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3/2/11 Wisconsin PSC wind rules suspended AND No turning, no problem--the money will roll in anyway AND why does big wind make grid guys nervous?

NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Click on the image below to see members of the wind siting council dismiss safety concerns while creating setback guidelines for Wisconsin.

Yesterday, a joint committee that reviews administrative rules suspended the wind rules created by the PSC "on the basis of testimony it received at its February 9, 2011" and on the grounds that the PSC rules "create an emergency relating to public health, safety or welfare"  and are "arbitrary and capricious" and "impose undue hardship on landowners and residents adjacent to wind turbine sites."

 CLICK on image below to watch TV report on the rule suspention SOURCE: FOX 11 NEWS

STATE LAWMAKERS DENY PROPOSAL FOR NEW WIND ENERGY SYSTEMS

SOURCE: The Badger Herald, badgerherald.com

March 1, 2011

By Maggie Sams,

“The purpose of this hearing was not about whether wind is effective but whether this rule by the PSC was reasonable or not.

We are trying to balance the needs of industry workers and health-concerned citizens,” JCRAR co-chair Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said.

“The biggest issue we heard came from testifiers at the hearing that 1,250 ft. is too close and will result in shadow flicker and noise issues.

The health issue from testimony was the determining factor in my vote.”

To the dismay of wind energy advocates, a state legislative committee suspended enacting a rule that would have implemented statewide wind energy production regulations.

The rule would have standardized regulations concerning the construction of wind turbines in the state of Wisconsin. It also included regulations to address issues like noise level and shadow flicker.

Another part of the rule would mandate setback distances between turbines and adjacent, non-participatory properties to equal three times the maximum length of the turbine blade — roughly 1,250 feet. Turbines would only have to be one blade length away from the property hosting it.

Republicans on the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules said they voted against the rule in the interest of citizen health and well-being.

“The purpose of this hearing was not about whether wind is effective but whether this rule by the PSC was reasonable or not. We are trying to balance the needs of industry workers and health-concerned citizens,” JCRAR co-chair Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said. “The biggest issue we heard came from testifiers at the hearing that 1,250 ft. is too close and will result in shadow flicker and noise issues. The health issue from testimony was the determining factor in my vote.”

Although the vote to suspend the wind-siting rule pleased many homeowners living near turbines, it upset wind energy activists. Those who were in support of the rule believed it would have provided a boom to the economy and help create jobs.

“Creating uniform regulations for the state of Wisconsin would have brought hundreds, if not thousands, of job opportunities to the state,” Clean Wisconsin Program Director Amber Meyer Smith said. “With the return to local regulation we have jeopardized at least eleven prospective clean energy projects.”

Not only did advocates claim Wisconsin would lose jobs, but many also said they feared Wisconsin’s wind industry would move to surrounding states.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, echoed concerns that the committee’s vote to suspend the rule was a major setback for the wind industry.

“We have developers of alternative energy — in this case wind — that have been given a kick to the gut. These folks who were going to create jobs are now going to have to go to different states,” Hebl said. “Not only would this have created hundreds of jobs, they would have been green jobs. It would have been a win-win.”

The rule would have become effective March 1, but the JCRAR chose to have another hearing to suspend the wind-siting rule after a long and passionate hearing on the rule Feb. 9.

“We heard nearly nine hours of testimony during February’s hearing,” Ott said. “Based on the testimony — some pro and a lot of con — we decided to hold a motion to suspend the rule. This is a situation where the legislature is exercising its oversight of a public agency.”

The committee voted 5-2 along party lines. The committee normally has ten voting members, but two of the 14 Democratic senators in Illinois to prevent a vote on the budget repair bill did not attend, and one Republican was on leave for unknown reasons.

COMMITTEE SUSPENDS RULE GOVERNING PLACEMENT OF WIND TURBINES

SOURCE: Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com

March 1, 2011

By Thomas Content

A legislative committee voted Tuesday to suspend rules adopted by the state Public Service Commission last year regarding the placement of wind turbines.

The 5-2 vote by the joint committee that reviews administrative rules means there are now no statewide standards in place governing setbacks – the minimum distance between a turbine and a nearby home – and other permitting requirements for wind turbines on small wind projects.

