« 2/11/09 DOUBLE FEATURE: Wind Power Quote of the Day: When is a genuine problem not a genuine problem? When you get paid to ignore it. AND Tell it to the judge, because the judge is listening | Main | 2/8/10 Surrender, Brown County: Invenergy Goliath to Town of Holland David: You have no right to protect yourself from me »

2/9/10 TRIPLE FEATURE: Dude, Where's My Wind Farm Stimulus Money? AND When an 'empty gesture' is full of meaning: Town of Holland's wind moratiorium and what the PSC says about it, AND What's that smell? Is it the conflict-of-interest problem in Brown County?

New Wind Farms in the U.S. Do Not Bring Jobs

Millions have been invested in wind farms, but it hasn't brought jobs

 Click Here for Source: ABC World News 

Jonathan Karl

Feb. 9, 2010

 Despite all the talk of green jobs, the overwhelming majority of stimulus money spent on wind power has gone to foreign companies, according to a new report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.

Nearly $2 billion in money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been spent on wind power, funding the creation of enough new wind farms to power 2.4 million homes over the past year. But the study found that nearly 80 percent of that money has gone to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines.

 So Where Are the Jobs?

"Most of the jobs are going overseas," said Russ Choma at the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He analyzed which foreign firms had accepted the most stimulus money. "According to our estimates, about 6,000 jobs have been created overseas, and maybe a couple hundred have been created in the U.S."

Even with the infusion of so much stimulus money, a recent report by American Wind Energy Association showed a drop in U.S. wind manufacturing jobs last year.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the flow of money to foreign companies an outrage, because the stimulus, he said, was intended to create jobs inside the United States.

"This is one of those stories in Washington that when you tell people five miles outside the Beltway, or anywhere else in America, they cannot believe it," Schumer told ABC News, "It makes people lose faith in government, and it frankly infuriates me."

Matt Rogers, the senior adviser to the Secretary of Energy for the Recovery Act, denied there was a problem.

"The recovery act is creating jobs in the U.S. for American workers," said Rogers, "That is what the recovery act is about, that is what it is doing. Every dollar from the recovery act is going to create jobs for the American workers here in the U.S."

How Did This Happen?

Several of the large European turbine manufacturers had limited manufacturing facilities in the United States, but there was nothing in the stimulus plan that required that the turbines, or any other equipment needed for the wind farms, be made here, said Rogers. There are strict "Buy America" provisions in the Recovery Act, but this Green Energy Stimulus initiative turned the existing tax credits into cash grants, bypassing the "Buy America" provision.

Iberdrola, one of the largest operators of renewable energy worldwide, is based in Spain and has received the most U.S. stimulus dollars -- $577 million. It buys some of its turbines from another Spanish manufacturer, Gamesa, which has a U.S. connection. Gamesa has two facilities to manufacture turbine blades in Pennsylvania, but the company said the market forced it to temporarily lay off nearly 100 workers.

Eric Sheesley was one of those laid off from the Gamesa plant before Thanksgiving. "When we're employing other countries, we can't feed our kids at home. It gets hard you know." Sheesley had a glimmer of hope when a letter arrived this week telling him to report back to work next week.

One reason so much money is going overseas is that there is not much of a wind power industry in the United States -- only two major American manufacturers make wind turbines: General Electric Energy and Clipper Wind based in Carpinteria, Calif. Even those companies do a significant amount of their manufacturing overseas. General Electric told ABC News that GE's Renewable Energy business has 3,000 employees around the world, 1,350 here in the United States.

Schumer said the way to revitalize the domestic wind power industry and to create green jobs is to require that at least some of the turbine equipment to be made in the United States.

An American Farm With Chinese Jobs

Perhaps the most controversial wind project is one that has yet to receive stimulus money.

A Chinese company called A-power is helping to build a massive $1.5 billion wind farm in West Texas. The consortium behind the project expects to get $450 million in stimulus money.

Walt Hornaday, an American partner on the project, said it would create some American jobs. "Our estimation," he said, "is that we are going to have on the order of 300 construction jobs just within the fence of the project."

But that's in addition to 2,000 manufacturing jobs -- many of them in China.

Lauren Reynolds, a reporter at ABC's San Diego affiliate 10 News, paid a visit to the vacant office of A-power.

To read more about how wind energy companies in San Diego are forced to spend their federal stimulus dollars abroad, go to today's San Diego Tribune and the Watch Dog Institute's Web page.

Second Feature:

Holland backs hollow wind farm moratorium

If the town wants a moratorium, the state has no reason to disagree, said PSC spokeswoman Teresa Weidemann-Smith.

“It’s the community’s right to make those decisions,” she said. “But ultimately, the decision by the PSC will take precedence.”

Source: Daily Reporter

By Paul Snyder

February 9, 2010

Local solidarity is driving a Holland wind farm moratorium that has no chance of success if the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approves a project in the town.

“We know the PSC will have final say in this project,” said Holland Supervisor Michael Geiger. “We’re just letting them know how we feel about it. When it comes to town politics, we’re about as grass roots as you get.

“The people that live next door want to know you’re supporting them. That’s what I’m doing.”

Holland is one of four Brown County towns targeted by Chicago-based Invenergy LLC for the estimated 100-turbine Ledge Wind Farm. If the project advances, Geiger said, Invenergy could build 22 turbines in Holland.

