PlanB for BigWind in Ohio? Convince our Governor to veto setback law

A quick follow up to the good news of Ohio SB 310, we wanted to share Everpower’s communication concerning House Bill 483 to extend the property line setbacks. Everpower is encouraging leaseholders to contact the Governor to line item veto the setback.

Below are excerpts from a copy of their suggested talking points. We have put rebuttal’s in BOLD. If you have time this weekend, call the Governor’s Office or email him to encourage adoption of property line setbacks. 614-466-3555 or http://www.governor.ohio.gov/Contact/ContacttheGovernor.aspx …

 

The Senate added a provision to HB 483 (MBR) that will make utility-scale wind farm construction in Ohio virtually impossible.

Current Law: Current law contains a mandatory minimum wind farm setback from a property line and a separate, longer setback from a “habitable, residential structure.” The property line setback is “one and one-tenth” times the height of the turbine. The setback from a house is a minimum of 1,125 feet plus the length of a blade (175-200) for a total of 1300+ feet.. This was just changed in last year’s budget bill, making Ohio’s setback one of the toughest in the nation.

This is not correct. Many jurisdictions with local zoning measure setbacks from property lines.

HB 483: The proposal in HB 483 would make the long setback for houses also apply to property lines, dramatically limiting the number of parcels eligible to host a wind turbine. As example, if the proposed property line setbacks existed prior to construction of Ohio’s largest wind farm known as Blue Creek, the 152 turbine project would only be able to accommodate 19 turbines.

This may be theoretically accurate but it is not true that Blue Creek could not be built. It simply means the developer would have to negotiate easements with neighboring property owners.

Proposal is a Functional Ban on Wind Farms: As a practical matter, because the wind developer above would still need to lease the same amount of acreage, the elimination of 133 turbines and the electricity they produce make the entire project commercially unviable. Simulations of this proposal on other wind projects yield similar results, with projects sustaining 50% to 90% losses. In other words, this setback amendment is a back door path to the elimination of Ohio wind farm construction. The language is no different from saying “no wind farms shall be built in Ohio.”

This is a false statement. Nothing hinders the developer from pursuing a viable project. Property line setbacks would simply require the developer to negotiate easements for the encroachment of project effects like noise and shadow flicker and the safety buffer zone. The easements would provide compensation for the use of the neighbor’s property. An Ohio wind warrior has calculated that the additional cost to the developer of compensation for the neighboring property would be equal to 4.6% of subsidies and only about 3% of total revenue.

Legislative Process: The state’s Power Siting Board has developed a wealth of knowledge and expertise as they have been permitting projects and regulating the development process. Ohio’s wind industry and their regulators also have volumes of data based on Ohio projects and other projects from around the country to share regarding appropriate setbacks from houses and property lines that strike a proper balance. Unfortunately, since this amendment was included in the MBR omnibus amendment, these parties and others have had no opportunity or forum to engage policymakers on this subject. An issue with such devastating impact to an entire industry deserves the opportunity to be deliberated fairly and transparently.

The OPSB may have access to a wealth of information but it is not being used to protect Ohioans. One example is the health impacts from low-frequency noise. This is sound you cannot hear but the vibrations are felt in your body and your home. There is quite a bit of research that has been done on the subject especially at the Cochlear Fluids Lab at Washington University. Wind developers deny it exists but there is plenty of documentation to prove that it does. The State of Ohio does not require measurement of LFN and it does not have standards for setbacks to protect from LFN. Absent that, the best way to protect residents is to have an adequate setback.

Everpower’s sound expert was one of four acoustical consultants who investigated issues of LFN at the Shirley Wind Project in Wisconsin. Their report of findings is attached. The key takeaway in the report is”

The critical questions are what physical effects do these low frequencies have on residents and what LFN limits, if any, should be imposed on wind turbine projects. The reported response at residence R2 by the wife and their child was extremely adverse while the husband suffered no ill effects whatsoever, illustrating the complexity of the issue. The family moved far away for a solution. A most interesting study in 1986 by the Navy reveals that physical vibration of pilots in flight simulators induced motion sickness when the vibration frequency was in the range of 0.05 to 0.9Hz with the maximum (worst) effect being at about 0.2 Hz, not too far from the blade passing frequency of future large wind turbines. If one makes the leap from physical vibration of the body to physical vibration of the media the body is in, it suggests adverse response to wind turbines is an acceleration or vibration problem in the very low frequency region.

The four investigating firms are of the opinion that enough evidence and hypotheses have been given herein to classify LFN and infrasound as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the industry. It should be addressed beyond the present practice of showing that wind turbine levels are magnitudes below the threshold of hearing at low frequencies.

The industry has ideas about allowing for more local input on setbacks in the siting process, but we were never given the opportunity to engage in that type of discussion.

The industry has had repeated opportunities to talk about setbacks during the course of numerous wind development applications filed with the OPSB. Every application that was challenged by citizens on the basis of unsafe setbacks was rebuffed by the industry. In each case, the industry fought against the use of manufacturer’s recommendations – at one point calling the Nordex micrositing suggestions as “meaningless”. Everpower successfully fought to keep the Shirley Wind LFN findings out of the record. The OPSB also refused to make all information available concerning the Timber Creek II blade throw.

Recommendation: The wind industry recommends the General Assembly remove this amendment from HB 483 so it can be thoroughly vetted. Perhaps it could be a topic of review for the SB 310 study committee to consider along with the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Recommendation: The Governor should sign HB 483 establishing wind turbine setbacks from property lines.

