4/2/11: Arrogance, a 'metaphorical Kalashnikov' and a wind lobbyist's royal 'We'-- Is it We the People or We Energies? AND Wind developers deny there is a problem while wind project residents describe their misery: Same story told with an Australian Accent AND with a Midwestern Accent AND Malfunction at the Junction: New Jersey halts approval of on-land turbines after blades fall off wind turbine
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Stereotyping isn't new to those of us who have expressed concerns about the wind industry's impact on people, wildlife, property values and the environment. The terms used in the following article include the usual 'NIMBY' along with 'rabid', 'shrill,' 'emotional, and divisive.'
A wind lobbyist well known for his bizarre metaphors and dismissive attitude toward people he deems 'anti-wind' adds a few more choice phrases here, this time using the pronoun "we" instead of "I"--
Describing the JCRAR's recent suspension of the Public Service Commission's wind rules, he says,
"That was a political hit job. We refer to that committee as the firing squad"
"We're kind of enjoying this momentary lull because we've been in a shooting war, metaphorically, with Gov. Walker since January 3. So it's nice to be able to put down the metaphorical Kalashikov and talk about strategy."
Who is 'we' in this instance? The 'business members' who pay this fellow include power giants Alliant Energy, American Transmission Company, We Energies, Madison Gas and Electric, along with big names in the wind business like Invenergy, enXco, and Horizon. Yet he's not identified as a lobbyist in this piece. Did the reporter not know?
One thing that distinguishes this article is the reporter's rare inclusion of the voices of two Fond du Lac County wind project residents who have been experiencing trouble since the turbines went on line near their homes.
Read what they have to say about their experience and decide for yourself who sounds 'shrill, rabid, emotional and divisive' in this article.
EXTRA CREDIT QUESTION: Does 'full disclosure' apply to paid lobbyists making public statements? Should lobbyists identify themselves as such to a reporter? Or should it be up to the reporter to find out by doing their homework?
AND THE WIND CRIES....UNCLE
Week of April 1, 2011
By Jim Lundstrom
Before the 1936 Rural Electrification Act brought electricity to the boonies, wind was the chief source of power for many country folk. Eventually, the windmills that once dotted the rural landscape were replaced by many forests’ worth of utility poles and probably millions of miles of cable.
It’s been lost to us how those farmers felt about their vistas being ruined and the rural nature of their property being destroyed by the ugly electrification program. Or was the prospect of entering the 20th century with the flick of a switch a salve to their bruised souls?
Wind energy never really went away, but it did go into deep hibernation for most of the rest of the 20th century, only roused from sleep by nervous consumers during the fossil fuel energy crises of the 1970s.
Ironically, the oily state of Texas is a leader in wind farms, with a generating capacity of 10,085 MW. Naturally, it boasts the world’s largest in the Roscoe Wind Farm, with 627 wind turbines covering 100,000 acres and capable of generating 781.5 megawatts, enough to power a quarter of a million homes.
Iowa has the second largest capacity with 3,675 MW, followed by California (3,177 MW), Minnesota (2,192 MW) and Washington (2,104 MW). Wisconsin produces less than 500 MW with wind power.
For all the wind in Wisconsin – it ranks 16th in the nation for quality of wind – wind supplies only 1.7% of the state’s electricity, according to the Institute for Energy Research. Coal is tops for electricity generation, providing 62.5% of the state’s power. Nuclear energy from the state’s two nuke plants accounts for 20.7% Next is natural gas with a 9.1% share, followed by hydroelectric with 2.6%, and just below wind are wood/wood-derived products and petroleum, both supplying 1.2% each of the state’s power supply.
One of the best spots in the state to generate power from wind is on the high dolomite ledge on the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago. From County A in Neenah you can see the ghostly image of the northern Fond du Lac County wind turbines, close enough to Calumet County to put the wind up folks who don’t want wind turbines in their back yard.
Fond du Lac County is home to 166 wind turbines, including the 88 in the WE Energies Blue Sky Green Field Project, which has been the largest in the state since it went online in 2008. Those are the turbines you can see across Lake Winnebago.
Fond du Lac County reaped $625,000 in revenue from the various utilities who own the wind farms for 2010. We Energies gave landowners who host the turbines in the Blue Sky Green Fields project and the townships they are in a total of $440,000.
