BigWind befriends Amazon to attack Ohioans’ property rights

Ohio wind warrior, Julie Johnson, represents more than just Ohioans who live in Champaign county…safe setbacks protect our citizens, our property rights, our property tax base, and our peace of mind!  Will Amazon build a distribution center in the middle of one of these industrial wind turbine sites? Nope.  Will Amazon actually power one of their sites, entirely, with wind energy? Nope, not from Ohio, because our winds ‘suck’.  Will the Amazon leaders live in the middle of an industrial wind site? Nope. Enough said. Hypocritical?….

The massive online retailer Amazon has weighed in on a proposal aimed at aimed at making it easier to locate and run wind farms in parts of Ohio, saying the state’s current restrictions make it unattractive to build turbines in the state….
But the current, tougher standards are important to protect property owners living near the turbines, testified Julia Johnson of Champaign County. Johnson is a member of Union Neighbors United, a group of residents opposed to the Champaign County wind farm.
“I am here to express the opposition and anger of my community and the hundreds of voters across Northwest Ohio who have worked so hard to protect our property and families with reasonable setbacks from industrial wind turbines,” Johnson testified….
Amazon is working with EDP Renewables to develop a 100 megawatt wind farm in Paulding County under the state’s older, looser rules.

But Ohio’s current restrictions are chilling future investment, said John Stephenson, manager of U.S. public policy for Amazon in testimony on Ohio House Bill 190.

“Unfortunately, Ohio’s wind turbine setback standards enacted a little more than two years ago have significantly diminished the attractiveness to further investments in wind generation in Ohio,” Stephenson said. “In fact, the current setbacks have acted as a moratorium of sorts on new wind development.”
Amazon is bulking up its presence in Ohio, where it has previously announced plans to build two new distribution centers and create as many as 2,000 jobs. The company is also developing data centers in central Ohio.
“Amazon believes the substitute version of HB 190 strikes a balance that would allow wind development in areas of Ohio where it makes the most economic and operational sense and will help bring Ohio more high-tech operations that increasingly depend on renewable energy,” Stephenson testified….

But reducing the distance turbines must be set back from property lines would create safety and noise concerns for residents living in a wind farm’s footprint, Johnson said. She described the proposed bill as a gimmick to repeal the previously established setbacks.
Johnson testified that there are good reasons for the stricter setbacks. She cited nuisances like noise, moving shadows from the turbine blades, and also argued the turbines can affect property values.
“People ask why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have generated so much support in the campaign for president,” Johnson testified. “It is because people are angry and this bill is the kind of legislation that fuels that anger.”

Source: Wind rules debated, Champaign residents oppose changing standards

How Big will the turbines be, planted next to you, in Ohio? Bigger than you think…

 

No sooner had we written about the prospects for the Clean Power Plan, Justice Scalia died and now there is much speculation about his successor and whether the U.S. Senate will hold hearings on any nomination that might be made by President Obama. We cannot speculate on what will happen but thought you should know the constitutionality of the Clean Power Plan hangs in the balance. In some states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, the Governor has ordered that no further work on the CPP be undertaken while in Kansas and Missouri, the legislatures are working to halt activity. Ohio waits to hear what happens next.

In advance of a major Wind Operations and Maintenance conference coming up in Texas, a report has been issued reviewing issues that are arising as the fleet of wind turbines deployed across America age. The numbers are sobering and should give any community thinking about approving a wind facility second thought. Principal findings include:

• Bearing failure/ repair & maintenance focus set to double by 2017

• Original Equipment Manufacturers could lose 15% share of the O&M market by 2020

• Condition Monitoring Systems & Analytics investment to increase 1/3 by 2017

• Optimization of power generation, not cost cutting the real driver of investment (63/37%)

This means among other things, the noise from turbines is going to get a lot louder as the turbines age and are in need of gearbox repair. Also, repowering existing turbines with longer blades will increase. Moreover, those turbines that cannot be viably repowered will be decommissioned (or left to rust in the fields). Finding Q13 “What is the single biggest focus for you over the next 12 months?” was decommissioning.

