A Free-Market Energy Blog

Editorializing for Wind in Ohio: A Rebuttal

By Thomas Stacy II -- July 22, 2014

“We as Ohioans and Americans have to be able to see through the scheme, demand proof of net environmental and energy benefits of wind, or force the industry out of the state to save our tax dollars and our electricity-bill dollars the industry has been drunk on since 2008.”

The Lima News may not be a household name, but it is at ground zero in the local and state wind wars. Here in Ohio, Governor Kasich and the Republican-led House and Senate put the clamps on intrusive wind power projects on private land. And the Wind Lobbyists are mad at their rare defeat.

The editorial below (in red), “Politicians Must Revise Wind Rules,” takes issue with that rare victory for taxpayers, ratepayers, and landowners in the Wind Wars. I respond in indented black.

Republican candidates have made a killing on saying they want to remove obstacles for business owners.

“We must remove government interference” must be in the first three pages of the Grand Old Party’s playbook. Unnecessary regulations are often the target. Economic prosperity helps us all, they say.

Perhaps the party of Lincoln should review its playbook when it comes to wind energy projects right here in Northwest Ohio.

The Republican-led House and Senate passed, and Republican Gov. John Kasich signed, measures that changed Ohio from an attractive spot for alternative forms of energy to an unattractive one. And now we’re feeling the fallout.

Who is “we” other than a crony few?

Iberdrola Renewables has put its plans for a wind farm in Van Wert County and another in Putnam County on hold. Everpower doubts it will pursue any growth in Ohio once it’s done building its Scioto Ridge project in Hardin and Logan counties.

It mostly stems back to the sneakiest of political tricks, putting something into an appropriation bill without fully discussing it.

Which is how the PILOT was extended in 2012.

The Ohio House snuck language into the appropriation bill changing the setback rules for wind turbines. These rules are designed to protect neighbors in case the turbine’s base fell over.

The old rules would protect neighbors in case a turbine fell over.  The new rules are for additional protections – and still fall short of what the wind turbine manufacturers recommend for the safety of their own employees. (See document page 3 of 32 or PDF page 8 of 37) The author of the editorial is essentially complaining that wind developers can no longer use nearby properties as part of their safety buffer zone – for free. 

In general, in an area populated with industrial facilities, the machinery of those facilities is usually located inside buildings and commonly at or near ground level. Or if some machinery is outdoors, then it is typically fully enclosed (like a trash compactor, evaporative cooling tower, or air conditioning unit). Outdoor machinery is also typically stationary (like a cell tower, exhaust stack, or intake baffles) without exposed moving parts.  With industrial wind development, however, the machines are not within buildings, are not stationary, and not at or near ground level.  These differences magnify the effects of industrial proximity, while extending the radius of exposure to them. Wind turbine nacelles do have an insulated polymer skin but these are not “buildings”  and do not afford the same sound dampening as a solid building structure. Wind energy machines sit atop 300-foot-tall towers where the earth’s curvature or a row of trees fails in many cases to block it from view—or its sound and vibration from earshot.

Enormous blades are in awkward motion most of the time (as wind currents dictate) and, by necessity, open to the outside air.  Just one of these machines creates a massive industrial presence.  They appear prominently in the sky and in plain view for one to two miles around.  Within 1/2 mile the machines impose a dominating mechanical distraction overhead, which becomes foreboding the closer the approach. Wariness and unease of large things moving from above is buried deep in our psyche—part of our safety and survival instinct. Therefore, conditioning a non-response to such stimuli through years of exposure (the “you’ll get used to it” defense) is often not complete and effective, and this likely varies widely from person to person.

One or two hundred of these machines as a backdrop to a nearby turbine make for an additional cacophony of industrial repetition—each in uncoordinated motion to the others, and all together unmistakably unnatural. These unwieldy machines stand in stark contrast to any aspect of otherwise rural or rural-residential setting.

When a rural-residential property is offered for sale, natural surroundings, open space, and other rural amenities are almost always a primary selling feature and, in fact, normally a prerequisite to the suitability of such residential property to almost all potential buyers.  Put another way, the absence of surrounding buildings, lights, noise, traffic and asphalt is perceived as “respite” by most if not all rural-residential buyers.

If one is not bothered by living amidst a noisy area or an industrial setting, they may as well live within a town where employment, shopping and social opportunities are closer at hand and more affordable and convenient to access.  People who wish to live rurally wish to do so to escape the hustle, bustle and clutter of towns and cities.  They choose to enjoy natural surroundings as part of their home life.  They are willing to exchange some of their free time for added travel time, and to exchange some of their money to pay the added fuel and maintenance expenses.  They are willing because they value the open space and natural setting more than for any other reason.

But because of the height, and because of the enormous exposed moving parts, the mechanical sounds and vibrations and the moving shadows, industrial wind machinery permeates and neutralizes the rural amenity.  Industrial wind turbines should always be constructed in an area zoned for industry – and well away from people’s homes.

The previous rule said you had to have the turbine set back 1,125 feet from the tip of a turbine’s blades to the outer wall of the “nearest, habitable residential structure.” Now the rule says you have to be 1,125 feet from the property line, not just the neighbor’s house.

This is because people wish to maintain a right to safely and peacefully use their entire properties, and to have them conform in character to the prior prevailing zoning designation.  People have a right to not just the safe enjoyment of the inside of their house, but to the safe and peaceful enjoyment of their entire property. 

