« 5/15/11 Hello wind turbines! Good-bye Wisconsin bats! Hello corn borer, crop loss, more pesticides-- but hey, as long as the wind developers are happy it must be good AND This is how we do it: PR firm gives helpful hints on how to infiltrate communities | Main | 5/13/11 Hello Windmills, Bye Bye Birdie, Dirty Shame: What happened to those woods when the turbine came? AND Not THAT kind of green, the other kind: Buying the right to kill, harm and harass endangered species AND Another problem for wind developers to laugh about AND Say no to turbines and see how fast the word NIMBY comes at you »

5/14/11 WE said We Will, now says We Won't AND The noise heard 'round the world- the one wind developers say does not exist AND Oklahoma says no to use of eminent domain in wind farm strong AND Wind developers seek right to kill, harm and harass endangered species AND More turbines, more problems, Chapter 568



READ ENTIRE STORY HERE: Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com

May 13, 2011

By Thomas Content

We Energies is canceling a program that funded small-scale renewable energy development, including projects that resulted in solar power being generated at GE Healthcare and smaller projects at churches and nonprofits such as the Urban Ecology Center.

The utility announced on its website Friday that it has decided to terminate its Renewable Energy Development programs.

The utility had committed in 2002 to spending $6 million a year on renewable energy development initiatives but has decided to end that program, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said.

The company is no longer offering grants for nonprofits and will continue education and training programs “until committed funds are depleted,” the utility’s message said.

The announcement came weeks after the company reported record quarterly earnings and the same month that the utility plans to file a plan to increase rates for its electricity customers next year. The utility’s customers have seen bills rise by more than 5% this year, with a typical residential customer now paying $105 a month for electricity.

The power company said its decision is based on its increased investment in building renewable energy projects to meet the state’s 10% renewable energy target. Total spending in renewable energy, including two large wind farms and a portion of its investment in a $255 million biomass power plant in north-central Wisconsin, will exceed $800 million by the end of this year, Manthey said.

“There’s an awful lot going from customers to pay for renewable energy both for the projects as well as funds for the Focus on Energy program,” he said.

Focus on Energy is a statewide initiative funded by utility ratepayers that provides incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The utility’s $800 million estimate includes $120 million that would be spent this year on the biomass project the utility has proposed to build in north-central Wisconsin. As of Friday, however, the utility had not decided whether to build that project because it and Domtar Corp. were still reviewing whether they can accept conditions imposed by the state Public Service Commission that aim to bring down the overall cost of the project to customers.

A leading state renewable energy advocate said Friday that We Energies was backing away from a $60 million commitment with only about half of the money collected.

Renew Wisconsin, a group that worked with We Energies and other groups on a renewable energy collaborative, agreed not to object to the utility’s plan to build new coal and natural gas-fired power plants as part of that commitment, said Michael Vickerman, executive director.

“We looked at it as a commitment. They looked at it as a commitment, until a couple days ago,” Vickerman said of We Energies. “Now that the coal plant is up and running, it appears that the program has outlived its usefulness to We Energies.”

The 12.7% profit the utility earns on its investment in the $2.38 billion coal plant has been a key driver in record profits the utility reported in 2010. With the second unit of the coal plant completed in January, 2011 will be another record year for Wisconsin Energy Corp.

To Vickerman, the announcement is the latest in a string of setbacks for efforts to develop homegrown renewable energy and stem the flow of energy dollars out of the state. That includes Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to make it more difficult to build wind farms in the state and a GOP-sponsored bill to be considered in the Legislature next week that would allow utilities to import hydro power from large dams in Manitoba to meet the state’s renewable energy mandate.

Manthey, of We Energies, says circumstances have changed since its commitment, including the 2006 state law that requires 10% of Wisconsin’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2015.

The utility says its projects are a significant investment in the state’s economy. When completed later this year, the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County will be the state’s largest wind farm, and its Blue Sky Green Field project is the second biggest renewable project in the state, Manthey said.

A recipient of funding from We Energies was disappointed with the utility’s decision. We Energies provided $30,000 toward a $160,000 solar and energy efficiency project at the Unitarian Universalist church on Milwaukee’s east side, said Tom Brandstetter, who led the project.

Without the utility’s help, completing the project “would have made it much more difficult,” he said.

Plus, he said, the program helped the utility’s image that it was committed to green power at a time when it was building new coal plants. “We’re going in the exact opposite direction that we need to,” Brandstetter said.