What does “optimization of power generation” mean? It means taller turbines and longer blades and it should mean longer setbacks. We think the giants are coming to Ohio. The FAA reviews all potential structures that exceed 200 feet in height for possible air traffic obstruction. Recently, they have reviewed a wind development planned for Bellevue for turbines listed at 660 feet! Bellevue straddles Erie, Huron and Sandusky Counties. We include an article about this sort of monster below with a link to the monster movie showing its construction.

Going back to the Operations and Maintenance issues, our colleague, Tom Stacy, advises us to think about them in the context of annually increasing renewable energy mandates. Tom says, “Consider the implications of annually ratcheting energy market share mandates with a total schedule term longer than the lifespans of wind turbines. The deployment rate must increase markedly in later years of the program when new turbines are required to meet both replacement of old machines as well to meet annual benchmarks. And all this to produce randomly timed energy without firm capacity – dictating redundant infrastructure that includes necessarily underutilized conventional power plant assets. “

With respect to the setbacks defined in law, the notion of having the minimum be defined as a formula like 3xtower height plus blade length would be more desirable than a fixed number like 1,250 feet from a property line. In the case of the 660’ turbines, the minimum would then be 1,980’. That is a significant difference.

If you haven’t read the blog from, yesterday, please see that Kevon Martis, Director of Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, has teamed up with Senator Seitz to challenge those who would seek to override the property line setback law through HB 190. They coined the phrase “trespass zoning” and have written a terrific opinion piece for the Ohio media. They conclude by saying: “Good neighbors don’t trespass. If Big Wind wants to be a good neighbor in rural Ohio, it needs to abandon its demand for trespass zoning.” The Lima News has printed the article and we hope the papers in Van Wert, Bellefontaine, Urbana and Springfield follow suit. We believe it was distributed to all of them.

Notwithstanding all of the above, on February 18th, Trishe Wind filed an Amendment to the next phase of the Blue Creek project in Paulding County proposing larger turbines and seeking to be considered under old rules that measure setbacks from homes even though Amendments to previously approved projects are supposed to be subject to the revised setbacks.  Looks like that ole “optimization of power generation”! Attention! Trespass Zoning coming to Paulding County…again!

  Enercon E126 – The Most Powerful Wind Turbine in the World

 

 

Is Blade Erosion the next Achilles heel for BigWind?

Although Gearbox failure is the most expensive/catastrophic problem with industrial wind turbines, it sounds like blade problems are gathering momentum. Perhaps, this is why blades are constantly ‘down’ when we drive through the Van Wert, Ohio area? Let us remind you that BigWind is lobbying the Ohio legislators to REduce our turbines setbacks from the current 1,250 feet from a property line. Pay attention to the rotation speeds mentioned below…250 mph!! Anything, no matter how small, flying off of a blade that rotates this fast, will easily travel well beyond 1,250 feet.  This, along with the noise and vibration considerations, is why HUNDREDS of counties, states, and countries, around the world, have setbacks GREATER than ours in Ohio…

Studies have consistently shown that erosion can lead to a loss in annual energy production (AEP) of up to 20% on severe cases. This figure is hard to ignore, and highlights the ROI benefits that can be achieved from paying close attention to erosion. The heart of the issue is the fact that wind blades come into contact with various elements in the air at rotation speeds up to 250 mph, leading to erosion in the form of pitting, gouging and delamination of the edge of the blade. This erosion not only compromises the integrity of the blade, but also impacts its aerodynamic efficiency, causing a significant loss in AEP. This loss can be compounded by the downtime necessary to make repairs to turbines, so owners have important motivations for protecting blades against erosion and making repairs quickly. In severe cases of erosion can even lead up to blade replacement which can get very expensive….Source: Effective Ways to Prevent Wind Blade Erosion

Will BigWind move closer to its Ohio neighbors?

Yesterday, the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee met to hear proponent testimony on a new version of a bill that would give County Commissioners the authority to reduce statutory setbacks for a “wind farm”. The minimum setback “shall be both” 1.1 times the total height of the turbine (including to tip of blade) to the property line of the “wind farm property” and at least 1,125 feet to the exterior of the nearest habitable residential structure located on adjacent property at the time the application is filed. Before adopting a resolution, the Board of County Commissioners may “consult with the Ohio Power Siting Board.” If a resolution passed in a county is revoked after a wind developer files a notice of intent to build a “wind farm,” the developer will be able to build according to the revoked standards but future projects will be subject current OPSB setbacks of 1,125 feet from the property line. The OPSB may increase the setback for any specific turbine in order to preserve the health, safety and welfare of the neighboring property owner. 