Blue Sky Green Field is currently the largest wind farm project in the state, but owner WE Energies will surpass that next year when Glacial Hills Wind Farm goes online with 90 turbines.
The uncertainty about wind in Wisconsin and the absence of regulatory stability were cited by Invenergy on March 21 when it asked the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to terminate its application process for the proposed 150MW Ledge Wind Energy Center in southern Brown County.
With utilities required to generate 10% of their power with renewable energy by 2015, wind seems to be a good investment, just not in Wisconsin right now after the Republican-heavy Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules suspended the Public Service Commission’s wind siting rule on the eve it was to take effect. And not with the emotional and divisive opposition to wind from the likes of former Republican state senator Robert Welch
Welch now serves as a well-dressed hired gun for groups that oppose wind energy, including Calumet County Citizens for Responsible Energy, a group that formed when wind farms were being proposed for Brothertown and other areas in Calumet County. The group has since assisted in efforts to oppose wind development in other parts of the state.
Welch reportedly was a member of Scott Walker’s “kitchen cabinet” during his successful campaign for governor, which goes a long way in explaining why the long debated and analyzed Wisconsin Public Service Commission wind siting ruling – known as PSC 128 – was suspended by a Republican-dominated legislative committee the day before it was to go into effect on March 1.
“That was a political hit job. We refer to that committee as the firing squad,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin and one of the 11 members of the PSC Wind Siting Council that crafted PSC 128.
“We are actually trying to implement the state’s own policies. The state actually prefers native renewable energy over importing coal. It’s in the statutes,” Vickerman said, but adds it has been a Sisyphean task given the rabid opposition to wind in Wisconsin. “We think we’re advancing the public interest of the state. To come across this opposition can be bewildering. Four years of policy work and lobbying and negotiating, and now we’re back to 2007.”
Appearing at a March 2 public hearing on Calumet County’s proposed wind siting ordinance, which essentially mirrored PSC 128 (by law, a local ordinance could not be more restrictive than the state rules), Welch said it was the 1,250-foot setback from a non-participating landowner’s residence that killed PSC 128. He and his paying constituents have long advocated an 1,800-foot setback from a non-participating property line rather than residence.
“The proposed 1,800-foot from property line setback, that is a very strategically designed number. It systematically destroys wind power in Wisconsin,” said Jeff Carlson, who does wind siting analysis and mapping for wind projects. He said with all the other buffer zones and inherent setbacks for public roads and power lines, the 1,800-foot rule makes it virtually impossible to put all the pieces of a wind farm puzzle together.
Welch told the assembled audience that the “wholesale change in the Legislature” means that all the “hoopla” surrounding green energy mandates and global warming has “sort of gone away.”
Not gone, Vickerman said, but in a temporary holding pattern.
“We’re kind of enjoying this momentary lull because we’ve been in a shooting war, metaphorically, with Gov. Walker since Jan. 3. So it’s nice to be able to put down the metaphorical Kalashnikov and talk about strategy,” he said. “What the legislative panel did was a suspension. If the legislature wants to repeal the siting rule, it would have to do so, it has to pass both houses. We have a shot, some chance; we might succeed in stopping such a bill from clearing the legislature. If we don’t the rule does go back under a new rulemaking procedure with more hoops, the biggest one being the governor has to sign off, which wasn’t the case before.”
What’s wrong with wind farms?
Opponents of wind energy have a long list of complaints that include public subsidies for wind, aesthetics, property rights of non-participants, drop in property values, noise levels, shadow flicker, bird and bat mortality around turbines, disruption of radio and TV signals, and a host of physical complaints that a minority of wind turbine neighbors have expressed. And, of course, there are the ever-present NIMBYs who might not actually oppose wind energy, but they don’t want to look at wind turbines from their property.
The most specious argument is public subsidies of wind. Yes, there is a 10-year federal tax credit that provides 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour produced (that credit includes solar, geothermal and “closed-loop” bioenergy systems), but wind advocates point out that all forms of energy are subsidized in some way by we the people, and some in far more shameful examples of public policy than a 10-year federal tax credit. Think of all the body bags and human misery that have subsidized fossil fuel and coal. Nuclear power, anyone?
