Siting Board  by Champaign County, Urbana Township and Union Neighbors Untied. The objections all raised the procedural requirement that amendments to the certificate of approval must be requested through filing an application and holding a hearing. Everpower appears to be trying to skirt a hearing by having filed a motion instead of an application. One big difference between a motion and an application is that the public is denied the opportunity to comment on a motion. Champaign County and Urbana Township make the further point that in the hearing for Buckeye II, every attempt by the County, City or UNU to question the cumulative effects of Buckeye I and Buckeye II projects on a combined basis were prevented by Everpower. As an example, efforts to determine how noise levels would be affected by the combination of the two projects were denied. Everpower had successfully argued that Buckeye I and Buckeye II were two entirely separate projects. They are now trying to act as if they are one in the same.
We note also that some citizens filed objections to Everpower’s motion further supporting the need for a hearing. All of the letters and documents in the case can be accessed at the Ohio Power Siting Board link above. We have attached the County’s Memorandum in Opposition.
In Mercer County,  Apex, the developer for the proposed Long Prairie facility ignores the Resolution adopted by the Mercer Township Trustees Association in opposition to wind development anywhere in Mercer County and claims they are optimistic about going forward. They blame Governor Kasich despite widespread community opposition. In response, ” Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kasich’s office, said the setbacks were created to protect property value and human health. “Every industry has rules and provisions,” he said. “This office sees this industry as no different than any other.” Notwithstanding, Apex claims to be working toward changing the law. Van Wert Township Trustee, Milo Shaffner, is quoted as saying: “They are very unsightly to begin with,” he said. “The sound they make is so disturbing, it sounds like a jet plane going overhead. My wife and I can’t sit on our front porch and drink coffee in the mornings anymore.” Schaffner said his quality of life has “gone down the drain” since the turbines arrived. “We used to have a great landscape to look at,” he said. “Our roads are ruined, my neighbors have health issues. Those turbines are industry and this is supposed to be farm country. They don’t belong here.”
And in Toledo, the incessant drumbeat of the Toledo Blade  continues advocate for mandates. Wind lobbyist Terrence O’Donnell is quoted in an article below: “But lobbyists such as Terrence O’Donnell , a Columbus attorney from the global law firm of Dickinson Wright, said it’s doable if he and other advocates find the right balance of political diplomacy. They want to ensure Ohio’s new two-year freeze on renewable energy mandates for utilities becomes just that – a timeout from requirements set forth under a 2008 law and not a backdoor strategy to repeal it after this fall’s gubernatorial election.”
A new report from Germany  would take the opposite view as the Germans warn: “Finally, the report highlights how large-scale deployment of renewable capacity does not translate into a substantial displacement of thermal capacity. Because wind and solar are intermittent resources, there are many hours in the year during which most generation still needs to come from thermal power plants in Germany. The stopgap role and the corresponding lower capacity factor of thermal power increased costs per units of power produced, and in the long run will increase the price of conventionally produced power. This also affects the technical efficiency of traditional generation plants, given that these plants are designed to operate as consistent, baseload generators, not as cycling units.”

On Tuesday, August 5th, a town meeting will be held at the Armory in Kenton at 128 North Main Street. The doors open at 6:30 and the meeting begins at 7:00.

