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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Are Ohio’s farmers beginning to say NO to BigWind, but YES to solar?

The Huron County Greenwich Windpark project is in the spotlight this week as citizens continue to battle what they believe has been an unfair and legally questionable process before the Ohio Power Siting Board.  We imagine many Ohio communities feel empathy for the Greenwich residents.   One issue that is in dispute concerns the OPSB’s interpretation of the law concerning when consent must be given by neighboring landowners when a setback waiver is requested.   It appears that OPSB does not quite know, or perhaps is not willing to say at this juncture, how it applies the law.   We are not aware of the OPSB having ruled in this area previously and so we were puzzled by the comment of the wind developer’s attorney, Sally Bloomfield.    “Bloomfield said that if GNU’s interpretation were adopted, it would be a marked departure from prior law and practice. In the past, the Siting Board has consistently interpreted the law to say that any waiver “has to be granted by the people who were affected” by it, she explained.” 

We know of no previous rulings on the issue of waiver consent and no prior interpretations of the law.  Notwithstanding,  the law appears to provide the prerequisite for all abutting property owners to give consent when waivers are granted.   Bloomfield seems to be adding her own interpretation and introducing language that is neither in the law or the rule.   The OPSB is continuing to mull over this conundrum and we have no idea when they might issue any clarifications.  We do know that every wind-affected community will be watching closely.    And from the story below, it looks as though Senator Seitz will be watching too.

Meanwhile, next door in Indiana,  wind developers are happily working away expanding existing sites and looking for new ones on which to erect up to 2,000 new wind turbines.   This would triple the number they have now.   Indiana is touted as having suitable lands and strong winds along wiith a good geographic position to serve demand centers like Chicago and Indianapolis.  One cloud on Indiana’s turbine filled horizon is the ultimate rules for the government’s Clean Power Plan.   

“One particularly sticky issue: EPA’s proposed “clean power plan” rules don’t give a utility any credit, under the CO2-lowering mandates, for using green energy in its generation portfolio if it buys wind power from outside its home state. If that proviso stands, Indiana’s wind industry could be hurt because it currently sells the bulk of its power to non-Indiana utilities. They would be newly motivated to drop their Indiana contracts and buy their green energy from wind farms in their own states. Utilities and other interests are lobbying the EPA to drop the rule giving credit only to home-state-bought green energy. The final EPA rules are expected out this summer. States also will have a say in the matter, so they’ll have to be lobbied, too.”

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the proposed rule on home-state-bought green energy is removed.   This is a very important issue especially for states that may lack reliable and affordable resources within their own borders.

While Ohio’s wind woes continue unabated, we were somewhat amused by the new embrace of solar energy by farmers in Ohio’s NW counties.  The Mansfield News Journal reports: “It’s solar energy, however, that’s making real inroads into the farming communities of the region today, and as far as Rick Niese is concerned, the reason is simple. “Actually, we forget that we have them. I thought we would see a glare from the road. There is no glare. They’re not reflecting, they’re absorbing. No muss, no fuss,” he said. “My dad and I were talking about this the other day. We wish you could go around and do this and actually forget about the windmills, because you don’t even know it. The windmills, you’ve got them out there in everybody’s face, everybody sees them. We really like the idea of solar versus wind.”   

So do we, Mr. Niese. So do we…..

An effort by opponents to stop a proposed Ohio wind farm, which includes a legally questionable maneuver to prevent property owners from granting variances, has the support of the state legislature’s most outspoken critic of renewable energy.

Greenwich Windpark, one of the few wind energy projects moving forward in Ohio, was approved by the state Power Siting Board in August. However, opponents, along with state Sen. William Seitz, have requested a rehearing and want to apply stricter rules than those that were in effect when the Siting Board ruled last summer.

Earlier this month, Seitz provided Midwest Energy News with materials from Greenwich Neighbors United (GNU) in Huron County as an example of “the efforts of local folks…to fight ‘Big Green Wind.’”…

Meanwhile, in a pending rulemaking proceeding, GNU is urging the Siting Board to change its rules so that any adjacent property owner could prevent a waiver by another property owner, even if the waiver would not affect the person objecting to it.

“I believe it says all adjacent property owners to that wind farm have to sign waivers” for a setback or any other variance, maintained Ledet. “I think that’s something that’s going to have to be battled out in court.”

“We want to make sure the Ohio Power Siting Board is doing what the Ohio Power Siting Board should be doing for the citizens of Ohio,” Ledet also said. “Are they concerned about our safety and our welfare and our property rights?”…

Ledet said GNU is also trying to reach out to other communities “to help other people that are going to be facing the same onslaught” from wind farms.

For the time being, though, SB 310 and HB 483 have apparently put the brakes on most in-state wind development….

State lawmaker part of effort to stop Ohio wind project | Midwest Energy News.