The same old people from Van Wert and Paulding Counties were trotted out to say wind was an economic miracle for their communities, the leaseholders, the schools and so on. Due to other hearings that morning, the hearing was poorly attended. The revised proposal was offered by Alliance Republican Kristina Hagan. Highlights of the day included the question asked to Susan Munroe of the Van Wert Chamber on why County Commissioners were in a better position to make decisions on setbacks than the property owners. She replied that County Commissioners needed to defend the property rights of the leaseholders. Munroe also alleged that P&G and Owens Corning wanted to buy their wind from Ohio and were forced to buy out of state because of the setbacks. We might remind Ms. Munroe that there are at least 7 previously certified projects such as EverPower which have not been built because there is no buyer for their output.

Munroe also said modification to the setbacks would enable the Dog Creek project as well as an Apex project to go forward. She asserted that Ohio was trailing other states but when asked if we were trailing from the perspective of setbacks, she said she did not know.She claimed that only when Dog Creek and the Apex projects were built would Van Wert be able to attract a high-tech company to their area. REALLY? Our observation is that a lot of the techies like urban areas – San Francisco comes to mind. Who would want to live in Van Wert among HUNDREDS of turbines?

Three area school officials testified they also felt the property rights of leaseholders should be protected. One school official from Lincolnview said enrollment in his school had increased. He later noted that the increases came from outside the district. We wonder if ‘in district’ numbers were shrinking if people were moving away from turbines? He also expressed hope that someday their tax levies would be less. Apparently, for now, the PILOT payments have not reduced local taxes…Hmm

Perhaps one of the worst witnesses was former Hardin County Commissioner Ron Wyss who said there was a connection between the need for reduced setbacks and the terror attacks in Paris. REALLY? Wyss went on to say that he had been a member of the Ohio Wind Working Group but later corrected himself and said he was an observer that attended all meetings. He testified that the siting regulations were painstakingly developed over a period or two years and were based on a scientific analysis. He said they should not have been discarded by the legislature. Rep. Cupp asked if Wyss had copies of the OWWG documents. Wyss said it was a public forum and all documentation would be a public record. We would remind Wyss that at the time of the OWWG, turbines were 1MW and much, much smaller. We might also remind him that when the industry saw that setbacks might be longer than they wanted, the OWWG was disbanded and the facilitator’s consulting contract was terminated. The Development Department staffer to the OWWG went on to be the Department’s “expert” on siting for the OPSB until he resigned in the face of ethics charges for running around with wind lobbyists on the taxpayer’s dime. UNU has all of the documents related to the OWWG. We wonder who recruited Wyss to testify about OWWG.

Iberdrola’s Dan Litchfield testified that the last change resulted in a tripling of setbacks. He said that some people did not want to sign because they did not want to tie up land for such a long time and others had multiple owners who could not agree. He asserted County Commissioners are in the best position because they decide the PILOT. He said Illinois counties administer wind zoning while Michigan and Indiana have given the authority to Township Trustees. Because the turbines are getting bigger, the payments to landowners which were typically $7,000 to $8,000 will now be getting bigger. Vice Chairman Roegner asked Litchfield to confirm Iberdrola was a Spanish Company. She said she had done her research and wondered why Ohioans were being asked to endure shorter setbacks than the countries where their companies were located. She went on to list a variety of longer setbacks in Germany, Scotland and Wales. Litchfield said the longer European setbacks were probably from houses and not property lines. He also said they do not have current complaints. We wonder if leaseholders and Good Neighbor Agreement holders waived project effects and so have no right to complain? Rep. Rogers asked how the current setbacks were developed. Litchfield said he did not know because there was no public process. He noted also that OPSB had very strict rules on noise and shadow flicker and those were the basis for original setbacks from homes. REALLY?