(07-27-14) More than a month ago we learned that Everpower intended to close its Bellefontaine office on or about August 1st. At the time, the Bellefontaine Examiner called to verify the story and Jason Dagger denied it. On July 22nd, Everpower’s Dagger and Mike Pullins sent a letter to Buckeye Wind Leaseholders  (page two)  advising them that the local office is indeed closing and the Pittsburgh office will handle any related business. The letter goes on to say Dagger and Pullins will continue to be available locally and that an “operations and maintenance facility” will open when construction begins. In the meantime, they express concern over the “uncertainty” caused by the renewable energy freeze and the elimination of the in-state mandate (SB 310) as well as the threat of new setback requirements. Everpower believes the change in setback language was enacted without any “qualified experts” like the wind industry. They assert that the language implementing new setbacks is “unclear” but could impact Buckeye I, Buckeye II and Scioto Ridge. Notwithstanding, Dagger and Pullins remain optimistic that the projects will go forward but warn that “LANDOWNER AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT IS MORE CRITICAL THAN EVER.” They ask for a demonstration of “strong community support” and state:
“The more that is demonstrated by public officials, the better the investment environment for Everpower. We encourage you, your family and friends to reach out to your local officials and share your support of the projects and ask that they take a public stand in support of the projects.”
We do not know what this plea for support means. We do know that Pullins and Dagger have asked the Union, Urbana and Goshen township trustees to withdraw their lawsuit filed in the Ohio Supreme Court on July 16th. They have attended Township Trustee meetings recently to vigorously argue for a negotiation rather than a court action. The County and the Townships current appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court makes the case that Everpower was unlawfully granted amendments to their certificate without a hearing. This is important to understand because it appears they are trying to do it again by filing a motion to extend the deadline of their certificate of approval. Under the current certificate of approval, Everpower must commence construction by March 22, 2015. By attempting to obtain an extension by motion instead of an application, Everpower eliminates the opportunity for the public to comment. If Everpower is required to file an application seeking an extension, the public would have an opportunity to comment. More important, if the Ohio Power Siting Board were required to hold a hearing on the request for an extension, it likely would not hold the hearing before the new setbacks become effective on September 15th.
If you have an opportunity to let the Township Trustees and County Commissioners know you support their appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. If you believe an application should be required for Everpower’s certificate extension, please tell them now. If you would like to write to the Ohio Power Siting Board to request a hearing on the extension of Everpower’s certificate, you can email the  OPSB  and you must reference the case number Case No.: 08-0666-EL-BGN. Written comments can be mailed to Ohio Power Siting Board, 180 E. Broad Street, Columbus Ohio 43215 and you must include the case number.

(07-26-14) We share two reports. The first from The Economist discusses the work of the Brookings Institute that concludes wind and solar are the most expensive means by which to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and government policy should focus on reducing emissions rather than trying to boost certain kinds of renewable energy. This article is not easy to understand but provides one of the clearest explanations of why wind development is not in the best interests of Ohio ratepayers. We hope the legislative study committee will look at this issue.
Second, we include a good review of the American Bird Conservancy’s  efforts to fight the issuance of 30 year kill permits for eagles. This article practically reads like a novel about government corruption!

(07-25-14) There has been a somewhat quiet consolidation of wind developments in Ohio and Indiana this year and we are just now beginning to see the bigger picture. Wind projects in various stages of development across Ohio have been sold to Apex. We will be seeing and hearing more about Apex in the days to come. Could they have been surprised by the change in property line setbacks and the renewable mandate freeze? If not, they may become buyers for other projects in Ohio as other developers threaten to leave the state. Who is Apex? Our research indicates they are a subsidiary of Greenlight Energy Resources which, in turn, appears to be connected to BP Alternative Energy.
It is often difficult to sort through ownership of wind facilities/leases. In the case of Apex, there seems to have been little publicity. The “press releases” quoted below are the complete texts we could find. It seems the announcements may not have even been sent to the media in the areas where the acquired projects are located. Lack of transparency is nothing new in the world of industrial wind but a new law in Kentucky may begin to change that. Earlier this year the Kentucky legislature passed a law that requires a wind developer to announce when they intend to work in an area and, in some cases, send letters to property owners advising them of their interest in the area. We understand that that the public notice must be given before wind leases are signed. In addition, prior to submitting an application to the state, the local community can request a public meeting to review the proposed application. Another article  indicates that NextEra and Duke Renewables both abandoned Kentucky projects when required to give the public more information about their plans. Perhaps they thought educated property owners would not sign wind leases.  Hmmm……. Read local comments.

 

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