Instead of complaining about what is clearly a correction in a previously unfair law, wind boosters need to put up or shut up. Calculations suggest that wind developers could well afford whatever price a safety and industrial easement commands from all neighboring properties.  If it cannot, then it should never have pursued development in such a heavily residential area in the first place.   They can complain all they want, but reasonable Americans support personal property rights. The point is moot.

That’s akin to passing a law saying the very top of the tree in your yard can’t be allowed if it got tall enough that it toppled and crossed into your neighbor’s yard.

As explained this has nothing to do with a fall zone.  It has everything to do with machine noise, safety and industrial domination of the sky above nearby residential properties. Here we note the wind industry’s public relations tactic of trying to control (limit) the discussion to terms which cast the technology in an unrealistically benign light.

That vastly changes how many turbines the companies can put up on the land they lease.

Here is yet another myth the industry is drumming into every piece of news they can. This is an effort to pad investors’ wallets while hiding from their audience the fact that their real argument is to maximize developer profit margin—at the expense of the home equity of neighboring property owners.  The new law demands that wind developers are no longer allowed to collect unjust wealth transfers from innocent parties. As they persist to argue against the larger setback requirements enacted in Ohio, the credibility of the wind industry is wearing very thin among voters and elected officials.

For Iberdrola, the Van Wert project would shrink from 50 turbines to seven. For the Putnam County project, it would cut it from 75 turbines to three.

The reductions in turbine numbers exist only when holding the wind industry’s undeserved excessive profit margin constant.  For a price in fair compensation to neighboring property owners, the project could still contain 50 turbines. For example, for the cost of just ONE of the wind turbines (about $4 million), the developer could buy out THIRTY surrounding homes at a PREMIUM.  Thirty homes would allow an average 15  more turbines to be built.   So in other words, for a 6.7% premium on capital cost, the developer could build all the inefficient and intermittent towering wind turbines it wanted to.

The projects just can’t be profitable at that size.

That’s a lie, as debunked above, and the industry knows it.  They are simply trying to preserve their excess profit at the neighboring homeowners’ expense.  They persist and persist, and upon being fingered for lying they persist some more—only now using leaseholders, sympathetic editorial boards,  and over-the-top environmental zealots to carry their message to newspapers. 

We as Ohioans and Americans have to be able to see through the repeated schemes, demand proof of net environmental and energy benefits of wind, or force the industry out of the state to save our tax dollars and our electricity-bill dollars, which the industry has been drunk on since 2008.

Pair that with the two-year freeze on changing Ohio’s energy portfolio to rely more on renewable resources, and wind-energy companies are getting the idea they’re just not welcome in Ohio.

Yet again the wind industry wants to control what people hear at the expense of the truth. The truth is that clean energy sources that can pay their own way are and always have been welcome in Ohio.  Wind isn’t one of them, as their spokespersons clearly show by complaining that they should be allowed to impose their industrial sprawl on whomever they wish—without any compensation whatsoever.

We’re disappointed the legislature felt it necessary to infringe on landowners’ ability to use their property as they see fit.

The pot appears to be calling the kettle black, doesn’t it? In truth, the legislature did exactly the opposite.  They liberated residential landowners ability to use their property as they see fit and pushed back the land use overreach supported by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation which should be ashamed.

We’re disappointed they replaced a common-sense requirement, like a demand that a falling turbine shouldn’t hit a house where people live, with an arbitrary one, like the falling turbine shouldn’t touch the tippy-corner of the neighbor’s property.

We know wind energy has its opponents locally. They cite a laundry list of concerns, about human and animal health alike. But even they must think this was an underhanded way to drive wind energy out of the state, especially when it came from the party purporting to reduce government interference in people’s ability to make a buck.

Nobody drove wind out of the state. Health concerns were never stated by the legislature or governor as justifications for SB 310 or HB 483. The industry is grasping at straws. 

A cynic might question why a political party would only want to help certain people be successful.

We couldn’t have said it better! The parties that were being ” helped” while hurting other parties were farmers and foreign already-wealthy investors.  Most rural homeowners rely on their homestead value for retirement and end-of-life income. They have been hurt in shadows of the two northeast Ohio wind energy complexes. The state wants to ensure such harms do not continue—not by “effectively banning” wind development, but by banning the industry’s practice of neighboring property value theft.

It is tragic that the rich and powerful have to be so greedy as to try to claim that they are being “made unsuccessful” at the expense of rural homeowners.  Frankly, it’s morally and politically repugnant.

We’ll be optimistic instead that it was a minor oversight from a hastily moved item, and these same Republicans will take the necessary steps to fix their mistake.

I think the proper response to the author of that sentence is, “Dream on.” The big questions here are who wrote this one-sided, shallow brief—and at whose bidding?

One Comment for “Editorializing for Wind in Ohio: A Rebuttal”

  1. Tom Stacy  

    While you are at it, check out this gem of a “guest editorial” in the Toledo Blade! http://www.toledoblade.com/Op-Ed-Columns/2014/07/20/On-energy-bill-Kasich-owes-Ohioans-an-explanation.html
    Mr. “Checks Without Balances” Peterson may be diving with the intent of harpooning evidence of a major conspiracy against the so-innocent wind energy industry, but it is far more likely he will surface with a net full of ordinary Ohio homeowners, taxpayers and rate payers.


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