“There’s a shrill nature to the opposition to wind, whether it’s political or whatever,” said Jeff Carlson, the wind-siting analyst. “When you’re going to defend the oil supply as one of your energies, there are a whole lot of costs that are never discussed.”
More disturbing are the various problems experienced by some who live within a wind farm project.
“I can’t stand them,” said Jim Vollmer, who in November 2002 bought a home in a small valley in the Town of Marshfield in northern Fond du Lac County.
Vollmer, a mechanic by trade, also raises chickens for meat and show. Both he and his chickens have suffered medical problems he attributes to the arrival of a Blue Sky Green Field turbine 1,600 feet from his home. He says it is a combination of noise, shadow flicker and vibration that have caused him and his chickens a host of medical problems and chronic sleeplessness.
“I’ve got sound and vibration here. Headaches. Migraines. Earaches. Memory loss. Shadow. Sometimes it feels like your vision is all blurred, you can’t see straight sometimes,” he said. “My birds are the biggest thing I’m concerned with. I’ve been raising them for 22 years, showing at fairs and things. I was growing meat birds, all of a sudden the shadow started showing. With the shadow in the barn, the birds think it’s a hawk or something overhead and they’re scared to hell. They quit laying or start rampaging. They start eating eggs and then I have a hell of a time to get them to stop eating them. Low hatch rates. Ones that did hatch had all kinds of birth defects on them. I gave up on the meat birds. Tried to get compensation for the chickens, but nothing.”
In the mitigation process, WE Energies outfitted Vollmer and his neighbors with satellite TV and radio to overcome transmission problems caused by the turbines, and they installed double-thick blinds to stop the shadow flicker from entering his home. That stopped the inside flicker, but the blinds also make it dark as a tomb inside.
“It’s so dark you have to turn lights on,” he said. “I told them I had shadow in the barn, and they won’t do nothing about that. They were supposed to do shadow mitigation.”
Vollmer feels he has exhausted all his options in resolving the problems. He has been to town board meetings. He has complained to WE Energies, the PSC, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, various law firms, and to state Sen. Joe Liebham, one of the six Republicans on the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules.
“I haven’t gotten anywhere. They all dropped the ball,” he said.
He believes his only remaining option is to sell his home and move away, but after two years on the market, “I haven’t had anyone bite on the thing yet,” he said. “I’ve had a couple people, but that was almost two years ago when I first listed it. I called another realtor up this year. I’ve had it on the market with him since Feb. 2. I dropped the price by $40,000. What really angsts me, I dropped it that much with a new realtor and that guy says we haven’t had anyone call or want to come and look at it. He said that’s not normal.”
Vollmer suggested that WE Energies buy his home.
“I told them straight up, buy the place, turn around and sell it for as much as you can get. And let me move on,” he said.
Kathy Weber runs the Pipe Meat Market in beautiful downtown Pipe. Just down County W she built a home in 2006. In 2008 a Blue Sky Green Field wind turbine was erected 850 feet from her back door.
“They built the tower too close to my house. I informed them at the time that it was too close and they put it up anyway. They are disputing the fact, saying that they had a contract before my house went up,” she said. “I told them my son has juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. I’m not saying it’s going to affect him, but I don’t want to find out. I took them at their word. The project manager for the wind farm told me after I mentioned it was too close to my house, he told me we will check the survey and get back to me. Being the country bumpkin I am, I went along with him. I came home from work one day and it was three-quarters up.”
While wind turbines as epilepsy triggers is often used as a reason against wind farms, there is little evidence to support the claim that turbines cause epileptic fits in those susceptible to them. Weber’s son, however, did have trouble concentrating, and in December moved to Fond du Lac.
Weber said she has experienced sleeping and ear problems since the turbine arrived.
“I’m 62. I never had trouble in my life with my ears,” she said.
She also learned that shadow flicker is not just a daytime problem.
“You get moon shadowing at night,” she said. “Yup, the full moon. I went to bed and I thought, ‘Oh no, don’t tell me’.”
Weber said there are times when the turbine physically makes its presence known through sound and motion.