Litchfield also said the wind industry — at this point — cannot afford to pay the signing bonuses that other energy companies can pay. Maybe that is the crux of the problem. Economically troubled communities and wind developers who may lose their subsidies. The communities are desperate for anything they can get while the wind companies can’t build without the PTC, local tax abatement or paying landowners. A toxic combination.

Written testimony was also submitted by John Love, Putnam County Commissioners; Tony Zartman, Paulding County Commissioner; Curt Cory, Director of Putnam County Community Improvement Corporation; David Miller, Treasurer of Leipsic Local School District; Jerry Zielke Director Paulding County Economic Development, and Peggy Emerson, Executive Director Paulding Chamber of Commerce. All testimony can be found on the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee website at http://www.ohiohouse.gov/committee/public-utilities by clicking on November 18, 2015.

Ironically, just as setbacks are being debated again, the wind industry’s leading insurance underwriter, GCube, released a report on the incidence of fire at wind facilities. The report is entitled “Towering Inferno” and urges that more should be done to mitigate and prevent fires. That is a tall order given that lightning strikes are the second highest cause of fire. Many property owners, including and especially farmers, are concerned about fires at harvest time when land is usually pretty dry. Property line setbacks of 1,125 feet as opposed to 1.1 times turbine height can offer a bit of protection against the spread of fire…

Northwestern Ohio officials are lining up behind a legislative proposal to allow more local control of where wind farms can be built, a plan that would help to get around restrictions passed last year.

“For us, it’s all about the pursuit of economic development and economic prosperity,” said Susan Munroe, president and CEO of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce.

She is one of 14 local elected officials and business leaders who signed a letter in support of House Bill 190, which allows for more local control. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, and Tony Burkley, R-Payne, was the subject of a hearing on Wednesday.

If it passes, the measure would represent a small shift in a system that gives state agencies most of the control over wind-farm decisions.

The bill is a response to legislation passed last year by majority Republicans that increased the required distance between wind turbines and nearby property lines. That change has been criticized by the wind-power industry because it reduces the number of turbines that can be built in a project area…

 

Source: Northwestern Ohio officials back plan for local control over wind-farm sites

Is BigWind as sneaky as Sylvester the Cat?

The wind industry has been hard at work and so have we. You will recall that the setbacks for wind turbines were changed a year ago in the Mid Biennium Budget Bill. The change required that setbacks be measured from the property lines of non-participating landowners instead of their homes. The old setbacks essentially forced property owners to “donate” their yards and fields as part of the safety buffer zone. This enabled the wind developers to use land without paying for its use. Senate President Faber and Governor Kasich supported the revised setbacks. The eleven wind projects that had received certificates of approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) were grandfathered in under the old setbacks unless they amended their certificate, in which case, the new setbacks would apply. The wind industry has gone around to communities and newspaper editorial boards saying that Ohio unreasonably lengthened setbacks making it impossible to develop renewable energy in Ohio. This was not true because they all had the option of negotiating a setback waiver with the landowner and compensating him for use of his land.

Currently under consideration in the Ohio House is HB 190. The wind industry-backed HB 190 would give County Commissioners the power to overrule the OPSB and change setbacks. HB 190 would also extend the life of the PILOT program. It appeared that rough sailing might be ahead for HB 190 when the House Public Utilities Committee understood what was really happening. The wind developers had framed the issue as giving “Local Control” back to communities. In reality, they were proposing to use County Commissioners to take property rights away from property owners. HB 190 has not had a hearing for opponents but it could be shoved into the Budget Bill. This would be terrible as HB 190 does not provide for a referendum if County Commissioners decide to take the property of people in the community. We understand Rep. Brown of Bowling Green in Wood County is pushing this idea. It is an awful bill, reflects the worst of a predatory industry and harms rural communities and their families.

Just in case HB 190 might be in trouble, the wind lobbyists went to work on the state Budget Bill. An amendment was proposed to extend the life of the PILOT program for five years. We are uncertain if this extension is in the version of the bill now being considered by the Conference Committee. One other wind-related amendment was inserted as a favor to at least one developer. This amendment would grant an exemption to the requirement that an approved project be subject to the new setbacks if the approved project was amended. There is a list of criteria the wind developer must meet in order to obtain the exemption:

1. The sole purpose of the amendment is to change the turbine model that was previously approved by OPSB.

2. The number of turbines is not increased.

3. The exemption must be sought within 90 days of the budget bill’s enactment.

4. The new turbines to be installed are technologically more advanced or efficient than the originally approved models.

5. The new models are not more than 8% taller than the approved models.

6. The developer is obligated by contract to supply energy to a mercantile customer that uses at least 7 million kilo-watt hours a year.

