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2/20/11 Wind turbines in the Sunday news: Why are people worried? Where are the wind jobs? Why don't they pay? Why enact a moratorium? What's "Windfall"? What about birds?

Dems host wind energy discussion

SOURCE: Herald Times Reporter

 MANITOWOC — The Manitowoc County Democratic Party is hosting a public forum on Wind Energy in Wisconsin as part of its regular monthly meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Manitowoc Senior Center. The public is invited.   

 Jenney Heinzen of the Lakeshore Technical College's Wind Energy Technology program and former state Rep. Jim Soletski, former chairman of the Assembly's Energy and Utilities Committee, will be on hand to present information and lead the discussion.

Wind energy has been a controversial topic in this county, now made even more so by policy changes proposed by Gov. Scott Walker.

"If Gov. Walker has his way, the development of a wind energy industry in Wisconsin, and all the jobs that could come with it, may be brought to an abrupt halt," said Kerry Trask, chairman of the local party.


Another disappointment has been the pay for many of the wind industry jobs that do stay in the United States.

Wages around $16 an hour were expected by some when the Siemens plant opened in Hutchinson. But that was averaging the plant's $11- to $20-an-hour wages, and Siemens won't say how many of the jobs pay the $11 starting wage.

That wage would give a family of five an income at the federal poverty level.

Some of the manufacturers have offered wages as low as $9 an hour, and employment levels have at times been volatile. A blade manufacturer in Newton, Iowa, laid off hundreds of employees last year because of poor sales before eventually hiring most of them back by the end of the year.

About five years into recruiting wind energy manufacturers, Iowa can point to about 1,600 people employed by them in a state of 1.6 million employed.

"Don't be changing your college curriculums to prepare for it," said Swenson, the Iowa State economist.

SOURCE: Kansas City Star

February 20, 2011


The state's big bet on wind power has attracted a few hundred jobs so far. But even that success shows the huge challenge Kansas faces.

To turn a few hundred jobs into thousands, Kansas has to win big manufacturing projects and attract the companies that supply them, too. And that means beating out China and other foreign competitors who rule those markets.

"We need to temper our expectations on wind energy," said David Swenson, an Iowa State University economist known for deflating the ethanol industry's job claims. Now, he says, the same "environment of hype" is developing around wind power.

Hutchinson success

Kansas' biggest successes so far — and the reasons to be cautious — can be found in Hutchinson.

Over the past couple of decades, the town lost thousands of jobs and was disappointed in its efforts to lure new companies. But that luck changed in 2009 when Siemens Energy announced it would build a plant in Hutchinson.

The plant already has 130 employees and, when operating at full speed by 2012, is expected to have 400 workers.

The Siemens plant assembles parts that go into the nacelle of a wind turbine, which includes the generator, gearboxes, drive train and electronic controls. The RV-size nacelles each weigh 92 tons and measure 12 feet wide and 38 feet long.

When the Siemens plant opened in December, then-governor-elect Sam Brownback said: "I look forward to all the ways my home state of Kansas will take the lead on increasing national access to wind energy as we continue to grow the Kansas economy and create jobs."

The plant was a big victory for a strategy pushed by Brownback's predecessor, Gov. Mark Parkinson, that realized early on that manufacturing was the only place to find many green jobs.

Wind farms themselves, which now dot the state, don't provide much work.

In one study, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., figured that building a utility-scale wind farm with dozens of turbines created just 67 construction jobs. And the operation and maintenance of the wind farm would take only about a half-dozen people.

But the wind turbine manufacturers and their supply chain for such a wind farm would contribute more than 300 jobs, the energy lab estimated. And a well-located plant would have a good prospect of supplying more wind farms as they were built.

Kansas' place in the center of the country's prime wind energy territory was one of the reasons Siemens picked Hutchinson. The move quickly paid off when an Iowa utility recently placed a big order for 258 nacelles.

Attracting more jobs

But Hutchinson's hopes — and the state's — also ride on drawing the companies that will supply the Siemens plant and others like it in the state.

If that happens, how many jobs could be created?

Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development and Business Research says plant jobs like the one in Hutchinson will create at least twice as many additional jobs, from suppliers and others who benefit from the extra money rippling through the state's economy.

By that math, the Hutchinson plant at full capacity with 400 employees would create an additional 800 jobs.

Kansas also has persuaded a few other manufacturers to announce plans to open plants elsewhere in the state. Add those projects to the Hutchinson plant and the estimate grows to a total of 1,200 direct jobs and an additional 2,400 jobs from suppliers and others.

Not bad — but not huge in a state with a civilian labor force of 1.5 million and 102,600 unemployed job seekers at last count.

And it's not clear that even that number of jobs will emerge, especially in the supply chain for the main plants.

