Will the OPSB give the GREEN light to BigWind in Ohio on Monday?

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 However, this mandate was repealed and cannot serve as a basis for approval of the project.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? …

The wind PTC is a subsidy regime that supports the construction of wind farms. It expired at the end of 2013…

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….

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….

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.