BigWind active in Ohio and Midwest- Influence is powerful and expensive

In the Wind News where today we cover the “big picture”.  We hope to provide some context for understanding local battles taking place across the Midwest.  These battles are fought not just for our families but for the landscape and all creatures who reside there.  But first we have an update on the progress of setback legislation.  State House news sources reported on Friday that Senate President Obhof now says talks on wind turbine setback revisions are “a long term project”.  It was thought that a substitute bill for energy and efficiency mandates would be released in the next few weeks and the bill (Sub. HB 114) would include setback revisions.  Now, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Troy Balderson has indicated the timeline and extent of changes to current are unclear.

Concerning setback revisions, we are including once again the February 2018 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  (when referring to this study please cite: Larwood S, Simms D. Analysis of blade fragment risk at a wind energy facility. Wind Energy . 2018-1-9 )   This government-sponsored study concludes that property line setbacks should be a minimum of 2x (hub height + rotor radius)  and the distance from a dwelling is proposed to be 3.5x (height + rotor radius).  It is important to note that these distances do not provide for no risk but instead provide for a level of risk considered “acceptable”.  Readers are encouraged to print the attached 9 page study and share it widely.

EverPower’s Scioto Ridge turbines (aka Hardin Wind LLC) in Hardin County is just under 500 feet in total height.  This would suggest a property line setback of 1,000’ and a dwelling setback of 1,750’ .  Dolan’s bill would provide for 600’ from property line and 1,225’ from a dwelling:  a property line setback that is 525’ short of what NREL proposes.  By studying the NREL/Larwood report, one understands that the risk of catastrophic consequences increases as the recommended setback distance is decreased.  According to the FAA, turbines proposed for Timber Road in Paulding County will be 599’.  Requiring an NREL/Larwood study setback from the property line would result in a 1,198’  setback and from a dwelling 2,096.5’.   If nothing else, it appears that the setbacks in place today are appropriate for 500’ turbines and inadequate for a 600’ turbine. This also demonstrates the need for setbacks to be measured as a ratio to overall turbine height.

Some big picture observations in this issue of Wind News:


  • Amazon reports median worker pay is $28,000.   CEO Jeff Bezos took in $1.7 million.


  • Last August, the Department of Energy released three national lab reports saying future wind growth was unpredictable because of tax policy and natural gas prices .  Forecasts after 2021 show a downturn because of the phaseout of the production tax credit, low natural gas prices, modest electricity demand growth and less of a push from state renewable portfolio standards, DOE said.   According to AWEA, “States are where the action is happening for wind, with our federal tax credit on an orderly path to phase out by 2019.” “Individual states’ policy choices and the strength of their infrastructure will play a big role in determining where wind power’s future growth is channeled,” he said.”   “The growth was in part because of Facebook, which worked with PNM Resources to develop a green tariff in New Mexico that enabled two large wind farms, AWEA said.”   Last year Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg  announced that “To protect the environment, all new data centers we build are powered by 100 percent renewable energy,”


  • In the wake of announcements by Facebook and Apple, people are asking if claims about 100 percent renewables are wrong.  “The question surfaced this week after Apple Inc. recently announced its global facilities — including its stores and data centers — are powered completely by renewables. The claim prompted a slew of headlines about the company’s “all-green” status.  The problem with that, according to some analysts, is that it’s not fully true. It’s not a situation unique to Apple either. Other companies, and some cities and regions, need to do a better job clarifying exactly what is meant by their “100 percent” statements, critics say.”


  • The Brattle Group released a report stating the announced closure of four nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania will have severe environmental and economic impacts. Specifically the report predicts closing will: Increase annual electricity costs by as much as $400 million annually for Ohio residents and $285 million for Pennsylvanians;  put more than 3,000 direct jobs at risk, as well as thousands of additional secondary jobs; and eliminate tens of millions of dollars in local tax revenues. The report claims the closures would trigger price increases of up to $2.43/MWh for Ohioans and $1.77/MWh for Pennsylvanians and eliminate the environmental benefit of all the zero-emissions generation installed in PJM over the past 25 years.   The natural gas industry objects to saving nuclear when fracking can supply a source of clean power.