“You can feel the difference when you’re outside and they’re moving,” she said. “People in Marytown, which is five miles away, can hear them. It’s a constant whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. In the summertime when I’m outside a lot, this may sound weird, but I start rhyming words to them, stupid words .”
Weber said WE Energies offered to lease the land from her house to the wind tower for $1,500 a year, “but I said no. I want it moved.”
But for all this, Weber is not against wind energy. She just doesn’t want a giant wind turbine literally in her back yard.
“They should not be near residential areas. They should be all together somewhere far away from residential,” she said.
“It’s not uncommon if people don’t get the resolution they expect or feel they deserve, they feel they’re not being listened to, but I can assure you we did extensive outreach efforts both prior to, during and even after in the community and with neighbors, to the extent of going door to door with participating landowners and non-participating landowners,” said Barry McNulty of WE Energies. “We’ve certainly done things to mitigate issues, too. You can’t satisfy everyone, but we’ve gone a long way to try to do so.”
“We’re not here to tell you that there are no impacts at all. There are,” said Michael Vickerman. “They tend to be localized. They don’t really have an affect on the state or the planetary environment. But when you look at the history of wind systems in this country, especially the older ones, they become accepted over time. It may take a couple of years. The howls of protest you hear now, they die off.”
Click on the image above to watch wind project residents in Australia describe life with turbines. Then click on the image below to hear what wind turbines sound like near a home in DeKalb Illinois. These are the same turbines mentioned in the following article. Read more about this wind project family's experience here: Our Life With DeKalb Wind Turbines
WIND TURBINES STILL CENTER OF DEBATE
SOURCE: Daily Chronicle, www.daily-chronicle.com
April 1, 2011
By Caitlin Mullen,
SHABBONA – Jim and Donna Nilles would like to sell their house on Leland Road.
But the Nilleses – who live within 1,800 feet of wind turbines that are part of the wind farm operated by NextEra Energy that went up in four townships in DeKalb County in late 2009 – don’t expect they’ll be able to sell their home anytime soon. Part of that is because of current economic conditions, they said, but they don’t think the wind turbines help, either.
“The main gripe we have right now is nobody listens to us,” Jim Nilles said. “Nobody comes out here.”
They are among a group of DeKalb County residents who have asked county officials – most recently at a county board meeting – to look into noise and multiple other issues related to the wind farm. One of the more recent complaints came two weeks ago when a wind turbine’s blade shattered.
But the company and the county’s planning and zoning director say NextEra has remained compliant with the terms of its permit conditions.
“We have met all of our permit conditions, and we are communicating regularly with the county as outlined in those conditions,” NextEra spokesman Steve Stengel said.
There has been strong opposition to the wind farm since it was first proposed.
The DeKalb County Board voted in June 2009 to grant NextEra permission to build and operate 119 wind turbines in Afton, Clinton, Milan and Shabbona townships. It’s part of a larger wind farm that included 145 total turbines in DeKalb and Lee counties. Before board approval, several hearings – including one that lasted 19 hours – were held on the proposal that brought out hundreds of people.
That opposition has continued since the farm became operational in late 2009. Mel Hass, spokesman for Citizens for Open Government – a group of local residents opposed to the wind farm and that is suing to have it shut down – said he has found many board members aren’t aware of problems with the turbines.
Residents say there are numerous issues with the turbines, including loudness, shadow flickers and interference with TV reception. Shadow flickers happen when sunlight catches the rotating blades at an angle that creates a moving shadow through windows.
Hass said many residents have called a NextEra hotline to complain about these and other issues, but he said any response from the company comes several days later, if at all.
“I don’t know what else we can do to prove our point,” Hass said. “What’s left for me and my neighbors but for us to try to resolve this on our own?”
The shattering of a turbine blade two weeks ago at Shabbona Road between Keslinger and Gurler roads is one of the recent concerns. Residents expressed concern that the shattered turbine blade and its debris could have hit a horse or a car driving near the turbine.
“Their good-neighbor policy went out the door the day the DeKalb County Board gave them those special-use permits, as far as we’re concerned,” said Beth Einsele, who claims NextEra has ignored repeated calls to respond to problems.
Stengel said the shattered blade is unusual and is under investigation. One of the wind turbines in the wind farm also experienced a broken blade in May.
