Testimony Against Industrial Wind Power (Kevon Martis before the Ohio Senate and House Public Utilities Committees)
“The world of wind energy lobbyists, developers, and their ‘environmental group’ advocates is one in which up is down, black is white, loud is quiet, double talk is the lingua franca, and the U.S. Constitution does not apply.”
Testimony of Kevon Martis Concerning Sub. SB 58 & HN 302, Ohio Senate and House Public Utilities Committees, November 13, 2013.
I would like to thank the committee for this opportunity to testify today. I have a BA in History from the University of Michigan. I have also served as the vice-chairman of the Riga Township planning commission as well as the vice-chairman of the Lenawee County Rural Land Use Committee. I lecture widely across the Michigan on wind-energy zoning matters. I have testified before the Michigan House Energy and Tech committee on energy policy and am a resource for legislators from both sides of the aisle.
As a volunteer ratepayer advocate, I believe I bring a unique perspective on what I will today call the “bizarro world” of industrial wind energy policy. Having been involved with those who are living on the receiving end of wind energy mandates like Ohio’s SB221 or Michigan’s PA295, I am in a position to testify about things that lobbyists roaming the halls of Columbus or Lansing prefer to keep unseen.
As those who testified before me have elegantly demonstrated, the world of wind energy lobbyists, developers, and their “environmental group” advocates is one in which up is down, black is white, loud is quiet, double talk is the lingua franca, and the U.S. Constitution does not apply.
Permit me to share my observations from a front row seat across the rural Midwest over the last 4 years:
I have watched Exelon Wind developing wind projects across Michigan even as their CEO was stating publicly that natural gas fired energy is the most cost effective means of reducing emissions, bar none.
I have watched Spanish utility Iberdrola’s CEO lobby for reducing wind and solar subsidies in Europe as being destructive to the integrity of the grid. Yet their sales agents in Ohio argue in favor of preserving similar policies. What I have not seen is Iberdrola’s US sales team talk about the $1 billion in US profits they strip mined from the US treasury and exported back to Spain in just a single year.
I have seen Duke Energy sign a wind lease with a township supervisor in Michigan who claimed it was not a conflict of interest to then create legislation that would make that project possible. And when that man was removed by legal force, he became Duke’s sales agent.
Despite wind energy’s alleged purpose, I have never seen a wind developer show that adding wind to an existing generation portfolio like Ohio’s is the low cost means of avoiding emissions. In fact, it is nearly 10x the price per unit of CO2 avoided than replacing coal generation with Combined Cycle Gas Turbines. Could that be why they instead prefer to talk about jobs and economic development? Is it because they fail the only test that matters?
And with respect to green jobs creation, I have seen legislators and policymakers alike fall for the green jobs claims, while never realizing the jobs wind promoters are most concerned with are their own.
I have watched NextEra Energy – claiming to be green – receive so much benefit from the Wind PTC that they pay essentially no income tax on their vast fossil fuel generation fleet even as they built the world’s largest gas-fired generator in the heart of the Everglades.
I have heard wind promoters tell Michigan policymakers that they can “win the wind race” by increasing wind mandates and that they do not want to lose out to states like Iowa. But I have never heard them tell the rest of the story—that Iowa’s renewable energy mandate is only 150 MW and was fulfilled long ago and that despite more than 20% wind penetration in Iowa, coal emissions have risen every year, and are not expected to drop until coal generation is replaced with gas.
I have observed the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) telling Ohio that by preserving or even increasing the RPS mandates that it can become a national leader in green job creation. And I have seen them tell that same “love story” to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina etc….. It appears to this observer that AWEA is a fickle lover indeed!
I have witnessed wind developers tell Ohio policy makers that wind is a cost-effective means of generating electricity despite being far more expensive than wind from the Prairie States. Cost effective for whom?
I have heard wind developers talk about wind energy being “grid competitive” in some markets while never once stating what is undeniably true: the bulk of that energy is generated at times of low demand and thus has a value of far less than $35/MWh and that often these same wind generators actually pay the grid to take their unneeded energy as the taxpayer makes them whole.
I have observed AWEA justifying their massive subsidy regimen by suggesting that all forms of generation are “subsidized,” irrespective of the fact that wind energy subsidies equal or exceed the wholesale value of the electricity they produce and are 80 times the value per MWh of gas- or coal-fired generation.
I have witnessed Republican politicians quote free-market economist Fredrick von Hayek as a justification for increasing unconstitutional in-state wind energy “must produce, must purchase” cartels.
And I have witnessed Democratic politicians attack fossil fuel monopolies for their corporate oppression of the common man while ignoring those same loathsome behaviors by those same fossil fuel entities as they construct irresponsibly engineered wind projects with their onerous impacts upon humans, wildlife, and the social fabric of our rural communities.
I have watched AWEA operatives attack citizens who assembled to protest wind energy mandates as being secretly funded by some dark “fossil fuel interests” even as they jetted to Midwest wind energy summits on the largess of E. On, AEP, FPL/NextEra and Iberdrola—fossil-fuel companies all.
I have read statements by AWEA’s Michael Goggin as he speaks in glowing terms about how the U.S. has a “world class” wind resource compared to Europe, while neglecting the fact that, regionally, NREL shows that Ohio’s wind resource is poor or marginal and is far more expensive than Iowa, Minnesota or North Dakota.