  • US customers other than electric utilities signed 40%, or 2.18GW, of wind capacity contracted through power purchase agreements in 2017, cementing the segment as a significant demand driver of industry growth, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).  Beyond PPAs, a variety of methods exist for non-utility purchasers to invest in wind energy. Green tariffs, for example, enabled 330MW of deals to date. These tariffs are programs that allow eligible customers to buy the bundled energy and renewable energy credits from specific wind energy projects through their utility. A growing number of utilities have said they will offer green tariffs in the next several years. Direct project ownership is another option – either onsite or offsite. IKEA is the biggest project owner to date here, purchasing a 165MW wind farm in Illinois.


  • How does AEP make  money?  AEP’s main business is its collection of vertically integrated utilities, which make up around 65% of its rate base. Transmission and distribution utilities make up around 25% of the rate base, and the company’s AEP Transmission Holding Company accounts for the remainder… It’s also made material changes in recent years to adjust to shifts taking place in the industry. For example, coal made up 70% of its power capacity in 2005 but sits at around 50% today. The goal is to keep pushing its share down to roughly 33%. Offsetting that drop was an increase in the company’s use of natural gas and a huge leap in AEP’s renewable power base, which more than tripled from a scant 4% to 13% over that time span. The long-term goal is to increase renewables like solar and wind to 33% of generation…


  • Berkshire Hathaway’s “MidAmerican owns more wind capacity than any US utility and is presently constructing a 2GW multi-site project called Wind XI in Iowa. PacifiCorp is seeking regulatory approvals for planned 1.1GW in new wind capacity…Rounding out the top five investor-owned utilities with wind on their systems is Southern California Edison, 4.32GW, all contracted; American Electric Power (AEP), 2.554GW, all contracted; and Westar, 1.665GW – 430MW owned and the rest under contract. AEP would jump into third place if regulators approve its landmark 2GW Wind Catcher Energy Connection project in Oklahoma, the industry’s largest-ever single site project.”  There is lots of wind development occurring across the U.S. – in places where the wind blows and expansion is possible…


  • Duke Energy is now prominent in the renewables business.   “Duke started expanding into wind and solar energy 10 years ago. Renewables isn’t just a compliance obligation for a utility, it’s a business opportunity… Duke Energy Renewables, the commercial part of our renewables portfolio, operates in 22 different states now.”  We can offer a national customer a broad range of solutions, from large wind farms in the wind belt ..”


  • An overview of Northeast Ohio describes the Cleveland area’s pursuit of renewable energy  “I think we could do a lot more with wind and I think we could do a lot more with solar,” Johansen said. “I haven’t seen enough windmills to satisfy my desire. Solar is good fit when you find land that’s not that high in value. It would be great to put more wind or solar on brown fields” in Northeast Ohio.”   Be our guest.


  • An Indiana physician writes a letter to the Editor about health effects of wind turbines and reviews setbacks from a number of European communities.  She advocates setbacks for health that are even further than setbacks for safety.


  • The DeWitt County, Indiana Planning Commission has recommended limiting the height of any tower to 499 feet. Currently, there is no set height limit.  It also called for requiring a minimum distance of 2,000 feet between a tower and the nearest house. The current ordinance requires a setback of 1,500 feet.


  • The biggest picture of all is now available.  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with public and private partners, has released the most comprehensive publicly available database yet of U.S. wind turbine locations and characteristics. The United States Wind Turbine Database (USWTDB) will allow unparalleled ability for government agencies and others to make planning decisions.  Using the USWTDB Viewer, federal agencies will be able to share data to properly account for wind plants in development planning. “Our collaborative arrangement with AWEA and USGS allowed us to merge the separate proprietary datasets from each of our organizations and combine them with those from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which enables an unprecedented view of the U.S. turbine fleet,” says Ben Hoen, a research scientist and the project’s lead at Berkeley Lab.   The team that developed the USWTDB will host a one-hour webinar on April 23 at 2 p.m. Eastern to provide details on the data and viewer. Register here to join.  We encourage as many as possible to learn about this tool.  We know the wind industry will be using it to promote their interests….