“We have not experienced that anywhere else in our fleet,” Stengel said. “The cause of that is under investigation.”
Stengel said the hotline is manned during normal business hours. An answering service picks up calls that come in at other times and forwards those to the site leader, Stengel said. If someone calls to report a problem, the company is obligated to investigate it.
Stengel said the vast majority of calls have come from people who are suing the company. He said he believes those who have problems with the wind farm are in the minority. He said the facility has performed exceptionally well; there have been no injuries at the site and equipment has been well-maintained.
“I think the things that we said, I think that those things have come to be true,” Stengel said. “There is a group of individuals that are not happy with the wind farm. Those are the same individuals that are suing us in court.”
And not all residents near the wind farm have issues with the turbines. Elizabeth Armenta said she moved to her home on McGirr Road last year and isn’t bothered by the wind turbines. She doesn’t live close enough to experience shadow flickers, and she said she can’t hear the turbines unless it’s very quiet.
Kit Tjelle, who lives on Lee Road, said she and her husband Kevin feared the worst before the turbines were installed, but she said they’ve been pleasantly surprised to find they appreciate their beauty and clean design. A few turbines stand just beyond their backyard.
“They don’t bug us at all. At all,” Tjelle said. “They’ve kind of become part of our landscape.”
Paul Miller, the county’s director of planning and zoning, said the county monitors and follows up on the 36 conditions that were part of the county’s approval of the wind farm, including things like setbacks from structures and property lines, and a property value guarantee.
“To date, we have not found them in violation of any of those conditions,” Miller said.
Lawsuit still pending
Citizens for Open Government filed a lawsuit in July 2009 that was dismissed later that year because it lacked factual evidence. The group filed an amended complaint in January 2010, asking that the wind farm be shut down and the turbines dismantled. In June 2010, a judge rejected NextEra’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The lawsuit names NextEra Energy, the county board and the nearly 100 landowners who allowed turbines to be installed on their property. The lawsuit alleges that the county board overstepped its zoning authority when it authorized the special-use zoning permits for agricultural land. County officials have said the project is allowed under a special-use clause that permits “essential service structures.”
John Farrell, who manages the civil division of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office, said the case has been pending for a while, but it’s too early to say where it’s going.
STATE SHUTES DOWN ON SHORE WIND TURBINE PROGRAM AFTER MAJOR MALFUNCTION
March 25, 2011
by Tom Johnson
The state has shut down its on-land wind turbine program for the time being after an incident earlier this month when three blades suddenly came off a turbine at a farm and residence in Forked River.
The incident, which is under investigation, led the state Office of Clean Energy, to halt temporarily accepting applications for its Renewable Energy Incentive Program (REIP) wind project until authorities can determine how the blades became disengaged, according to Greg Reinert, a spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
The problem occurred on March 2 when a still unexplained major malfunction on a recently installed wind turbine caused all three blades to break loose, Reinert said.
On March 8, the clean energy office staff directed the program coordinator to issue a notice to stakeholders advising that "Effective immediately, there is a temporary hold on all new REIP wind applications and wind rebate processing until further notice."
Ellen Carey, a spokeswoman with the American Wind Energy Association, said she had never heard of this type of accident. "I would say it is an abnormal occurrence," she said
Land and Sea
The state’s efforts to develop wind energy on land have been dwarfed by its goals to build a vibrant offshore wind industry, an ambition that aims to develop 3,000 megawatts of wind farms off the coast of New Jersey.
Four developers have announced plans to build offshore wind farms from 3 miles to about 16 miles out in the ocean.
In comparison, the onshore wind efforts are much less ambitious, in part, because the wind resources pale in comparison to what is available offshore. Still, the Office of Clean Energy had overseen the installation of 38 wind systems, eligible for up to $5 million in rebates and grants, according to Reinert. The total installed capacity is 8.0291 megawatts.
In addition, there are another 37 wind projects approved as of March 18, with a total capacity of 4.64 megawatts and eligible for up to $3.5 million in state incentives..
It is uncertain when the office will begin accepting applications again. Like last year, the clean energy office has seen its funds diverted to help balance the state budget. Under Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, $52.5 million from the Clean Energy Fund will be set aside.