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

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Will Ohio SB310 begin a ‘domino’ effect to repeal BigWind mandates?

Today will be a busy day as around 30 witnesses will testify in the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee concerning Senate Bill 310.  Today’s Columbus Dispatch reports that the bill may spark a national movement toward repealing mandates for renewable energy.  Americans for Prosperity has thrown their support behind the bill. 

The Urbana Daily Citizen reports that two appeals were rejected by the Ohio Power Siting Board.  Both appeals were directed toward Everpower projects: Buckeye Wind and Scioto Ridge.  In Scioto Ridge, the citizens were trying to address the fact that they had no real opportunity to  register objections to the project because most are summer people in the Indian Lake area.  Everpower waited until after Labor Day when they were gone, to hold a public hearing.   In Champaign County, the County and Townships had objected to amendments in the Buckeye I project that moved the staging area further to the east and made modifications to roads and underground lines.  Today, one of the witnesses who will testify  in support of Senate Bill 310 is a County Engineer who has similar concerns about damage to local infrastructure that may be beyond the County’s financial ability to repair…

Ohio is on the cusp of becoming the first state to significantly ease its renewable-energy standards, a milestone that would be noticed in statehouses across the country where similar debates are being waged.

Proposals have gained traction in Kansas and several other states and have at least been introduced in a dozen or so others.

But none has had as much success as Ohio’s Senate Bill 310, which has passed the Senate and appears poised to pass the House as soon as this week.

The Ohio bill would place a two-year freeze on annual increases in standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency. It also would repeal a rule that says utilities must buy half of their renewable energy from in-state sources and would make it easier for utilities to buy low-cost hydroelectric power and count it toward the standards.

Many of the same groups with an interest in the subject are active in multiple states. The American Wind Energy Association, Sierra Club and others are fighting to maintain rules that say utilities must obtain a certain amount of their energy from renewable sources. Meanwhile, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity are helping to push for change in the rules….

via If Ohio eases green-energy rules, will it spark national trend? | The Columbus Dispatch.

Will Ohio rollback BigWind’s mandates???????

The Ohio House Public Utilities Committee was greeted by fifty witnesses wishing to testify on Am. Sub. S. B. 310 yesterday.  The group was a mixture of both supporters and opponents and only a small number were able to be heard.  Many were asked to hold over until next week.  Among those who were not heard were the wind developers.  Copies of all testimony submitted can be obtained on the Committee website at http://www.ohiohouse.gov/committee/public-utilities.  

Iberdrola rests its support for the renewable mandate on climate change and the idea that the fuel   – wind – is free. Iberdrola objects to how renewables are characterized:   “The Energy Mandate Study Committee’s foregone conclusion is telegraphed in the legislation that creates the committee and uses terms like unreliable, unaffordable and unrealistic.” Ominously, Iberdrola warns that “If you proceed with passage of SB 310, you are jeopardizing the viability of two additional investments in Ohio we are planning that would total about 250 MWs of generation capacity…”   These two unannounced projects are in addition to Blue Creek Dog Creek and Leipsic Wind.  We have no idea where the two new projects are targeted to be.

EDPR, developer of Timber Road in Paulding County, testified that project was the “direct result” of the mandate. Like Iberdrola, EDPR has unknown projects of 400 MW’s in the very early stages of planning.  Where?

Everpower’s Michael Speerscheider gives testimony  indicating his belief that tax abatement through the PILOT is a foregone conclusion because he states the amount the company will be paying for Buckeye I, Buckeye II and Scioto Ridge.  Everpower acknowledges “The investments that EverPower has made in the state have been made possible by the policies that the Ohio General Assembly put in place.”   (That policy is an unconstitutional mandate to build in-state renewable energy.)  Speerschneider cites numerous industry sponsored research papers to support the notion that renewables do not increase costs and that the subsidies they receive are far less than what other companies receive.   In saying this, Everpower tries to equate tax credits and tax abatement with oil depletion allowances or investment tax credits available to any company as part of the tax code.  This is a phony argument but, remarkably, he goes on to say “Denouncing wind energy because it relies on some level of government incentives is intellectually and ideologically dishonest.”

While not testifying, the American Wind Energy Association’s  (AWEA) lobbyist Dayna Baird filed a comment on yesterday’s story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer saying: “ First, AWEA is supportive of a compromise amendment to SB 310 that makes significant changes to the renewable energy standards .”    We do not know what the proposed “compromise” amendment might be but we are pretty sure it would eliminate the two-year freeze on the mandate while the Committee undertakes its review of Ohio’s mandates.

 Amidst all of the cheerleading for why the energy efficiency and renewable mandates are good for Ohioans and good for business, the annual survey of 500 Chief Executives was announced showing that Ohio has dropped five spots to number 26 as the best place in America to do business.  Regulations and taxes put us in the bottom half of the country with places like New York and California while our neighbor Indiana, with no energy mandates, was rated 6th best in the country.  Hmmmmmm…..

Twenty-nine states and the District of Colombia have passed renewable energy mandates that require consumers and businesses to consume minimum amounts of wind, solar, and other green energy. A handful of states have also enacted laws that require states to reduce their total energy consumption. These mandates have increased energy prices, causing many legislatures to reexamine their value.

While legislative efforts began and stalled in a handful of Republican states like North Carolina and Kansas, Ohio is positioning itself to be the first state to rollback its mandate, known as a Renewable Portfolio Standard RPS, and energy reduction program. As is generally the case, the mandate begins small and relatively painless but quickly ramps up, requiring utilities to use more and more renewable energy….

A study by the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Brycerevealed that, “in 2010, the average price of residential electricity in RPS states was 31.9 percent higher than it was in non-RPS states. Commercial electricity rates were 27.4 percent higher, and industrial rates were 30.7 percent higher.” Indeed, “in the ten-year period between 2001 and 2010—the period during which most of the states enacted their RPS mandates—residential and commercial electricity prices in RPS states increased at faster rates than those in non-RPS states.”…

Since Ohio is part of the multi-state PJM power market, any reduced energy prices resulting from reduced energy usage are spread throughout the entire PJM system while being financed entirely by Ohio ratepayers. Dr. Jonathan Lesser quantifies it this way:

80% of the price suppression “benefits,” to the extent they might exist, flow to customers outside Ohio and customers of Ohio municipal utilities and cooperatives, which are exempt from the electricity usage reduction mandate and the mandate tax. Thus, 80% of the alleged benefits accrue to “free riders” who do not pay for those benefits.

If left unchanged, the Ohio energy reduction mandate has actually created a situation where residential consumers could pay close to $4.00 extra per month for a retail reduction benefit of only $0.37 cents per month, according to Dr. Lesser….

via Ohio Moves to Rollback Costly Green Energy Mandates – Forbes.