In a debate that has pitted economic development opportunity against concerns about property rights, wind energy supporters argued in favor of the rule while critics of wind power projects contended it was not restrictive enough.

The PSC rule, finalized in December, would have taken effect Tuesday if the vote had failed.

Jennifer Giegerich of the League of Conservation Voters expressed disappointment with the vote, saying it sends the wrong message on job creation at a time when the wind components industry in the state has been expanding.

“Now we’re back to where we were two years ago when wind developers said Wisconsin was an unfriendly place to build,” she said.

The full Legislature must follow up on the committee’s vote by passing a bill to throw out the PSC rule. A bill under consideration would send the matter back to the PSC for revision, giving the agency seven months to complete that work, said Scott Grosz, a state Legislative Council attorney.

Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) said the PSC rule was tantamount to “a government-sanctioned taking because it reduced the value of property for nonparticipating landowners without their consent and without compensation.”

But Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) said all energy choices are controversial, including coal, and it’s important for the state to support wind energy.

“This is the next generation of technology,” he said. “Why would we not be supporting this when they say if you suspend these rules they’ll just go to another state.”

The American Wind Energy Association said the PSC rule was restrictive enough, given that it set specific noise limits and restrictions on shadow flicker in addition to turbine distance setbacks.

“These rules were developed collaboratively by the wind energy industry and all major stakeholders in Wisconsin, based on input from six public hearings and two years of information gathering, to protect the interests of all involved parties,” said Jeff Anthony, director of business development at the American Wind Energy Association and a Wisconsin resident.

But Bob Welch, a lobbyist for the Coalition for Wisconsin Environmental Stewardship, which represents groups that have been fighting wind projects, said his constituents need a “fair hearing” at the PSC. “As far as those who want to build wind turbines in Wisconsin, all they’ve got to do is treat their neighbors fairly,” Welch said. “Property rights need to be protected.”

SECOND FEATURE:

WHY AREN'T LACKAWANNA WINDMILLS TURNING?

SOURCE: wivb.com

 March 1 2011,

George Richert, 

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Have you noticed many of the new windmills along Route 5 are not working?

This isn’t the first time they’ve had mechanical problems, and we managed to dig up some hard numbers on just how much electricity they actually are generating.

In its first year, Steelwinds had to replace all of the gear boxes in the eight turbines. The next year, the blades had to be fixed. And for this entire winter, only half of the Lackawanna windmills have been working at any given time.

So we did some research to see just how much electricity these turbines have actually been producing. According to the numbers filed with the NY Independent System Operator, the eight Lackawanna windmills averaged about 40 Megawatt hours of electricity per year in 2008 and 2009. That’s enough to power almost 6,000 homes, and works out to about 23 percent of its capacity. 100 percent would only be achieved in a constant wind, with turbines that never needed maintenance, so 30 percent is the average capacity for a wind farm.

The bottom line is Steelwinds is putting out less electricity than an average wind farm, partly because of mechanical problems, but it has no effect what Lackawanna gets.

Mayor Norman Polanski said, “We still get our money from them, our $100,000 a year. Uh, but people call about them all the time, they want to know what’s going on.”

At the going rate for electricity, Steelwinds is still making over $2 million a year for the electricity it is generating. On top of that, its investors get an extra two cents a kilowatt for going green. So the investors that helped pay a million bucks to build each one of these turbines get $800,000 every year in federal tax credits.

Steelwinds has plans to build six more, but the company just notified Erie County that plans have been “delayed for several months” until next December because of “delays in completing all of the PILOT agreements, and other circumstances beyond Erie Wind’s control.” You can read the full letter here.

We reached the project manager and a Steelwinds spokesman weeks ago about this story, but they had no comment about any of it.

UPDATE: John Lamontagne of First Wind contacted News 4 Tuesday night with this explanation: “The turbines are currently down due to composite work being completed in the towers. Given the scope of work being done and the the harsh winter conditions, there has been a delay in returning the turbines to service. We expect the turbines to return to service in the near future.”

´╗┐NEXT FEATURE:

 WIND SHORTFALLS MAKE GRID GUYS NERVOUS

Source: energyBiz: For Leaders in the Global Power Industry

March 2, 2011

By Ken Silverstein

When it comes to integrating wind into the transmission lines, system operators say that they are challenged. While they understand and appreciate the reasoning, they are saying that the networks lack the flexibility to handle wind variation. 