Everpower’s ‘infrasound’ wreaks havoc on residents ONE MILE AWAY

With Everpower holding leases in Ohio (Hardin, Logan, Champaign county and beyond), you should share this with your family and friends.  An environmental health epidemiologist told these people that wind turbines should not have been permitted to be as CLOSE as 1 mile to their home! Encourage your fam/friends to get involved with a local educational group.  The groups are listed along the right-hand side of our blog. This Thanksgiving, give thanks to the Ohio House of Rep’s who passed HB 483 this year- it extended our setback to 1300 ft from the property line. Although it still appears to be woefully inadequate, it is a step in the right direction….

Low-frequency sounds can be detected in houses as far as a mile from wind turbines, an expert said.

Rick James, an acoustic engineer, said infrasounds are in homes located near the Twin Ridges Wind Farm.

Twin Ridges, located on the Big Savage Ridge area near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, went into operation in late 2012.

James tested the infrasounds in a house that belongs to Tammy McKenzie and her husband Joe – who say they live in the “dark, deep depths of hell” beneath the shadow flicker, high- and low-frequency sounds that emit from the wind farm’s turbines.

“The tests at the McKenzies showed the characteristics I have found in homes of people who not only had adverse (health) reactions, but whose reactions were strong enough to make them decide to move if they find a home buyer or in some cases just vacate the home and move elsewhere,” said James.

In other areas, such as the Shirley Wind utility in Brown County, Wis., where more extensive testing has been conducted, folks reported adverse health effects including the sensation of moving while being still and pressure in the head, James said.

“Other people in the house may not sense anything,” James said. “There is a broad range of sensitivity to this acoustic energy. That is really not unexpected.”

Joe McKenzie said the sound of the wind turbines causes ringing in his ears and pressure in his head, his wife said….

Before the project’s construction in 2011, EverPower — a Pittsburgh-based company that owns Twin Ridges —  worked with municipalities to develop agreements and ensure compliance with industry standards, said Michael Speerschneider, chief permitting and public policy officer.

The frequency range of the infrasounds differ from waves such as sound emitted from other types of rotating machines, James said.

“Instead, they have large spikes of (peaks or crests) that are as much as 100 to 1,000 times higher in pressure than the pressure in the valleys between the spikes,” said James. “While the average sound pressure level of the tones may not appear to be very significant, it is the peaks of the pressure waves that are significant.”

Despite the sounds, the McKenzies say they refuse to vacate their “dream” home.

Tammy McKenzie also said she talked to Farhad Ahmed, an environmental health epidemiologist from Harrisburg.

“He states that they should not have let the wind industry place a turbine close to our house in the first place due to health concerns of the noise that is emitted from the turbines,” Tammy McKenzie said….

Infrasound found in homes near wind farm – News – The Cumberland Times-News.

Ohio group educates against BigWind

Yesterday, Champaign County and the Townships  filed an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court protesting the OPSB’s failure to hold a hearing on amendments to the Buckeye Wind project.  This filing comes at the same time that Everpower is seeking an extension to their certificate of approval for Phase I. 

Below is a press report about the community education meeting in Bellefontaine.   Speakers included Tom Stacy and Philip Morse, a mechanical engineer who asserted, “Wind turbines do not generate energy when wind speeds are less than 8 miles per hour and when wind speeds are too high they are constantly using energy to operate the braking systems or can shut down entirely”, the engineer said. “The name of the game is not about engineering or  power production. It is about something else that other people are better prepared to answer than I am,” Mr. Morse said. “On an industrial scale like this, these things are going to be energy suckers — feed me your money; feed me your power. “Wind turbines are not alternative energy sources,” he said. “They are lackluster supplemental energy at best.”…

Wind energy is neither financial nor technically efficient and is unfair to neighboring property owners, a group opposed to wind turbine development told a group of about 75 residents that turned out for a Monday evening meeting at the Logan County Friendly Senior Center…

“The argument is that it is my property and I should be able to do whatever I want with it,” Mr. Sheperd said after asking one attendee if he would like to have a strip club or trash dump built next to his home.

“I agree you should be able to do what you want with your property so long as it doesn’t affect my ability to peacefully enjoy my property.”

During the meeting, Tom Stacy, an organizer of the Fight the Wind opposition group and self-proclaimed “affordable energy advocate” discussed the financial ramifications of wind development, while mechanical engineer Phillip Morse evaluated the theoretical efficiency of wind turbines.

While coal, natural gas or nuclear plants can ask to raise rates to cover their overhead, wind and other alternative energy suppliers cannot do so, Mr. Stacy said. To make up for this, the government subsidizes wind projects by a margin of nearly $2 to every $1 generated in energy, he claimed. …

“If we think schools are underfunded and this is a way to address that, there is a better way to do that than to give a company from outside the country 95% of the tax money and let them return the other 5% to the schools and local government,” he said….

via: http://www.examiner.org/images/WebEdition/071514_BEweb.pdf