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.

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.

BigWind costs the US taxpayer MORE $ when they produce MORE energy? YES

Fox Business reports that the states with the largest use of wind power have the highest utility bills. They note private investors are encouraged to hold on to their own money while the government (you and me) provides the life support for wind through the Production Tax Credit.    The outcome of the election may pull the plug on the PTC.   Enter the League of Conservation Voters.  Fox reports “It would be an understatement to say that the outcome of the 2014 elections is important for wind energy producers. In an effort to see PTC friendly Harry Reid as Majority Leader,the wind industry has essentially turned the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) into their own personal Trojan horse.

Much of the LCV leadership has deep ties to the wind energy:

•       Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) serves as the Treasure of the LCV.

•       Peter Mandelstam, former AWEA board member and founder of Green Sails wind energy company also serves on the LCV board.

Unsurprisingly, much of the LCV’s campaign activities have been aimed squarely at renewal of the PTC. The organization brags  that it will spend over $25 million supporting pro PTC candidates  and attacking their opponents before November elections. Should LCV’s campaign fail, loss of the PTC could prove fatal to some wind companies. 

We have seen Ohio LCV hand at work in Ohio with LCV support of Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Columbus) who opposed SB 310.  We are quite certain that we shall see more of the Ohio LCV as the legislature’s Study Committee gets up and running…. 

…For government-backed industries such as wind energy, the relationship is directly the opposite — the more they produce, the more it costs ratepayers and taxpayers. Recent analysis shows that states with the largest use of wind power have the highest electricity bills. Such factors have caused private investors to largely bypass wind companies and leave them largely dependent upon the government for their survival.

Wind energy companies rely heavily upon a government construct known as the “Production Tax Credit” (PTC) to support their bottom lines. The PTC is a federal program that provides billions of dollars annually to subsidize renewable energy facilities such as wind farms. Generally speaking a clean technology facility receives a tax credit for 10 years after the date the facility is placed in service with the tax credit amount ranging from $0.23 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for wind to $0.011 per kWh for qualified hydroelectric….

It is presumed that a GOP controlled Congress would see the PTC on the chopping block in 2015 and a Democrat-controlled Congress will fight for renewal.

It would be an understatement to say that the outcome of the 2014 elections is important for wind energy producers. In an effort to see PTC friendly Harry Reid as Majority Leader, the wind industry has essentially turned the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) into their own personal Trojan horse.

Much of the LCV leadership has deep ties to the wind energy:

•       Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) serves as the Treasure of the LCV.

•       Peter Mandelstam, former AWEA board member and founder of Green Sails wind energy company also serves on the LCV board.

Unsurprisingly, much of the LCV’s campaign activities have been aimed squarely at renewal of the PTC. The organization brags  that it will spend over $25 million supporting pro PTC candidates  and attacking their opponents before November elections. Should LCV’s campaign fail, loss of the PTC could prove fatal to some wind companies.

As Warren Buffet recently told his loyal investors, “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit. “…

It May be Lights Out for the Wind Energy Come the Midterms | Fox Business.

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

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.

IKEA loves BigWind, but admits it needs tax dollars to make $

How much are you, IKEA, paying for your wind energy? I’m sure it is well above market value and you will pass that bill along to your customers. Isn’t it also interesting, that Illinois, home of various BigWind projects, flat out states that there will be NO tax breaks or other incentives? The industry has received the wind production tax credit for approximately 30 years now, and they are still not able to stand without government support.  How long should we continue to support their failures??????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Let your Senators know how you feel.  The wind lobbyists and other green groups are attacking Ohio and federal legislators right now. They have called their troops to actions because of OH SB310 (freeze renewable mandates) and they persuaded 5 Republican Senators to verbally agree to renew the federal wind production tax credit. Ohio Senator Rob Portman deserves a call from you…

The U.S. subsidiary of Swedish furniture retailer IKEA announced Thursday that it is buying a long-planned wind-energy project in eastern Illinois as part of the company’s initiative to offset its energy use with renewable energy generation.

And IKEA insists the project, which has not yet been built, is more than public relations. The company believes that, long term, wind energy will help the company’s bottom line, Chief Financial Officer Rob Olson said.

But right now wind power is a struggling business. Cheap natural gas and the end of a federal tax break for wind-power producers have left wind generation unprofitable….

Olson declined to say how much money IKEA is paying….

For the Hoopeston project, Olson said IKEA will receive some form of government incentives, though he declined to name the source or their dollar value.

Both the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and officials in Vermilion County, where the project is located, say they’re not providing tax breaks or other incentives….

Right now, Olson acknowledges, wind-power generation needs government incentives to make money…

via CHAMPAIGN, Ill.: IKEA buying Illinois wind-energy project | Business | Macon.com.