Is it time to flee from OH BigWind/BigSun?

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These are terrifying times indeed…Covid, GreenNewDeal ,election turmoil…

This report deals with wind and solar matters specifically while the second report will address policy both at the state and federal levels with a focus on a Biden agenda as well as where things stand in the Ohio General Assembly. 

Hot, hot, hot in Allen County – Rural residents are appalled at the prospect of Birch Solar’s plan to build a utility scale array.  Three articles chronicling the aggressive local pushback efforts indicate the residents of Shawnee Township will be a formidable opponent against the develop BP Lightsource. The responses of the solar developer to the community remind us of wind. They must be using the same playbook.  They claim studies showing no property devaluation; effective screening with trees; asserting the salvage value of the panels in 40 years will exceed the cost of decommissioning; minimizing impact on wildlife; tremendous financial benefit through PILOT; and significant job creation.  BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.  These people think we have no common sense whatsoever.  Why would anyone want a wind or solar developer as their partner for the next generation or two?  The community has created a Facebook page to keep the residents informed.  The Birch Solar project is just the latest example of why the voters of impacted townships must have a voice in their own future through a referendum approving or denying a utility-scale project.

Managing Noise Levels at Solar Facilities – Noted Acoustician Rob Rand discusses noise concerns in the attached paper.  We know that quiet rural areas have a background noise level around 30dBA.   We also know from wind experience that a 5 decibel increase can cause annoyance and at 40 dBA, the noise can be intolerable.  Rob’s report states that “Grid-scale solar facilities contain inverters and transformers. Solar inverters convert DC voltage from panels to AC voltage. Transformers step that voltage up to grid voltages.  Inverters and transformers emit tonal noise due to magnetostriction, and emit broadband fan noise where components are fan-cooled. Typical A-weighted noise levels for each grid-connect system component are in the range of 65-68 dBA at 10 meters. “  Two things we immediately note are that noise must be measured from the property line and setbacks need to ensure a distance protective of a homeowner’s quiet enjoyment of their property. At present we do not know of any solar siting regulations in place at the Ohio Power Siting Board.

Madison County, Indiana residents lose lawsuit against Invenergy – In Indiana where counties have the authority to approve utility-scale wind and solar projects, the Board of Zoning Appeals approved a project over the protests of some residents.  The residents sued on the basis that the Zoning Board’s decision was arbitrary and they lost.  It was troubling to see that the ruling indicated that Invenergy presented an impact study on property values done by consulting firm MaRous & Company and the staff report that indicated there would be no impact on property values. (Message here is that the developer can buy any study outcome they are willing to pay for.)  The Opponents pointed to the county’s comprehensive plan statement of the desire to maintain farmland and not be targeted for growth but they appear to have been over-ridden by the Zoning Board.  The initial 850-acre special use permit was approved in May 2019, which included a 500-foot setback from non-participating property owners and a second for an additional 350 acres.    The Madison County Council voted earlier this year to deny a request for a tax abatement for project developer Invenergy. The company has since announced it is delaying the start of construction.  We will watch to see what unfolds.  If nothing else, we remind everyone to get involved at the local level.  Seek appointment to township zoning boards and run for township trustee.  These positions matter more than you can imagine.

The City of Toledo goes Solar – City Council has authorized the Mayor to enter the energy cooperative managed by Palmer (See Wind News August 30, 2020)  Local officials explained Toledo “doesn’t have the open space or the up-front capital” to go solar by themselves and so they authorized the mayor to enter into a sort of energy cooperative with 59 other communities and one company will  build an industrial-sized field of panels “somewhere in Ohio.” The communities will split the cost, then share the energy.  Does that get your blood boiling?  Do you, dear reader, live “somewhere in Ohio”?  Are you thrilled with the prospect of wrecking your landscape to make ‘woke’ Toledoans feel good about their electricity?  Want to give them tax abatement to help out since they lack the “up-front capital”?   It was reported the solar array will need about 2,000 acres.

Vive la France! – “The French government plans retroactive cuts to generous solar subsidies it granted between 2006 and 2010. The green energy industry should expect more retroactive subsidy cuts in coming years. This is the price the green lobby is paying for claiming that renewable energy is now dirt cheap. The retroactive cuts proposed by the government are currently debated in the French parliament. The government’s budget law would cut subsidies granted to solar projects between 2006 and 2010. These cuts could save consumers €400m-€600m a year of the annual €2bn solar handouts.  The €2bn handed out to solar investors annually produce less than 1 per cent of France’s electricity, but consumes a third of public spending on renewables.” Quel dommage!