Draka, a Dutch cable supplier, is opening a plant in Hutchinson that will employ up to 20 people. But so far it is the only one to be announced, although the town hopes others will follow.

"We're still waiting for it to happen, but in a year or two if it doesn't, there will be disappointment," said Tom Arnhold, a Hutchinson lawyer.

Siemens isn't giving specifics on the origin of the parts being assembled at its Hutchinson plant.

But it wouldn't be unusual if the plant ended up assembling expensive parts made overseas. That's what a lot of U.S. wind energy plants do.

The clout of China and other lower-cost manufacturing countries in the wind market showed up in an analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. That group found that more than 80 percent of $1 billion in federal stimulus grants for wind projects went to foreign countries. One of the projects, a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas, expected to collect $450 million in stimulus money — but used wind turbines made in China.

Another disappointment has been the pay for many of the wind industry jobs that do stay in the United States.

Wages around $16 an hour were expected by some when the Siemens plant opened in Hutchinson. But that was averaging the plant's $11- to $20-an-hour wages, and Siemens won't say how many of the jobs pay the $11 starting wage.

That wage would give a family of five an income at the federal poverty level.

What may be ahead

A glimpse of what's ahead for Kansas might be found in Iowa, which has been more aggressive than Kansas in building wind farms and attracting the manufacturing, including a wind turbine factory.

Some of the manufacturers have offered wages as low as $9 an hour, and employment levels have at times been volatile. A blade manufacturer in Newton, Iowa, laid off hundreds of employees last year because of poor sales before eventually hiring most of them back by the end of the year.

About five years into recruiting wind energy manufacturers, Iowa can point to about 1,600 people employed by them in a state of 1.6 million employed.

"Don't be changing your college curriculums to prepare for it," said Swenson, the Iowa State economist.

And there's some advice from Howard, S.D. In the 1990s it started developing wind energy and became a national model for how to use clean energy to help revive a small town. But it hasn't been easy, and there have been setbacks.

Many of Howard's jobs were provided by a blade manufacturer, but last year that company left. Now the town's industrial park employs 42 people instead of 133. Town officials are talking to other wind energy companies, hoping they'll move in.

"One of the realities is to always be paying attention," said Kathy Callies, vice president of the Rural Learning Center in Howard.




SOURCE: Daily Telegram, www.lenconnect.com

February 19 2011

By David Frownfelder,

FAIRFIELD TWP., Mich. — Just days after the Fairfield Township Board approved a one-year moratorium on siting of wind turbines in the township, the Zoning Board of Appeals ordered Orisol Energy US Inc. to take down a 262-foot tall meteorological tower the company had erected. Both votes were unanimous.

Township supervisor Curtis Emmons said the moratorium, which passed Monday night on a 5-0 vote, will give the township planning commission time to come up with an ordinance regarding wind turbines. He said the order to tear down the meteorological tower was made because it is in violation of the township’s height and zoning ordinances. That vote was 3-0 Wednesday.

In January, Cliff Williams, director of North American operations for Orisol, said the tower is collecting data about atmospheric conditions. He was not available for comment. Emmons said the company has 30 days to appeal the ruling.

“The board took questions and comments pro and con from the audience, and Mr. Williams was able to state his case why the company felt they could put up the towers,” Emmons said. “(The board) cited several parts of the zoning ordinance in making their ruling.”

Three wind energy companies are seeking to erect some 200 wind towers in Fairfield, Riga, Palmyra and Ogden townships. Riga and Fairfield townships are developing zoning ordinances covering wind turbines.

The companies looking at northwest Ohio as sites for wind turbines are Orisol; Juwi Wind Corp., based in Cleveland; Great Lakes LLC, based in Lenawee County; and Exelon Wind, a division of Exelon Power.



SOURCE: Penasee Globe, www.mlive.com

February 19 2011

By Herb Woerpel,

Attracted to the financial incentives that would seemingly boost their sinking economy, the townspeople of Meredith, New York were excited about the potential of adding wind turbines to their rural, residential neighborhood.

Lured by promises of profit, sustainability and environmental friendliness, the townspeople cherished the implementation of the massive machines.

As the 40-story tall structures were installed, the availability of wind company representatives grew sparse, and residents grew increasingly alarmed as they felt firsthand the the impacts of the 400-foot tall windmills.

Filmmaker Laura Israel, a resident of Meredith, documented the entire process and shares the haunting reality in her feature length film, “Windfall.”

A special screening of “Windfall” will be presented at 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 26 at Hopkins Middle School, 215 Clark St. in Hopkins. Following the screening, a 30-minute question and answer session featuring the filmmakers will take place.

The 83-minute feature film utilizes community member interviews to tell the story. Some are excited to add the turbines, others not as optimistic. The documentary eventually captures the terror that many residents endure on a daily basis following the installation of the turbines.