Citizens applaud Ohio Senate for increased BigWind setbacks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, May 22, 2014 Contact: Kevon Martis, Executive Director Interstate Concerned Citizens Coalition (517) 403-2438

Citizens Hail Action by Ohio Senate to Correct Predatory Wind Turbine Setback Law Measure Sustains Wind Project Possibilities

Citizens of northern and western Ohio applauded action by the Ohio Senate to help protect property rights and values of homes in areas targeted for wind development. Current setbacks for industrial wind turbines, which reach up to 500 feet in height, were established by the Strickland Administration to be measured from the foundations of the homes of neighboring property owners. Senator Keith Faber, whose district is heavily impacted by wind development efforts, has recognized that effects of industrial wind turbines on neighboring property can devalue those properties, create health and safety hazards for the inhabitants, and render some virtually unsalable.

“We applaud the movement of turbine setback from homes to property lines, but remain baffled that the safety perimeter remains at 1,125’ plus one blade length (roughly 1,300’), while documentation from the safety manuals of turbine manufacturers Vestas and Nordex both recommend employees remain at least 1,640 ft. from turbines under some circumstances. That’s more than a football field further away than the new provision requiress.”

Wind developers are private for-profit businesses that should be required to negotiate easements and compensate neighboring properties for intrusion. Homeowners have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of their home,” said Kevon Martis, Executive Director of Interstate Concerned Citizens Coalition on behalf of the residents of northwest Ohio. “Senator Faber respects the rights of homeowners and nothing in this wind turbine setback will prevent a developer from pursuing a wind development. It does, however, restore the balance of power between ordinary people and powerful well-heeled developers.”

In a response from the American Wind Industry Association, they claim that respect for property rights and protection of rural home values will somehow destroy the wind industry. Such claims are exaggerated. AWEA regularly states that there are no adverse impacts on nearby property values and that the reports of negative health effects are not credible. If AWEA’s claims are true, there should be no problem negotiating affordable easements with neighboring property owners rather than simply taking property rights with no permission and no compensation.

“It is alarming the wind industry is publically balk at measures to protect Ohio homeowners.” remarked Mr. Martis. “Is this industry so greedy as to publically admit they wish to put Ohio rural citizens at risk?”

All across Ohio, rural citizens are cheering the leadership of Senator Keith Faber and his willingness to step forward, yet still puzzled that the industry’s own safety standards are stricter.

Will BigWind in Ohio be granted an 80% TAX REDUCTION??

Logan County Commissioners will be asked to grant something to wind energy developer EverPower that residents can only dream of: a property tax reduction of 80 percent. This would come in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes or PILOT.

Recently, the Logan County Commissioners stated: “Even if we do receive an application for payment in lieu of taxes and it is denied, the wind developer would still be able to build the wind turbines.”

We agree. Rejecting tax abatement for Scioto Ridge may not stop the wind development. But the decision to make local taxpayers forego tax revenue will have consequences that should be understood.

First: EverPower parent, Terra Firma Capital partners, a UK private equity investor, will be delighted to have their return on investment pumped up by the good people of rural Ohio. It will be the icing on the cake already funded by U.S. taxpayers through billions in federal tax credits that subsidize one third of the capital costs of wind projects.

After collecting from our Federal Treasury, the British private equity firm intends to strip mine the Ohio Tax Code by asking for an exemption from the Ohio Public Utility Personal Property Tax PUPPT. This is the standard tax rate that was in place long before EverPower decided to come to Ohio and it was there before EverPower started soliciting leases and telling landowners that by signing they would help bring significant tax revenue to their communities.

Ohio’s wind resource is anemic and the Ohio mandate to buy wind generated in the states is under attack in the legislature and the courts. This mandate compels Ohio rate payers to pay far more for Ohio wind than for power purchased from windier states like Iowa or Minnesota. These higher rates fall on all of us — you, me and the companies we work for. A sweet deal if there ever was one for EverPower. It is one more form of subsidy the wind industry enjoys in Ohio.

Logan County Our commissioners should focus on the costs. They must consider whether there are benefits that outweigh the costs. It is clear the benefits accrue to the foreign company that has stated its intentions to exit the business before the PILOT ends in 20 years. It is clear that leaseholders will receive payments if the company is still around. And some gravel might get sold during construction of the turbine bases.

But what about the costs? The wind developers took our ability to zone. They took our property for their setbacks by measuring from homes, not property lines. When built, flashing red lights will take our night sky and the flickering shadows will invade our yards and homes. Persistent noise and subsonic vibrations that carry across property lines — will diminish neighbors’ rights to peaceful enjoyment of their property. With that comes property value loss.

Who would choose to live in the midst of the 50-story tall industrial wind experience? As the London School of Economics recently concluded, residential property values of non-participating parcels in the footprint of a wind fueled electric generating plant drop by 11 percent. Other studies indicate a decline of as much as 40 percent. That’s if they can find a buyer at all.

There are more than 300 non-farm rural homesteads in the proposed footprint of the Scioto Ridge project. If their average value is $100,000 and the average property value decline is only 11 percent, that’s $3.3 million that flows out of the pockets of innocent neighbors and into the pockets of project beneficiaries. And the number might be as high as $12 million. By comparison the $12 million that is so important to the rural homeowners is a measly three percent of the total taxpayer subsidies the project owners would receive based on President Obama’s staffs analysis of a similar project. You would think a wind developer with scruples would just buy out all the homes and resell them at a loss since they are using taxpayer dollars — not their own — in the first place.

We know that proposed PILOT payments would be approximately $2.7 million per year for the expected 20-year lifespan of the project. That totals $54 million over 20 years. But without the PILOT, wind industry spokesman Dayna Baird Payne estimated tax revenue would be $45,000 per megawatt MW — an average $13.5 million per year and $279 million dollars over 20 years!…

via Both sides of the wind debate.