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Category — Windpower: History and Issues

Wind Setbacks: Safety First (unless you’re a wind developer)

“After years of debate there is still disagreement and uncertainty regarding appropriate safety setback distances. This uncertainty has benefited the wind industry. Thousands of turbines are erected throughout the U.S. that are dangerously close to where people live.”

Last month, Ohio infuriated wind proponents by passing Senate bill 310, a bill that delays the state’s renewable electricity standard for two years and eliminates the requirement that half of the renewables mandate be met with in-state resources.

Within days of SB310 passing, Ohio Governor John Kasich approved a change to the safety setback distances for wind turbines. Under the new law, setbacks will now be measured at the property line of the nearest adjacent property as opposed to the wall of a nearby home. In practice, this will require minimum distances of at least 1,300 feet from property lines to each turbine base.

Wind developers and Ohio’s media cried foul over due process claiming the legislature gave no warning of the setback rule change or opportunity for testimony. They insisted the provision was ‘anti-wind’ driven by coal and oil interests intent on destroying the economics of large-scale wind and called on the governor to veto the change.

Industry Setback Recommendations

For decades, the wind industry has advanced the notion that these massive spinning structures can safely be erected a few hundred feet from where people live and gather.

The industry’s preferred setback has been 1.1x to 1.5x the height of the tower (including the blade) which was derived from the fall-zone of the tower. We saw variations on this over the years beginning in California, that measured as much as 3-4x the total tower height. In general, there was no consideration in the setback distances for noise nor did the 1.1 to 1.5x setback adequately address ice/blade throw. [Read more →]

July 1, 2014   3 Comments

Ohio’s Win, AWEA’s Loss (Rep-Elect Vitale new national hero)

“Gov. Kasich has walked away from his commitment to renewable energy. He and the Legislature are creating an unfriendly business environment in Ohio. Legislators rammed through restrictive rules without due process, and millions of dollars already invested based on the previous set of rules may now be lost without any public debate. This will force clean energy developers and manufacturers to move to neighboring states with similar resources and friendlier business climates.”

- Tom Kiernan, CEO, American Wind Energy Association,  AWEA Press Release, June 16, 2014.

Is that a threat, Mr. Kiernan? Because states neighboring Ohio should indeed bristle at your words. Perhaps some legislatures will even muster the bravery to follow suit and protect their citizens with wind turbine setback distances measured from property lines – the way most other safety related zoning measurements are.

Kiernan’s whine makes it sound that it is AWEA’s land that it is being made off-limits to wind development. Neither is the case.

Furthermore, the new Ohio standard is not the first of its kind, and certainly not the most restrictive. For instance, in Clifton, Maine wind turbine project developers by law must negotiate an easement with all landowners whose property line is within 4,000 ft. of a wind energy generator.

“If Gov. Kasich is serious about this being a freeze and study, and not about defeating renewable energy, and if he wants us to believe what he says, then he simply must veto the setback,” [AWEA’s Ohio lobbyist, Dayna Baird] Payne said. “It would really be the end of the line for the industry… [a death knell].”

Whine, whine, whine on the taxpayer’s dime…. [Read more →]

June 19, 2014   No Comments

Turbines on Trial: Animal Miscarriages in Denmark (inconvenient fact for wind cronyists?)

“Politicians, and wind industry shills who … deny the risks to health, are now liable to be successfully sued by wind farm victims. And so are governments, as they still refuse to measure infrasound emitted by modern wind turbines.”

In Denmark last month, 1,600 animals were born prematurely at a mink farm. Many had deformities, and most were dead on arrival. The lack of eyeballs was the most common malformation. Veterinarians ruled out food and viruses as possible causes. The only thing different at the farm since last year has been the installation of four large wind turbines only 328 meters away.

The wind farm consists of four 3 MW turbines, VESTAS model V112, reaching out to 140 meters in height at the tip of the blades. When they became operative last fall, a first mishap was reported by the mink farmer at a parliamentary committee on wind farms in January this year. [1] 

The World Council for Nature (WCFN) reported the incident earlier: [Read more →]

June 13, 2014   3 Comments

Wind’s PTC: The Opposition Mounts (117 groups and counting)

“The U.S. wind industry has … demonstrated reliability and performance levels that make them very competitive.”

- Statement of Michael L.S. Bergey, American Wind Energy Association, 1986.

“The wind PTC was initially passed in 1992 as a temporary incentive to help a then fledgling industry – with the expectation that wind energy would be environmentally benign and would become commercially viable. However, after nearly 40 years of subsidies for wind energy R&D and 20 years of lucrative wind energy tax breaks — together totaling over $100 billion.”

- Glenn Schleede, “Republicans for Obama Energy (Senate Finance Committee Okays PTC/ITC Subsidies),” April 16, 2014.

Concentrated benefits/diffused costs. The cronies, rent-seeking profits calculated, lobby government in the capitals. Most of the rest of us, just paying a fraction of a penny for their many dollars, stay home. That’s how government grows and bad public-policy rationales get going.