“The film isn’t an expose about wind, it’s more the experience of a town,” said Israel, in a Youtube.com interview. “This is people living among turbines trying to get the word out about the problems they are having. I wanted to give a voice to them.”

Israel said that she doesn’t have all the answers, and she hopes viewers don’t expect to find all the answers through the film.

“Windfall exposes the dark side of wind energy development and the potential for highly profitable financial scams,” she said. “With wind development in the United States growing annually at 39 percent, the film is an eye-opener for anyone concerned about the future of renewable energy.”

Monterey Township resident Laura Roys viewed the film last year in Frankfort, Mich. She couldn’t believe how similar the Meredith story was when compared to the recent happenings in Allegan County. Roys, who is facilitating the Feb. 26 screening, decided to show the film in Hopkins to help raise awareness.

“The state of Michigan has targeted and fast tracked half of Allegan County for industrial wind development,” she said. “The more educated our local political leaders and residents of Allegan County become, the odds of having a positive outcome will dramatically increase.”

The screening is free to attend. Doors will open at 12:30 p.m., and the film will begin at 1 p.m. For more information visit www.windfallthemovie.com.

NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Correction to the above article. The film "WINDFALL" documents the small town of Meredith's experience with proposed wind development but the turbines mentioned in the article above are in the Tug Hill wind project. "Windfall" also contains disturbing footage shot by Wisconsin wind project residents showing the serious impact of shadow flicker on their lives.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO an interview with filmmaker Laura Israel and Wisconsin cartoonist and writer Lynda Barry on WNYC's Leonard Lopate show. Israel and Barry were in New York City to support "WINDFALL" at NYC/DOC, a festival celebrating independent documentary films. "WINDFALL" took the Grand Jury Prize.



SOURCE: The Sun Times, www.owensoundsuntimes.com

February 18 2011


Thunderous applause and a standing ovation followed Ashley Duncan's speech in opposition of the 80-megawatt Acciona Armow Wind Project, which spans from the former Kincardine Twp. to Bruce Twp.

Representing about 70 non-option landowners and members of the Old Order Amish community living within the proposed project, Duncan said council must act to protect the quality of life, health and property rights of its citizens within wind project areas.

"The province and wind developers have failed to address our issues. The only way to inspire provincial change and reclaim municipal control is to stand in opposition to the Green Energy Act (GEA)," said Duncan, adding it should be "designed to protect people instead of corporations."

Duncan said the local landscape is becoming "industrialized" and the failure to protect residents falls on both the province and wind proponents. The GEA is intended as a document to guide consultation and protect the public, but many residents don't see it that way," she said.

"Instead of building strong communities they've divided our community," said Duncan.

Opposition against the GEA is building province-wide, with more evidence of health issues, electrical pollution and civil opposition surfacing against wind projects, Duncan said, adding their families should be able to educate, worship, work and live in an area where they're "equally deserving of protection" as residents who live in town.

Duncan praised the provincial moratorium on Offshore Wind Power development that was announced Feb. 11, but said it could come back to the table in as few as two years.

She also addressed the municipality's support for an increased 700-metre setback from the GEA's 550, adding that less than 1,000m is inadequate. Shadow flicker and proximity of turbines to property lines both impact the enjoyment of their properties, she said.

The Ministry of Environment noise guidelines were also targeted at the meeting, as Duncan said the 40-decibel standard for noise limits from turbines more than doubles the 20db outdoors ambient noise they currently enjoy.

Although "40db is said to be the sound of a 'quiet library,' this is true but it's irrelevant," she said, adding they aren't willing to accept an increase "two times as loud as the natural environment."

With a dozen residents in the area reporting health effects from wind turbines, Duncan called on council to "put a plan in place to support people and mitigate the effects" of turbines.

A request was made to council to freeze wind power building permits, and join with the neigh-b ouring municipalities of Saugeen Shores, Arran-Elderslie and Huron-Kinloss to get involved with investigating legal defence and get involved with organizations fighting against unwanted wind power projects, she said.

Councillors praised Duncan for her "informative," "thorough" and "well thought out" presentation.

Deputy-mayor Anne Eadie said council will be taking wind power issues to the Minister of Energy at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) in the coming weeks, on the premise that the municipality is concerned about curbing of future municipal growth from wind power.

"We want to protect for future growth over the next 40 years," said Eadie, adding earlier "meaningful" consultation and setbacks will also be addressed.

Coun. Ron Coristine said the province made the mistake of mixing residential and industrial zoning in the 1950's and 1960's, so wind power should be considering "best practices". He said if setbacks were 2 km from receptors, there would be no issues.

"There are good wind practices, they're just not happening here," said Coristine.