And neither does Mr. Goggin rush to Europe to proclaim that they have an inferior wind resource and should immediately stop their mandates.
I have watched promoters of wind like Sierra Club oppose fracking, while AWEA and CanWEA promote the replacement of coal and nuclear with gas+wind while claiming that the obviously increased use of gas generation in that scenario would somehow keep gas prices down.
I have read articles by the Farm Bureau favoring wind subsidies and mandates and then taking phone calls from farmers in tears as they beg me to find a legal means to escape their predatory wind lease.
I have heard Iberdrola claim to be a good neighbor, while hearing testimony from those in Paulding and Van Wert counties with respect to cut field tile, road damage, and a turbine base constructed too closely to a gas line in defiance of a Power Siting Board order.
I have heard wind developers state with a straight face that yes, 150’ tall power transmission lines are known to affect property values but 494’ tall turbines 1,000’ from your bedroom have no “statistical effect” upon home values. Is it because they spin and make noise?
I have heard a wind developer’s noise consultant approve 1,000’ turbine-to-home setbacks in Michigan despite having testified in Vermont that similar turbines would cause health impacts from more than a mile away.
I have heard countless wind developer acoustics “experts” testify that wind turbines are no noisier than a conversation, a refrigerator, or a quiet library, only to have people inside those developments later resort to building noise bunkers, taking sleep medication or home abandonment to escape the turbine noise. And I have also heard developers claim those examples are outliers. Yet every major wind development in Michigan is experiencing those effects, including 73 folks that signed a petition asking that the 12 turbines in Delta County be turned off due to the noise.
I have routinely witnessed wind developers claim wind capacity factors of 30, 35, and 40% in Michigan and Ohio, yet neither state has yet to reach even 30% in actual operation.
I have watched wind developers claim that their study found no endangered Indiana Bats near a proposed wind project. Yet an Eastern Michigan University biologist had just studied those “nonexistent” bats the several years prior.
I have heard AWEA suggest that wind subsidies made possible by taxpayers somehow reduce the price of electricity for ratepayers. Has no one told them that ratepayers and taxpayers are the same people?
I have seen wind promoters claim that wind energy is “grid competitive” and that it has dropped in cost from $90 to $50 per MWH and that subsidies are no longer needed even as they urge Congress to extend the subsidies or wind development will end. Yet if the cost of producing wind is grid competitive today, then no mandates should be required at all.
I have heard Michigan wind developers claim to be environmentally friendly while building 3 wind projects within 3 miles of the Great Lakes shoreline, in direct defiance of the USFWS recommendations.
I have read articles stating the wind PTC needs to be extended for the sake of the climate, even as the National Academy of Sciences reports that the net effect of the PTC is perhaps a “0.3% reduction” in CO2 emissions and is a very expensive means of avoiding CO2 compared to alternative solutions.
I have heard wind proponents like AWEA say that wind energy is a wise investment in a cleaner tomorrow. Yet Michigan has spent $2.5 billion dollars on wind energy that produces an effective capacity of only 250MW and can never retire a single coal plant. Further, wind avoids only trivial quanties of emissions. That same investment in combined cycle gas turbine plants could have permanently closed nearly one half of Michigan’s coal fleet, thereby reducing statewide fine particulate and Hg emissions by 50% and CO2 by 25%. And gas-fired electricity is low in cost and high in value, the exact opposite of wind energy.
I have heard boisterous claims of how green energy mandates will drive job creation while those who consume electricity have far graver concerns.
I have stood by and listened as wind promoters in Ohio and Michigan both concede that in-state wind generation mandates are likely unconstitutional, but since no one has yet initiated legal action, who cares?
And of course replacing gas or nuclear generation with wind sounds great until you really look at it.
So you see, that’s what things look like from where I sit.
I speak today on behalf of those rural residents in Ohio on the receiving end of SB221 when I say that the bill before us today is a good start but it does not begin to unravel the “bizzarro world” of windspeak, where expensive is cheap, noise “like a refrigerator” drives people from their homes, predatory wind leases are good for farmers, paying $50-100 for Ohio wind energy is better than buying it from Iowa for $30 and that it is somehow green to kill bats and raptors with a technology that has only a trivial and expensive ability to reduce emissions.
We must recognize that the policy package AWEA was selling starting in 2005 was never intended to yield tremendous benefits to anyone except their own affiliates. And we must recognize that those self-serving benefits come at a substantial loss to the taxpayers/ratepayers who enable their ignoble work.
Energy policy is quite literally a matter of life and death. It must not be the playground for armchair environmentalists’ latest pet theories.
We applaud this very heroic attempt to begin to unwind the economic and environmental absurdity of Ohio’s instate wind mandate. But we ask that this be only the first step in wresting Ohio’s energy policy from the hands of ideologues and returning it to the realm of science and economics.
This testimony was presented before the HOUSE: Chairman Stautberg, Vice Chairman Roegner, Ranking Member Williams; and SENATE: Chairman Seitz, Vice Chairman LaRose, Ranking Member Gentile, members of the committee,
Kevon Martis is director and senior policy analyst of the Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition, Inc., a bipartisan nonprofit based in southeast Michigan, just a few miles from Toledo, Ohio. IICC represents citizens living on the front lines of industrial wind development in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.