Wind power and other qualifying renewables got their government largesse long ago. Even before the Energy Policy Act of 1992, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) was promising coming competitiveness with just a bit more subsidy, a little more time. Then the taxpayer favor could go away, they promised time and again.

The open-ended, outsized tax subsidy for qualifying renewable energy, a mainstay of Obama energy policy, is a Republican, not only Democrat, problem. Texas, for example, thanks to Enron in a bootlegger-and-Baptist coalition with pro-wind environmentalists, is a Republican friendly state for AWEA et al. Note the support for wind from, for example, Sen. John Cornyn.

New Coalition Letter

Earlier this week, a coalition letter (reprinted below) urged Congress not to renew the wind PTC in these words: [Read more →]

June 11, 2014   No Comments

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Windpower: ABC Request vs. Government-enabled Eco-blight

“At the risk of sounding harsh, these gestures [by the American Bird Conservancy et al.] seem little more than the war’s defeated negotiating terms of surrender when, in reality, the industrial wind profiteers should be made to justify their existence. With tens of thousands of turbines placed in the U.S. and easily hundreds of thousands more to be placed until the business falls under its own weight, the onus is on industrial wind to prove its worth.”

Under the banner of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), approximately seventy organizations have requested that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell “develop a Programmatic Wind Environmental Impact Statement to identify appropriate areas for wind energy development as well as areas where new projects should be avoided to conserve wildlife and sensitive habitats.

The letter refers to studies which “have documented significant losses of birds and bats, including threatened, endangered and other protected species (an estimated 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats annually at 2012 build-out levels). The number of birds taken annually by wind energy facilities could exceed 1.4 million by 2030 if there is no change in U.S. policy towards wind energy development.”

“Siting Is Everything”

The signatory groups “are supportive of renewable energy as a way to address anthropogenic climate change, but only if it addresses wildlife and habitat impacts. In particular, this means appropriate pre-construction assessments of risk leading to proper siting, post-construction mitigation and independent monitoring of fatalities, and compensation if and when public trust resources are being taken.”

The letter states that, “when it comes to wind energy, siting is everything.” The groups “believe that much of this conflict could be averted by a National Wind Energy Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which would determine where wind energy should be developed and where it should not.”

My Letter to ABC

This letter is being distributed widely. My copy arrived via the Allegheny Highlands Alliance, “an alliance of organizations and individuals committed to protecting the mountain resources of the Allegheny Highlands.”

I elected to respond to several members of that organization with these comments: [Read more →]

May 8, 2014   No Comments

Republicans for Obama Energy (Senate Finance Committee okays PTC/ITC subsidies)

“The April 3rd action by the Senate Finance Committee certainly helps explain why a recent Gallup Survey shows that Congress currently has a 13% favorability rating. If the nation’s ‘Millennials’ understand how the Congress is adding to the debt that they and their children will bear, they may assign an even lower rating!”

The Senate Finance Committee that manages to make life miserable for millions of tax-paying Americans with its manipulation of the U.S. Tax Code. The Committee’s latest aids its friends, punish ordinary taxpayers, and loads another $85 billion in debt on our children and grandchildren.

On April 3, 2014, by “voice” (no fingerprints) vote, the Senate Finance Committee reported out an $85 billion tax break ”extender” bill — which the Committee calls the “EXPIRE Act.” [1] The bill includes billions in unwarranted tax breaks for special interests, including the wind industry.

As long as Congress fails to pass a balanced budget, every dollar provided to special interests in this $85 billion “Extender” bill is a direct addition to the national debt for the future (our future) to worry about. Further, each dollar that Congress adds to the national debt will be DOUBLED in about 15 years due to interest that will accrue on that debt.

An egregious example of an unwarranted special interest tax break in the Finance Committee’s bill is Senator Grassley’s wind and other renewable energy “Production Tax Credit” (PTC) and “Investment Tax Credit” (ITC). Grassley insisted on extending this 20-year old “temporary” tax break for another 2 years at a cost, according to the Joint Tax Committee, of more than $13 billion over the next 10 years (and more thereafter).

When Senator Toomey attempted to eliminate unwarranted energy tax breaks from the bill, Republican Senators Grassley, Cornyn, Thune, Crapo, & Portman[2] joined Finance Committee Democrats in voting to keep the massive energy tax breaks in the bill! [Read more →]

April 16, 2014   1 Comment

AWEA Spins Price Distortions to Save PTC (hit on nuclear clouds CO2 rationale)

“Negative prices are not the goal of any healthy economy, yet the PTC fosters this behavior at the expense of other, reliable generation. Building more infrastructure to correct for this problem is exactly the wrong thing to do.”

The last extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC) [1], its eighth in over twenty years, expired at the end of 2013 and the industry is again clamoring for another extension. But this time, big wind is facing a more sophisticated argument advanced by critics who contend that the PTC is artificially depressing wholesale power prices, disrupting market signals and undercutting more reliable generation including Exelon’s fleet of nuclear power plants.

Wind for nuclear–and in a way that increases greenhouse gas emissions, or certainly fails to reduce it?  The irony for climate policy has been noted by James Hansen who was informed that renewable-energy subsidies were intended to “kill nuclear.” Wrote Matthew Wald in the New York Times:

To stave off climate change, sources of electricity that do not emit carbon will have to replace the ones that do. But at the moment, two of those largest sources, nuclear and wind power, are trying to kill each other off.

