There has been ongoing work behind the scenes in the Ohio General Assembly with regards to BigWind. There had been speculation last year that HB 114 (repealing renewable mandates) and SB 238 (shortening setbacks) might be combined into a substitute Senate bill. We believe the “McColley Compromise” (BigWind is being promoted by Sen Balderson and Beagle, too) is included in these discussions. Speculation is that focused effort will resume after the Easter break…
The flurry of recent attacks on Rep. Seitz and current property line setbacks is not letting up. This may be an indicator of panic on the part of the wind industry eager to get relief from protective setbacks while the Production Tax Credit is still available. Recently, Rep. Seitz circulated a peer reviewed study of the distances ice or blade fragments could be thrown from a wind turbine. In his email, Seitz noted “The study demonstrates that blade shear fragments can travel 700 meters to 2 kilometers, and ice throw distances range from 100-600 meters. Also of interest is table 1, showing setback distances around the world, the vast majority of which exceed current Ohio law and vastly exceed those proposed by SB 238. I highly recommend that OPSB staff undergo a careful review of this study as their history demonstrates scant attention to these objects of wind farm development.”
In response to Rep. Seitz’s effort to educate his colleagues, environmental activist/journalist, Kathiann M. Kowalski, wrote a rebuttal of sorts attempting to discredit or marginalize the ice/fragment throw study by claiming that just because it is possiblefor a fragment to be thrown a certain distance, does not mean it is probable. Wind News readers should be wary of any attempt by the wind industry to assert safety protections based on probabilities. It is customary to evaluate safety on a basis of a “deterministic” study not a “probability” study. We include in today’s issue an article by Lisa Linowes from a 2014 in Master Resource that speaks to this distinction:
“In assessing risk to the public, the wind industry typically assumes a probabilistic perspective where they examine the probability of failure and the chances of an individual being present at the time of the event. If the probabilistic assessment assumes that people are infrequently present when a blade might be thrown, for example, then it’s not surprising that the industry reports a low risk of harm even at close range.
According to William Palmer, a utility reliability engineer responsible for analyzing the impact on public safety at a nuclear facility in Ontario Canada, deterministic risk assessments provide a more accurate understanding of risk and necessary mitigation measures. Deterministic risk assessments require analysts to assume that a person is permanently standing at the limit of risk (edge of the safety zone), and are considered to be there during the accident. If people are nearby all the time, their risk of being hurt is high.”
Also, important to note this week are the publication of proposed rules for wind issued by the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). They will be scheduled for review by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). Given the above discussion, it is important to see how the OPSB deals with safety in the proposed rules:
“(3) In addition to the use of the safety measures enumerated in paragraph (E)(2) of this rule, the potential impact from ice throw shall be presumptively deemed to satisfy safety considerations if the probability of one kilogram of ice landing beyond the statutory property line setback for each turbine location is less than one per cent per year.”
Ohio’s current minimum fixed setback distance (1,125 feet) is often less than the minimum safe distance specification contained in safety manuals issued by manufacturers of wind turbines. In the Greenwich Windpark case from Huron County, a safety manual for the GE 2.3-116 model was filed with the OPSB during the certificate application process. The safety manual states:
11.1 Approaching and Entering Frosted Turbine Generator Systems
Before parking near the turbine, stop approx. 350 m [1,148 feet] from the turbine and check the rotor blades for ice by means of binoculars and the sound of the rotation of the blades. If the turbine is running and ice is present, call for a remote stop.
Leave the immediate vicinity of the WTG after completing your work. Watch out for falling ice. Get into your vehicle. Do not call for a remote re-activation of the yaw drive and restart of the turbine until you are approximately 350 m [1,148 feet] away from the WTG.
Is there a double standard for employees versus residents living nearby? WHO, exactly, is the OPSB protecting with THEIR rules??? What assumptions are made in the OPSB “probability model”? Do they even have their own model? In other cases, the OPSB has indicated they do not have the expertise to make such calculations and they rely upon the wind developer. We recall a dissenting opinion from Justice Stratton in the Ohio Supreme Court where she opined that, the OPSB simply required the developer to provide OPSB staff, and no one else, with the “formula” used to calculate the distance a blade could be thrown. “Since this same staff had lacked the competence to even attempt such a calculation in the first place, it is open to question what good providing such a formula would do.” And the OPSB did not require the developer or staff to share the formula with other parties, to file it in the public record, or otherwise to resubmit the issue for review, so no one else would ever be entitled to scrutinize the developer’s calculations. This should be troubling to lawmakers and communities, alike….