Big wind’s public relations problem
Wind Power States See Highest Inceases In Power Prices
You say you love Maine’s mountains? Too bad.
Latest Local News:
FAA ruling could still wind farm plans
Reconsideration of Greenwich wind turbines
Another blow to the solar industry
Don’t rush signing turbine contract
Landowners still fighting windfarm
Friends: (10-17-14) On Monday night, the Brown County Board of Health in Wisconsin voted to declare the Shirley Wind Project to be a human health hazard. The approved motion states:
“To declare the Industrial Wind Turbines at Shirley Wind Project in the Town of Glenmore, Brown County, WI. A Human Health Hazard for all people (residents, workers, visitors, and sensitive passersby) who are exposed to Infrasound/Low Frequency Noise and other emissions potentially harmful to human health.”
This is an important step forward in the debate about industrial wind setbacks and the effects of low frequency noise. Readers of Wind News will recall that the study of LFN by four acousticians was underway at Shirley when Union Neighbors United intervened in Everpower’s Buckeye Wind II before the Ohio Power Siting Board. One of the researchers working on the Shirley Wind study was Everpower’s noise expert, David Hessler. On the witness stand at OPSB in November, 2012, Hessler responded to a question from UNU’s attorney about LFN as follows:
Q: Low-frequency noise cannot be ruled out as a potential problem at wind farms, can it?
A: Yeah, up until recently my belief was that it could essentially be ruled out, but I’m changing my mind on that a little bit.
Hessler was changing his mind because of what he was learning at the Shirley Wind project. (The full report is included in the attached motion.)
The OPSB hearings closed on December 6, 2012. On December 12th , the Shirley Wind study was concluded and on December 24th the report was issued. That report concluded two important points.
- “An important finding on this survey was that the cooperation of the wind farm operator is absolutely essential. Wind turbines must be measured both ON and OFF on request to obtain data under nearly
identical wind and power conditions to quantify the wind turbine impact which could not be done due to Duke Energy’s lack of cooperation.”
- “A most interesting study in 1986 by the Navy reveals that physical vibration of pilots in flight simulators induced motion sickness when the vibration frequency was in the range of 0.05 to 0.9 Hz with the maximum (worst) effect being at about 0.2 Hz, not too far from the blade passing frequency of future large wind turbines. If one makes the leap from physical vibration of the body to physical vibration of the media the body is in, it suggests adverse response to wind turbines is an acceleration or vibration problem in the very low frequency region. The four investigating firms are of the opinion that enough evidence and hypotheses have been given herein to classify LFN and infrasound as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the industry. It should be addressed beyond the present practice of showing that wind turbine levels are magnitudes below the threshold of hearing at low frequencies.”
On January 17, 2013, UNU requested that the record in Buckeye Wind II be reopened to allow inclusion of the Shirley Wind Report. (See attached Motion) Everpower objected and the OPSB denied the request. Now the Health Department in Brown County, Wisconsin has determined the Shirley Wind project is a health hazard to “residents, workers, visitors, and sensitive passersby.” The Health Department’s decision was made public on a local radio talk program. We have provided the link to the radio program.
The radio program makes several important points. First, the State of Wisconsin controls the siting of industrial wind turbines and local governments are unable to put restrictions on them unless they are deemed a health hazard. The mere designation of health hazard will not shut down the turbines. However, it will force the debate and the wind industry will have to present evidence that LFN does not cause adverse health impacts. It is believed they will not be able to refuse to cooperate as Duke Energy did previously. That will be a tall order. The radio program host asserts that the wind industry “can no longer put smarmy editorials in newspapers around the state that obfuscate the real issue which is what the wind lobby has done again and again and again.” “They are not going to be able to do that this time.”
(10-14-14) Attached are two motions filed by Everpower this week. One is in opposition to UNU’s request for a rehearing on Everpower’s motion for an extension of their Buckeye Wind I certificate. We do not know when the OPSB might rule on the motions due to the complexities of their rule making (or lack thereof). The second motion filed by Everpower concerns Scioto Ridge and their opposition to a local homeowner’s effort to be granted intervenor status. The homeowner has a vacation home at Indian Lake and the viewshed in the area will be severely compromised. The OPSB was required by law to address the siting of industrial wind turbines near recreation areas and they failed to do so. The imposition of a buffer zone for all kinds of recreational areas is a logical thing to do but the OPSB never did it. This is one area where citizens from all over Ohio find fault with the existing rules and any proposed revisions.
During consideration of SB 310, the Ohio Manufacturers Association was actively engaged in opposition to freezing the mandates. A number of large employers in Ohio took issue with the OMA and yesterday they made public that they have left the OMA and started their own organization. We think this is big news and have included a press report about the matter. Hopefully, the voice of these large employers will ring in the ears of legislators who want to keep government mandates on private business.