But the town has enacted a one-year moratorium on wind farm development and revised its setback standards for turbines from 1,000 feet to a half-mile from buildings.

Invenergy representatives did not return calls for comment.

If the town wants a moratorium, the state has no reason to disagree, said PSC spokeswoman Teresa Weidemann-Smith.

“It’s the community’s right to make those decisions,” she said. “But ultimately, the decision by the PSC will take precedence.”

The PSC has authority over projects expected to generate more than 100 megawatts of electricity. Weidemann-Smith said the Ledge project is expected to generate 150 megawatts.

According to state law, if the PSC approves a project, it can proceed despite any local ordinance prohibiting the project.

The PSC has not yet begun its review of the Ledge Wind Farm proposal, Weidemann-Smith said, because Invenergy has not submitted a complete proposal for the project. She said she does not know when that will happen.

Once the PSC begins its formal review of the project, she said, there will be plenty of time for local comments.

The comments are coming in already. The PSC has an open docket on the project with more than 80 public comments.

Jon Morehouse, a member of the executive committee for Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, said waiting until the public comment period to speak out against the project would not send as strong a message.

“The moratorium is something that was voted on and publicized,” he said. “If you say nothing, you get run over.”

The Brown County citizens group encouraged the town to enact the moratorium, Geiger said, and the other towns in line to host Ledge turbines also are being encouraged to enact moratoriums. He said he knows the moratorium means nothing if the PSC approves the project, but an empty gesture is better than no gesture.

“The residents at the last two meetings have said they’re prepared to fight,” he said. “I don’t know how they’ll do that, and I don’t really want to know. All I know is with the moratorium, I’m doing something the majority wants.

“If you don’t do something they want, they’ll get somebody who will.”



Wind farms causing conflict-of-interest controversies among Brown County town boards

As Brown County pursues wind farm bans, some of their officials have already signed contracts for turbines

SOURCE Greenbay Press-Gazette

February 10, 2010

By Scott Williams

As residents seek help stalling a wind farm development in southern Brown County, some local officials are facing conflict-of-interest questions because they have signed deals with the developer allowing wind turbines on their property.

The issue has ensnared town board members in Morrison and Wrightstown, and it is slowing action on wind farm opponents' efforts to delay the development.

Morrison Town Board members on Tuesday postponed action on a proposed wind farm ban because they are awaiting legal opinions on whether Trustees Kevin Collins and Ron Lemke should participate in the decision.

Collins and Lemke both have signed contracts with Invenergy LLC, the Chicago-based developer that wants to build Brown County's first major commercial wind farm. The developer has offered about $8,000 a year to landowners willing to permit a 400-foot wind turbine on their property.

Morrison Town Chairman Todd Christensen said he would not allow the board to discuss the wind farm until determining whether Collins or Lemke has a conflict.

"We're stepping very carefully here," Christensen said. "I just don't want to put anybody in any situation where they're going to get into trouble."

The same predicament faces Wrightstown Town Chairman William Verbeten and Trustee Ronald Diny, both of whom have signed contracts with Invenergy.

With a vote scheduled tonight in Wrightstown on a proposed moratorium on wind farm construction, Verbeten said he might abstain from the vote or postpone action entirely.

Verbeten said Tuesday that he signed a deal allowing a wind turbine on his property before he realized the Town Board would play a role in the development. The final decision on large commercial wind farms in Wisconsin normally comes from the state Public Service Commission.

"We weren't going to be involved," Verbeten said. "We were out of it."

But an opposition group known as Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy is pushing local elected officials to impose moratoriums or take other action to derail the project.

State law prohibits elected officials from participating in any official issue in which they have a substantial financial interest.

Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board, said the law does not define substantial financial interest, but state officials interpret it to mean anything more than token.

"We would expect local elected officials — and companies doing business in Wisconsin — to know the law and not put local elected officials in jeopardy," Magney said.

Invenergy is seeking state approval to build 100 wind turbines in southern Brown County, including 54 in Morrison and 20 in Wrightstown. The rest would be built in the towns of Holland and Glenmore, although Holland Town Board members last week approved a one-year moratorium.

Invenergy contends that such local roadblocks are meaningless because state regulators can override all such obstacles when they decide whether to permit the project.

Company vice president Joe Condo said town trustees in Brown County perhaps should abstain from official decisions if those trustees have signed contracts to participate in the development. But considering that the state has the final say, Condo added, "It's really a moot point."

An attorney advising Morrison officials has outlined other ways that the town could involve itself, including passing a resolution on the wind farm proposal or intervening in the state regulatory case.

Steven Gillis, the town of Wrightstown attorney, said he does not perceive a conflict for Verbeten or Diny, at least not on the moratorium issue scheduled to be discussed tonight.

Gillis said he still must conduct more research to determine if the trustees could participate in other issues related to the project, including a local conditional use permit that he believes will be required for the wind farm.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.

Diny and Lemke could not be reached for comment.

Collins declined to discuss his Invenergy contract except to say that although he sees no conflict, he would abstain from any Town Board vote if necessary.

Asked how a three-member board could decide an issue without two members participating, Collins said, "I'm not sure how they'll address that."

Morrison Town Board members have called a special town meeting for 7 p.m. March 8, at a location to be announced, to air public opinions on the wind farm.

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