Solar Damage to Watersheds – A Connecticut group, Save the River-Save the Hills, is a nonprofit focused on protecting the Niantic River watershed, which extends across Waterford, East Lyme, Salem and Montville. The group argues that potential erosion and runoff during site clearing and after construction pose a threat to Oil Mill and Stony brooks, which bracket the property and drain into the Niantic River. The privately owned site contains wetlands, large bedrock outcrops and steep slopes.

Sediment occurs naturally in waterways, but excessive fluctuation from urban runoff and development can harm trout and other species by clogging gills, making it harder to find food, and disrupting reproduction.  Concerns about severe erosion and runoff from large-scale solar projects have increased in Connecticut as development has expanded in recent years. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has issued at least three cease-and-desist orders to solar projects that caused adverse water quality impacts due to “aggressive” construction schedules and noncompliance with stormwater pollution control plans, according to comments submitted by environmental analyst Linda Brunza in response to Greeskies’ 2018 application. Moshier-Dunn pointed to runoff problems in East Lyme several years ago at a 5-megawatt solar field constructed by a Greenskies subsidiary. The town twice issued cease and correct orders against the developer after muddy water running off the site during rainstorms wound up in wetlands and waterways.  The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is stepping up its regulatory efforts. Earlier this year, the agency proposed revisions to the permit for stormwater discharge required for large solar arrays. The new guidelines specify how to calculate water volume runoff, how to address slope steepness, and the schedule of inspections. They also require developers to submit a letter of credit to the state to ensure that adequate funds will be available to stabilize a project site in the event of problems.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Course Correction – After posting more than $1 billion in losses, Siemans Gamesa CEO says that the “onshore business will in future prioritize profitability over volume, and emerge from a corporate turnaround strategy as a smaller, less complex organization with a tighter technology portfolio suitable for an evolving market.  Speaking to financial analysts, he added that he had already taken urgent action to address issues in the onshore business, where “we cannot continue the way we’ve done it in the last few years”.  “We have a strict pricing and margin policy in place, and one thing we will do better than in the past is we will adhere to it. “If a project doesn’t fulfil our criteria it will not get approved. We will apply this rigidly across onshore. We can’t afford to take on the wrong business,” said Nauen, who added that Siemens Gamesa had already acted on the new guidelines several times during his first few months as CEO.”

Dutch Citizens Flee from Turbines – This article reviews the experience of a family in the Netherlands who describe “the violence” of wind turbines.  They note that even the moles in their yard left.

Vestas Onshore Turbines Grow AgainVestas’ largest and most powerful onshore wind turbine yet – the EnVentus V162-6.0 MW – is gearing up to produce its first power by the end of November after a prototype was installed at the Østerild national test centre in Denmark.  The machine with a 155-metre hub height was installed next to a V150 6MW turbine that was uprated from 5.6MW and is already in operation. The two are flagships for the move to 6MW by the largest EnVentus turbines, which Vestas announced in early October for its next-generation platform. With serial production expected from Q2 2021, the largest Vestas 6MW model will have a tip height up to 250-metres and swept area of more than 20,000m2 from its 79.4-metre blades.”

Washington State Public Utility District Rejects WindAdding more wind turbines in the Northwest is a bad idea, says the biggest public utility district in the Tri-Cities region. The drawbacks of adding more wind farms outweigh the possible small environmental benefit and could raise electric prices locally, says the Benton Public Utility District.  The Benton PUD, with 54,000 customers in the Tri-Cities area, issued a formal declaration that it does not support further development of wind power in the Pacific Northwest.  It is concerned that increases in Northwest retail electricity rates could harm the economy by eroding the “economic development advantage low rates has given our region.”  Concerns for the area’s environment and ecology were also cited.

NextEra EnergyFlipping 1,000 MW+ PortfolioA subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC has entered into agreements to sell a 90% interest in a 1,000 megawatt (MW) portfolio of long-term contracted renewables assets (the portfolio) and a 100% interest in a 100-MW solar-plus-storage project for approximately $1.3 billion in total proceeds, including tax equity, and subject to working capital and other adjustments. The portfolio is being acquired by NextEra Energy Partners, LP (NYSE: NEP) and a consortium of private infrastructure investors led by KKR (the investors) in two separate transactions. The sale proceeds are expected to be redeployed into new wind, solar and battery storage growth opportunities, including NextEra Energy Resources’ more than 15,000-MW renewables backlog. The attractive capital recycling opportunity provides significant value to NextEra Energy Resources and highlights the value of its renewables development platform. Over the operating life of the assets, NextEra Energy Resources is also expected to receive ongoing annual fee income of approximately $7 million in year one and escalating thereafter, from the investors for operations, maintenance and management services, and the transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to earnings….