Ohio and federal Bigwind lobbyists belong in a circus

The three ring circus may need additional rings as the activity ramps up.  The wind lobby is frantic and stories from across the nation attest to it.   In Ohio, HB 190 to give the County Commissioners power to repeal the current property line setbacks has been referred to the House Public Utilities Committee.   No hearings have been scheduled yet and we will keep you advised of any activity.  Tom Stacy described the legislation as like giving the County Commissioners the power of eminent domain without the obligation to compensate the property owner.  Well said!    

At the federal level, a group of Democrats introduced a new bill to require electric utilities to deliver 30 percent of their supply from renewable sources by 2030. The renewable energy standard (RES) bill introduced yesterday updates a policy proposal that clean energy advocates have pushed for years. It would impose at the federal level the same type of mandate that currently exists in dozens of states.  (And remains frozen in Ohio for now.)   Perhaps the increasing number of states repealing their mandates has caused the wind lobby to move to the federal level to combat the states.

Here in Champaign County, after months of silence, the Editorial Board of the Urbana Daily Citizen wrote an opinion piece.  While not coming out in direct opposition to the EverPower Buckeye Wind project, we discern a bit more hesitancy on their part as they wonder what kind of corporate citizen a new owner would be?  They acknowledge that local officials have concerns about problems that could arise during and after construction.  While it is a mild Editorial, it is at least a recognition that there are two sides to the issue….

The latest buzzword to enter the wind turbine saga is “yieldco,” and this new wrinkle adds a dimension to the potential construction of Buckeye/Champaign wind farms.

Partially because of a more nimble type of investment model called a yieldco that is apparently well-suited to progressive energy development such as wind, EverPower (the parent company of two utility-scale wind farms proposed for Champaign County) may now be worth as much as $1.5 billion…

If EverPower is acquired by investors who are structurally better able to finance the farms, their construction is more viable financially. On the flip side, if it is so easy for the wind farms to change owners, how do their prospective neighbors know for certain the farms will be good citizens once constructed?

We don’t know if the potential sale of EverPower to an owner with more financial prowess will equate to the locally-sited farms being constructed. There are still too many other variables….

If a Republican wins the White House and Republicans maintain their majorities in Congress in 2016, we can’t help but think EverPower faces an uphill battle constructing the proposed wind farms here. In addition, Ohio lawmakers have required more distance between homes and the turbines (also known as setbacks) for future projects…

Complicating the process further, EverPower faces deadlines for starting construction on each project, according to state law. While such deadlines are sometimes flexible based on other factors, EverPower also continues to face persistent legal opposition from Union Neighbors United and a handful of well-heeled residents who live near the proposed projects. In addition, some county agencies and townships have begun to express concerns about problems the farms could cause during and after construction.

One of the biggest hurdles EverPower will face is its application for “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) status from Champaign County Commissioners. This process involves so many monetary variables that the county auditor struggles to pin down the differences in how much local entities would draw in taxes versus the lesser but more predictable payments in lieu of taxes.

When and if EverPower does apply for PILOT, there will be a renewed push from proponents and opponents to win the hearts and minds of county commissioners and the citizens who elect them…

The proposed wind projects began rather stealthily with the company signing up private landowners to leases that will allow the turbines and their system’s infrastructure to be installed. This is not a public utility, but it is under the authority of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and it is heavily reliant on the public sector incentives supplied by our tax money for its birth and survival….

Where are the wind turbines? – Urbana Citizen – urbanacitizen.com.

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