So much for wind power’s climate-change rationale.

Last month, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released a detailed defense of wind arguing that its impact on energy prices is positive, with or without the PTC. But rather than making its case, AWEA’s rebuttal repeatedly misrepresented the rules governing competitive electricity markets and how out-of-market revenues impact energy prices. In this essay, we examine several of the assertions made by AWEA and show how they fall short.

Claim 1: Wind energy displaces the most expensive generation and decreases electricity prices. [Read more →]

April 15, 2014   2 Comments

LEEDCo Lake Erie Wind Project: Joint Letter of Protest

“We ask that you deny any permit to LEEDCo for siting of 6-9 turbines in Lake Erie…. Sadly, it is extremely easy to refute and challenge the environmental guidance this project is putting before you. It is disappointing that this project has progressed even thus far.”

Many groups and individuals from OHIO and Canada and Europe, who care deeply about wildlife, birds, bats and habitat, have been communicating their concerns with the LEEDCo “Incubator” project proposed for 6-9 industrial wind turbines off the shores of Cleveland.

The signatories to this letter represent only a fraction of the sentiment about this proposed improper placement and immature concept of industrializing what is part of 20% of the world’s remaining fresh water reserves.

International Perspective: Ontario, Canada, has in place a precautionary PROVINCIAL offshore moratorium, and four others from Ajax, Pickering, Council of Scarborough, and the largest Conservation body in the province, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). These moratoria were the result of observations that the fresh waters of the Lakes deserve special caution and study.

To date, there is no information leading to a reversal of those decisions. The Lakes continue to be regarded both sides of the border as unique, having special problems of toxic waste filtered to the lakebed, unique patterns of wildlife and birds/bats, unique basin fragilities, unique intensive bird capital, and unique billions of dollars in birding and boating activities.

Ohio has one of the largest concentrations of birding activities in and around the Great Lakes, tens if not hundreds of millions, and as such deserves to be free of any industrialization that may confound this unique geography, habitat, and economy.

Environmental Testimony

Dr. Paul Kerlinger and Associates has been engaged to comment on any possible effect of the 6-9 incubator turbine proposal, and we are concerned that his testimony is possibly an environmental grounding point for the project. We strongly object to acceptance of any commentary on this project proposal by Dr. Kerlinger, and Associates.

Please see Dr. Paul Kerlinger’s biography here. [Read more →]

April 11, 2014   7 Comments

LEEDCo Wind Project’s Mega-Opposition (Junking Lake Erie at Taxpayers’ Expense)

[Editor note: The Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) has proposed to erect between six and nine industrial wind turbines just off the shore of Cleveland. The so-called INCUBATOR project is currently before the Ohio Power Siting Board.]

“We are thrilled to have the strong support of the environmental community in Ohio,” said LEEDCo President Lorry Wagner, citing letters from the Ohio Environmental Council, Nature Conservancy, Environment Ohio, Sierra Club, Mom’s Clean Air Force, Ohio Interfaith Power & Light, and Earth Day Coalition.

Barely were those words spoken, when a damning letter arrived (Part 2 tomorrow) from a much broader, bigger, and sophisticated group of environmentalists and consumerists.

The letter provided brutally clear information and frank talk about one of the wind industry’s leading carnival barkers, Dr. Paul Kerlinger and Associates, whose environmental testimony is universally controversial and corrupted by industry money.

Groups who signed onto the anti-LEEDCo letter are: [Read more →]

April 10, 2014   2 Comments

“Killing Wildlife In the Name of Climate Change” (Part I: The Double Standard)

[Editor note: Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, is a leading researcher and disseminator of the problems of ‘green’ energy. His February 25, 2014, testimony before the Senate Committee on the Environmental and Public Works follows today and tomorrow.]

The focus of this hearing is on the economic benefits of ecosystems and wildlife and how they “are valuable to a wide range of industries,” including tourism. The purpose is also to examine “how the Administration is preparing to protect” ecosystems “in a changing climate.” The facts show that federally subsidized efforts that are being undertaken to, in theory, address climate change, are damaging America’s wildlife.

Furthermore, those same efforts have, for years, been allowing an entire industry to avoid federal prosecution under some of America’s oldest wildlife laws. My discussion will focus largely on the wind-energy sector, an industry that has been getting federal subsidies since 1992, and the impact that the wind-energy business is having on wildlife. [1] There are two key questions that must be addressed:

* Are all energy providers getting equal treatment under the law when it comes to wildlife protection? The answer to that question is no. * Is widespread deployment of wind turbines an effective climate-change strategy? The answer, again, is no. [Part II of Bryce post tomorrow]

Part I; Energy companies are not being treated equally when it comes to enforcement of federal wildlife laws. I have been writing about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act since the late 1980s. [2] In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service brought hundreds of enforcement cases against the oil and gas industry in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, for violations of those laws. And rightly so. [Read more →]

March 19, 2014   5 Comments