The legislative committee to study Ohio’s renewable and alternative energy mandates is now complete. House of Representatives Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, appointed six members Thursday to the Energy Mandates Study Committee. His appointees and six from the Senate, announced three weeks ago, have pivotal roles in deciding the fate of Ohio’s energy standards, which were frozen in May.
Here are Batchelder’s appointments:
• Peter Stautberg, R-Cincinnati. Stautberg, chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee, is co-chairing the review committee, along with Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, who co-sponsored the bill that initiated the freeze. Stautberg lost his seat in the Republican primary in May, so his term runs out at the end of the year. A Stautberg aide told me that committee meetings are planned to be held before the year’s end, although it’s unlikely that the report will be issued then. Stautberg’s seat will be filled by another representative when his term ends, and one of the five other sitting members will likely replace him as co-chair.
• Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster
• Lou Blessing III, R-Cincinnati
• Christina Hagan, R-Alliance
• Jack Cera, D-Bellaire
• Michael Stinziano, D-Columbus
The 12-person committee has eight Republicans and four Democrats. Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Tom Johnson is the 13th member, although he cannot cast a vote. The committee must issue a report by the end of September 2015.
Our first impressions are that Christina Hagan understands and is sympathetic to setback concerns. Julie Johnson and Tom Stacy have met with her a number of times over the past few years. Rep. Stautberg will be leaving the legislature at year end because he lost his primary. He currently sits as Chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee and it is possible he could be succeeded by Rep. Hagan. Rep. Stinziano is smart and represents the OSU area where a number of ardent renewable energy activists are. OSU currently has a contract to buy some of the wind generated in Van Wert County. We suspect Stinziano to be a formidable opponent. Rep. Blessing is a question mark. He supported SB 310. But his father who previously served in the legislature has been a huge wind proponent and may represent some wind companies. The senior Blessing testified a number of times in support of mandates.
(10-13-14) A great deal of important activity has taken place across Ohio this past week. We invite you to go to the website of the Ohio Power Siting Board for more information as it is not possible to attach all relevant materials for each wind project.
Everpower Scioto Ridge
Greenwich Wind Park Huron County
Blackfork Wind Crawford/Richland County
We have also attached an article we have mentioned before from a science journal on health effects. This article is an effort by medical professionals to better organize the body of evidence pointing to wind turbine adverse health impacts. To the extent doctors worldwide can approach their diagnosis in a consistent way and document symptoms in a consistent manner, a more credible effort can be made to assess health impacts. Those who have operating turbines in their communities should make this document known to local physicians.
(10-6-14) As we have previously reported, the Ohio Power Siting Board revised its rules for siting industrial wind turbines and rescinded the old rules in February, 2014. A number of concerns have been raised about the OPSB rule revision process, including the fact that the public was pretty much excluded from participation in the process. The law requires OPSB to file all revised rules with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Revision (“JCARR”) prior to the changes becoming effective. The OPSB failed to do this and it has been a matter of some confusion as to what rules apply. Moreover, given that new laws on setbacks are now in effect, the rules proposed last February are not up date. Chaos. Today JCARR announced that OPSB has made a filing on rules 4906 – 1- 01 through 4906 – 17 – 07. The proposed changes can be viewed at the Register of Ohio website. We understand that JCARR has up to 65 days to review the rules. During that time the public can file comments. Once we have studied the proposed revisions, we will share our concerns.
On a related note, we attach correspondence of interest from Senator Seitz in support of the Greenwich Wind opponents who are seeking a rehearing in their case. Senator Seitz expresses concerns about how OPSB has interpreted certain provisions addressing setbacks.
A recent story on Pennsylvania’s decision to review the contributions of industrial wind contained two rather surprising points. Everpower representative, Michael Speerscheider, is quoted as saying, “In today’s markets, there’s no real way to value what wind brings to the energy mix,”. Good grief. Worse yet, the article states that: “According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, each wind turbine kills 26 bats and four birds on average each year. With 720 turbines currently installed, that amounts to 21,600 mortalities.” Good grief again. It strikes us that this number is much higher than what Everpower proposed in its application.
In the “better late than never” category, a letter from Vestas to the City of Falmouth from 2010 has come to light. The letter indicates that both noise and danger of ice throw are possible and the City of Falmouthwas requested to accept/acknowledge that any impacts would be their responsibility and not the responsibility of Vestas. The manufacturer states in the letter that, should noise be an issue, the only mitigation would be to turn the turbine off with a resulting impact to power production. Falmouth has been much in the news over the years due to excessive noise and community complaints. It seems local elected officials knew ahead of time that there would be trouble.