Coun. Maureen Couture said council should commit to finding answers and convince the province the issues of local residents "are real."

"They have to listen to us, we vote for them too," Couture said, adding the 90% in favour of wind aren't representative of the local population. "Municipal councils are obligated to look after the health, welfare and safety of their residents . . . we should do more research into the legal aspects of all of this."

Coun. Randy Roppel said carbon credits and future decommissioning are issues of concern alongside health concerns, which the province "can hide behind anymore".

Mayor Larry Kraemer was supportive of the move to join neighbouring municipalities in an effort to investigate the legal routes to fight wind power.

Kraemer took exception to the call to freeze building permits, as he said there's no legal defence if it were to be challenged by wind developers or the province. He said it also puts municipal staff in a position where they have to choose to break council's ruling or provincial law.

"It's a legal liability and virtually undefendable, that's why blocking building permits is not done widely because it does not work," said Kraemer.

Councillors requested staff investigate the legal ramifications of such a move, so it can be discussed further by council.

Council made a motion to work on updating guidelines based on input it receives from ROMA. Staff will also seek legal advice from lawyers and determine when councillors can attend future wind power-focused meetings with neighbouring municipalities.



Think duck deaths on oilsands tailings ponds are bad? The real slaughter happens elsewhere

Sonya Thomas is five feet tall and weighs just 105 pounds. But last fall she won the world chicken wing eating competition in Buffalo, N.Y., devouring 181 wings in 12 minutes. She claimed she was still hungry, and an hour later ate 20 more.

She edged out Joey Chestnut, her 6-foot-2, 218-pound rival. He ate 169 wings. But in 2008 in Philadelphia, Chestnut packed away 241 wings, though he took half an hour to do it.

Together Thomas and Chestnut can polish off more than 400 wings in a sitting.

That’s more than 200 birds.

Around the same time as the Buffalo wing festival, another 200 birds died. But they weren’t eaten in New York. They were caught in a freak ice storm in northern Alberta, and landed on Syncrude’s oilsands tailing ponds. Government wildlife officers ordered them euthanized.

Linda Duncan, the NDP MP for Edmonton-Strathcona, called the bird deaths “reprehensible” and said “no amount of penalty” was enough. She demanded the tailings ponds be shut down — which would mean shutting down the whole oilsands mine at Mildred Lake. If Duncan got her way, more than 3,000 people would lose their jobs.

Duncan’s proposal would fire 15 workers for every dead duck. That’s nutty, but not much nuttier than the $2,000-a-duck fine Syncrude had to pay for a duck accident in 2008.

But as a new video produced this month by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy points out, the duck obsession of Linda Duncan and other oilsands haters is misplaced.

The Frontier Centre compared the number of birds killed by the oilsands with the number of birds killed by a wind turbine at an Ontario wind farm — allegedly a more environmentally friendly source of energy.

When the rate of bird kills was measured, kilowatt hour by kilowatt hour, windmills were 445 times deadlier than the oilsands.

You can watch the center’s video at http://bit.ly/

birdblender, but it’s not for the squeamish.

Where is Linda Duncan’s outrage for those dead birds?

Wind power proponents know their industry is a disaster when it comes to birds. Part of the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s strategy is to publish a “fact sheet” that admits windmills kill birds but shifts the blame to cats — as well as buildings and windows — for even more bird deaths.

How would that go over in court if Canada’s windmill operators were ever charged with a criminal offence, like Syncrude was?

“Your honour, it’s true that our windmills kill birds. But so do cats. And you wouldn’t prosecute a cute little kitten, would you?”

An elementary school in Bristol, in the U.K., learned about windmills the hard way. The local government spent more than $30,000 to build a 10-metre-high windmill at the school. The manufacturer said it would only kill one bird a year. But after 14 birds were killed in a six-month period, the school shut it down for fear of traumatizing the children. Headmaster Stuart McLeod said he started coming in to work early just to scoop up the carcasses before the kids arrived.

Jimmy Carter’s signature windfarm in Altamont, Calif., admits to killing about 5,000 birds a year, including protected species such as golden eagles. So that’s 5,000 birds a year for 30 years now. If they were fined $2,000 a bird like Syncrude was, that would be $300 million in fines.

Birds aren’t the only things killed by windmills. Researchers at the University of Calgary found bats are even more likely to be killed — the change in air pressure causes their lungs to explode. Oh well. Nobody likes bats anyways. They’re the environmentalists’ sacrifice species.

A cat has an excuse for killing a bird — that’s what cats eat. Sonya Thomas and Joey Chestnut have an excuse — that’s what they eat, too.

But what’s the excuse of windmill salesmen whose sole pitch is their environmental benefit?

Is it OK to butcher countless birds — and create noise pollution, and make beautiful countrysides ugly — if you mean well?


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