Green energy has a lot of public appeal. But the intermittent nature of wind and solar power coupled with the relatively higher costs put the grid’s traffic cops in an untenable position. Those are the fellows whose job it is to schedule the resources to where they need to be so that the electricity keeps flowing. Their task is to maintain that reliability with the lowest-priced fuels. 
 
“We have to be truthful about what the impact will be,” says Jim Detmers, principal in Power Systems Resources and the former chief operating officer of the California ISO. “The devil is in the details. These new embedded costs will be significant.” Better communication with policymakers is essential. 

In the case of California, it now has 3,000 megawatts of wind. In a few years, that will be 7,000 megawatts. A few years later, it will be 10,000 megawatts. By 2020, the goal is to have 33 percent of electricity generated from renewable energy. “That’s making grid operators nervous,” says Detmers, who spoke at Wartsila’s <http://www.wartsila.com/en_US/about-us/overview>  Flexible Power Symposium in Vail, Colo. 
 
Simply, the wind does not blow on demand. Ditto for the sun. So these resources must be backed up with other, “dispatchable” forms of generation. But such “firming” or “cycling” creates two distinct issues: The first is that the power is not free and the second is that if coal plants are “cycled” up and down, they release more pollutants per unit of output than if they ran full steam ahead. 

No doubt, the price of wind and solar energy is falling while their productivity rates are increasing. But the technologies still have a ways to go. 

“If you are a grid operator, you must be dispassionate and follow the engineering,” says David O’Brien, former head of the Vermont’s Department of Public Service and now a consultant for Bridge Energy Group, during a phone call. “The best thing they can do is to provide the data to their stakeholders and to be an honest broker. But they have to ultimately accept the policy mandates.”

Public Demands
 
According to Steve Lefton, director of Intertek Aptek who also spoke at the Wartsila conference, those base-load coal units developed decades ago were never designed to firm-up wind generation. They were made to run at full capacity. So when they are used as such, they create excess emissions. 
 
As wind energy increases its market share, thermal plants can be expected to rev up and down more often. If coal is the main fuel source that is dispatched, it will decrease the emissions savings from wind. 
 
“The actual emissions reduction rates from wind are far less than what the lobbyists are touting,” if system operators do not have the flexibility to use cleaner backup fuels, says Brannin McBee, energy analyst for Bentek Energy <http://www.bentekenergy.com/> , a speaker at the conference. “Thermal plant cycling is also very expensive,” particularly if the older coal plants are used to firm up the wind generation. 
 
With the public demands to increase green energy growing, what might be an optimal firming fuel? The answer could be natural gas. Regulators tend to favor it because it releases far fewer emissions than coal while the price is expected to remain low at $4-$7 per million BTUs. 
 
Coal facilities without carbon capture and sequestration cannot get the permits to operate, says Doug Egan, chief executive of Competitive Power Ventures. And if the plants are built with such capacity they are too costly. Even those with coal gasification that nearly eliminate the sulfur, nitrogen oxide and mercury but which don’t capture and bury the carbon are prohibitively expensive, he adds. 
 
In recent years, developers have abandoned their plans to build 38 coal plants, says the Sierra Club <http://sierraclub.typepad.com/compass/2010/12/this-year-the-outlook-dimmed-for-coal.html> . Meanwhile, it says that 48 more can be expected to be retired. 
 
Natural gas is the most plausible option to firm up wind and solar. More than enough of it exists with the recent discoveries of shale gas, the unconventional source that is extracted from rocks more than a mile beneath the ground using hydraulic fracturing. That withdrawal technique, though, is under fire from some community organizations that say it is polluting their drinking water. 
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants developers to voluntarily disclose the chemicals they are using as a way to ease tensions. Producers are balking for now, saying its exploratory methods are proprietary. 

“Fracking can be dealt with,” says Egan. “Producers will share their secret sauce. It will make it the process slightly less efficient. But a deal with get cut.” 
 
Managing a grid and keeping the lights on is difficult. Green energy’s role will increase but so too will the challenges associated with delivering it -- facts that must be relayed to policymakers and customers alike. Older coal plants present the most issues but the newer gas-fired generation may be more accommodating.

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