And in the “we told you so” category, Siemens reports that wind energy is simply not competitive in the US without public subsidy. We note that Michael Speerscheider of Everpower continues to contend otherwise.
(10-02-14) Interesting news has been reported around the country and the world in the past few days. Pennsylvania and Oklahoma are both taking steps to review wind energy in their states. In Oklahoma a real estate developer calls the expansion of wind “a time bomb just waiting to go off” despite the aggressive efforts of wind lobbyists to kill any legislative oversight or reform. This article is a “must read” and thanks to Mike Burton for bringing it to our attention. We are all the more grateful to Senator Seitz for seeing the problems on the horizon instead waiting until 1,700 turbines had been built such as in Oklahoma.
Closer to home in Pennsylvania, calls for a review of wind have been answered by the establishment of a legislative review committee to study impacts to landscape, wildlife and the grid. Everpower’s Michael Speerscheider states he is happy to participate but fears the study’s outcomes will be biased. He fears the way the study was legislated indicates a foregone conclusion unfriendly to wind. That EXACTLY what he and other wind lobbyists said about the Ohio study. We will probably hear the same thing soon from the Oklahoma wind lobby.
The UK’s Telegraph is reporting that a new study by scientists at the University of Munich which has been published in a science journal called Open Science indicating long term low frequency noise exposure may damage hearing. The report is careful not to say this effect has been proven but it does give reason for further study and it does say the type of low frequency noise in question is like that emitted from industrial wind turbines.
We also share a news item from Huron County about the resolve of citizens to fight the proposed Greenwich Windpark. The protests from this area along with the folks at Blackfork Wind, Hardin Wind, Scioto Ridge, Timber Road and Buckeye/Champaign all reflect a protest against sloppy and ineffective regulation like that described in the Oklahoma news report. As the article says: “To ensure the opportunity didn’t slip away, lawmakers promised little or no regulation and generous tax breaks. But now that wind turbines stand tall across many parts of the nation’s windy heartland, some leaders in Oklahoma and other states fear their efforts succeeded too well, attracting an industry that gobbles up huge subsidies, draws frequent complaints and uses its powerful lobby to resist any reforms. The tension could have broad implications for the expansion of wind power in other parts of the country.” We hope so!
(09-28-14) There is much activity in the world of industrial wind. In Maine, First Wind is seeking approval to use the new taller turbines which are now measuring 574 feet tall. Elsewhere, the wind industry’s principal insurer, GCube, has released its first ever “insider” report on losses and claims called “Breaking Blades”. Among the report’s findings are that “with an estimated 700,000 blades in operation globally, there are, on average, 3,800 incidents of blade failure each year. Lightning strikes are still one of the most common reasons for failure. The report explains that the first strike often impairs the lightning protection system such that the second strike can destroy the blade. In some cases, corrosion protection is insufficient causing detachments of blades from the main hub assembly and, in some cases, causing third party liability claims from human injury. Vibration is also cited as an ongoing reason for blade failure. We have discussed various vibration concerns from longer blades as a cause of low frequency noise.
Flying Magazine has an article this month on the death of an Ag Pilot whose family was awarded $6.7 million following the pilot’s collision with an unlighted met tower. The article notes that “The meteorological evaluation towers, known as METs and equipped with small wind anemometers, have been cropping up all across the country as investors seek to cash in on the wind energy craze. By keeping them just below 200 feet, wind farm entrepreneurs save the money, time and hassle of registering them with the FAA – while putting ag pilot’s lives at risk.”
Meanwhile, Everpower has sent its latest Newsletter to local leaseholders advising them that they are considering offering to make one-time upfront payment of the entire 20 year lease payments if the leaseholder would prefer to get their money up front. The amount of the one-time payout would be less than what the landowner would receive over the life of the project but would be appealing to some leaseholders who may have urgent financial needs. Everpower is seeking a bank that might assist them in this initiative.
On the Ohio Power Siting front, we attached the coverage on the Huron County Greenwich project and a recent community meeting where Tom Stacy, Kevon Martis and Mark Shieldcastle presented. Shieldcastle, former State of Ohio wetland wildlife manager who is now with the Black Swamp Observatory, expressed his frustration with the wind industry for using “junk science” to evade true protection of wildlife. In Champaign County, the Urbana Daily Citizen reports that the County and Township governments did not file requests for rehearing of the OPSB’s decision to grant Everpower’s certificate extension. Presumably, these governments have their hands full with their two other active suits.
(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 Blackfork, Timber 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
(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.
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