7. The turbines will be placed in the same locations as the originally approved turbines.

We do not know which approved Ohio wind project this special provision is designed to help. We think it is wrong to increase the height of a turbine and not re-examine the shadow flicker, noise and safety issues related to the new models. We are guessing that the projects most likely to benefit (if more than one apply) are Timber Creek and Hog Creek. This is a GUESS.

Late last night/early this morning, an additional amendment was accepted by the Conference Committee. We are working to understand what the substance of the newest amendment is. It is possible that the provisions of HB 190 are in this amendment. We recall that just a year ago, Governor Kasich was quoted in the Columbus Dispatch when asked about the revised setbacks: “Private property rights are important. People choose to live somewhere. You just don’t go in there and disrupt their life.”…

pic http://brainlitter.com

Ohio Windustry lobbying for opportunity to bribe our county commissioners

This week we saw some media coverage on HB 190 which seeks to effectively undo the increased setbacks enacted last summer for industrial wind turbines.    We have also received word of the wind industry’s relentless lobbying of  County Commissioners and the County Commissioners Association.  We would like to implement a counter campaign with billboards in the districts of the sponsors, Rep. Burkley and Rep. Brown.  

big story this past week comes from the U.K. where the Conservatives won what was to some, a surprising victory with the election of David Cameron and other Conservatives.  This is great news.  The report below notes: “Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat who served as energy secretary in the previous coalition government, lost his seat as his party suffered a rout that will leave the Conservatives to govern alone. While the Liberals were sympathetic to renewables, Conservatives have stressed security of energy supply and local people’s right to halt wind farms that some consider eyesores. “  Cameron has pledged to halt all further onshore wind development.

And looking at the growing field of Republican Presidential challengers, we should not forget Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who has been very out front on the issue of industrial wind siting.   In 2011, Walker proposed setbacks of 1,800 feet from a property line.   Subsequently, the Brown County Health Department designated wind turbines as a health hazard due to low frequency noise at the Shirley Wind Farm.  The legislature in Wisconsin did not extend setbacks further than their current 1,250 feet from a dwelling.  The Wisconsin Realtors Association has sued and the courts should decide the matter later this year.  In the meantime, Governor Walker has included $250,000 in his budget to study the health impacts of industrial wind. 

And up north in Huron County, Michigan, the local fight is on as new projects are on hold until siting revisions can be made at the County level.   The proposed changes to existing regulations have elicited the same kind of howls from wind developers that we too often hear in Ohio.  Funny, but if you only listened to the Ohio Industry, you would think that our setbacks and restrictions are the only ones in the world. Read below and you learn a different story.  Among the proposed changes to Huron County industrial wind zoning are:

 

• Turbines three miles from shoreline. Previously, not regulated

 

• Shadow flicker: max 10 hours/year for non-participating residences; 30 hours/year at participating. Previously, not regulated.

 

• Property setbacks: 1,640 feet from non-participating residences; 1,320 from property line. Previously, 1,320 feet…

 

A new bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives seeks to change wind turbine setback regulations which would enable wind energy companies to work within Ohio counties to license new wind farms. The legislation, House Bill 190, is co-sponsored by local representative Rep. Tony Burkley along with Representative Tim W. Brown (R – Bowling Green)….

via Burkley sponsors bill to allow wind turbine setback changes – Times Bulletin.

BigWind convinces 2 Ohio state representatives to take away YOUR property rights

We know we should never underestimate the drive of the wind industry to get every bit of special treatment they can, whether it be federal taxpayer subsidy, local property tax abatement, renewable energy mandates or free use of land. This time it is the free use of neighboring properties. Big wind asserts they are unable to build wind farms in Ohio due to existing setbacks that respect the property lines of landowners. As is well known, the wind developers can pay the neighbor to obtain a waiver of setback. But it seems that the wind industry would prefer to steal it and they have found two willing accomplices in their proposed heist. Rep. Tony Burkley of Paulding County and Rep. Tim Brown of Bowling Green. These State Representatives today introduced House Bill 190 (attached) to allow the County Commissioners to override state law.

Current siting regulations, established last year under HB 483, require a setback of 1,125 feet from the tip of a turbine’s blades to the nearest property line. In practice, that requires setbacks of about 1,300 feet from each turbine’s base. The current law makes an exception for existing facilities and ones that had already gotten permits.(Iberdrola, for instance, currently has 10 projects approved under the old setback.) For those projects, the Ohio Power Siting Board measured the 1,125-foot setback to the outer wall of the “nearest, habitable, residential structure” on neighboring property. Otherwise, property line setbacks had been roughly 550 feet. What HB 190 proposes to do is allow the County Commissioners to override current property protections and provide for a setback of 1.1 times the turbine height to the tip of the blade from the property line and 1,125 feet from a habitable structure. Essentially, HB 190 would enable the County Commissioners to expose their constituents to harms, devalue property and potentially jeopardize the landowner/homeowner’s access to insurance or mortgage financing.

We will bring you more information as we obtain it. In the meantime, everyone should make a point to ensure their representative does not sign on as a co-sponsor. Let you elected officials – including your county commissioners and township trustees know that you will vigorously work to end their public service career if they support this bill. Encourage your township trustees and county commissioners to voice their opposition to the Ohio Township Association and the County Commissioner’s Association. Why on earth would a local elected official want to take an action to cover for a wind developer that can’t or won’t pay for a waiver?

The current system is fair. Burkley and Brown should be called out in local letters to editor and demonstrations should take place when they appear publically….

HOUSE BILL 190

To permit counties to adopt resolutions establishing an alternative setback for wind farms and to extend by five years the deadlines for obtaining the qualified energy project tax exemption.

Sec. 4906.211 .

(A) Notwithstanding sections 4906.20 and 4906.201 of the Revised Code, the board of county commissioners of a county may adopt, for either one specific wind farm proposed to be located within the county or for any future wind farms proposed to be located within the county, a resolution establishing a minimum setback requirement described under division (B) of this section for the wind turbines of the wind farm or farms.

(B) The minimum setback shall be both of the following:
(1) Equal to a horizontal distance, from the turbine’s base to the property line of the wind farm property, equal to one and one-tenth times the total height of the turbine structure as measured from its base to the tip of its highest blade;

(2) At least one thousand one hundred twenty-five feet in horizontal distance from the tip of the turbine’s nearest blade at ninety degrees to the exterior of the nearest, habitable, residential structure, if any, located on adjacent property at the time that the certification application is filed under section 4906.06 or 4906.20 of the Revised Code.

Sec. 4906.212 . Before adopting a resolution under section 4906.211 of the Revised Code, the board of county commissioners may consult with the power siting board. Any costs related to the consultation shall be paid by the person seeking to construct the wind farm for which the consultation is being made.

Sec. 4906.213 .

(A) Subject to division (B) of this section, a board of county commissioners that adopts a resolution under section 4906.211 of the Revised Code may adopt a resolution revoking the prior resolution at any time .

(B) Before a resolution has been revoked, a person seeking to construct a wind farm to which the resolution applies may file notice of the intent to construct the wind farm with the board of county commissioners. If the board revokes the resolution after the notice is filed but before the wind farm has been constructed, the resolution that was revoked shall remain applicable to the wind farm for which the notice was filed, and the revocation, if the revoked resolution had applied generally to all future wind farms within the county, shall apply only prospectively from the time of the revocation.

Sec. 4906.214 . The power siting board may increase the setback for any specific wind turbine of a wind farm that is subject to the setback requirements adopted pursuant to a resolution adopted under section 4906.211 of the Revised Code, in order to preserve the health, safety, and welfare of neighboring property owners.

Sec. 4906.215 . Nothing in sections 4906.21 to 4906.214 of the Revised Code contravenes the power siting board’s ultimate authority to issue certificates under this chapter for the construction of wind farms.2