Manthey said the utility’s shift on the renewable energy development program would have no impact on its Energy for Tomorrow initiative, a green-pricing program under which certain utility customers agree to pay more on their monthly electric bills to support renewable energy.

By the end of the month, the utility is expected to file a detailed plan with state regulators to raise bills in 2012 and again in 2013. The funding plan would pay for the wind farm now under construction northeast of Madison as well as environmental controls being installed at the original Oak Creek coal plant.



READ FULL STORY AT THE SOURCE: ABC1, hungrybeast.abc.net.au

May 11, 2011

Wind energy supplies approximately 2% of Australia’s overall electricity needs. The Waubra Wind Farm in rural Victoria is one of Australia’s largest wind farms and home to 128 wind turbines. As farmers Carl and Samantha Stepnell discovered, living near wind turbines can sometimes result in unexpected consequences.

To read more about Carl and Samantha’s story, a full transcript from the Ballarat Public Hearing of the Senate Inquiry into The Social and Economic of Rural Wind Farms can be read and downloaded here: “Health effects of living close to the Waubra wind turbines”.



READ FULL STORY AT THE SOURCE: The Oklahoman, www.newsok.com 14 May 2011

“The Southern Great Plains Property Rights Coalition supports any legislation which will help landowners protect their property now and for future generations,” the group said Friday. “We feel this is a step in the right direction since the use of eminent domain for profit is becoming a hot topic.”

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law an eminent domain measure that protects rural landowners from the threat of companies looking for locations to build wind turbines.

The bill’s author, Sen. Ron Justice, of Chickasha, said wind power provides a tremendous boost to the state’s economy, but he said it is important to protect landowners’ rights.

The law was heralded by a northwest Oklahoma property owners group.

“The Southern Great Plains Property Rights Coalition supports any legislation which will help landowners protect their property now and for future generations,” the group said Friday. “We feel this is a step in the right direction since the use of eminent domain for profit is becoming a hot topic.”

The law prohibits use of the power of eminent domain for the siting or erection of wind turbines on private land. It says landowners have the right to decide whether they want turbines on their land.

Justice said Senate Bill 124 was requested by landowners who were approached by wind industry representatives who mentioned the possible use of eminent domain.

Jaime McAlpine of Chermac Energy Corp. said wind developers and utility companies helped craft the bill’s language.



READ ENTIRE STORY AT SOURCE: National Post, nationalpost.com

May 13, 2011

By Sarah Boesveld

A Toronto-based wind energy company will have the legal right to “kill, harm and harass” two endangered species if Ontario approves their permit to build over the creatures’ habitat on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Gilead Power Corporation is proposing a green energy project in Prince Edward County, home of the Blanding’s turtle and the whippoorwill. The area where the endangered turtles rest is also considered an “important bird area.”

The project is a complicated one that carries a certain kind of irony for environmental activists who largely approve of green energy projects but have a mandate to protect wildlife in their natural habitats. Ontario Nature, an organization that “protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement,” said sometimes good projects are proposed in areas that compromise the well being of animals. This is a clear example, said director of conservation and education Anne Bell, who stresses Ontario “absolutely needs wind” to help battle climate change.

“We’re totally supportive of wind, but at the same time, you can’t be putting up projects in the middle of areas where you know there’s going to be a significant ecological impact. It doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It’s not green. It’s green that’s not green.”

The organization has been speaking with interested parties about the project “for a long time,” their attention first drawn to it by the local conservation group Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.

The company’s plans are so far at a standstill, as it must first earn the permit from the province that clears the way for construction — construction that would involve clearing away grasslands and marshes in order to build the towers.

“For the most part, we can find ways to mitigate around endangered species reasonably, so that the species continues, and continues to thrive,” said Ontario Natural Resources minister Linda Jeffrey.

The whippoorwill, widely referenced in North American folk songs and literature, was listed as a threatened species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2009. Blanding’s turtle is protected under the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement of the Planning Act and is also protected federally.



READ ENTIRE STORY AT THE SOURCE: The Oregonian, www.oregonlive.com

May 13, 2011

By Ted Sickinger,

The Bonneville Power Administration will rein in the wind, and is likely to reap the legal whirlwind.

In a decision that speaks to the region’s ability — or inability — to effectively manage all the simultaneous wind and water energy being generated in the Columbia Gorge, the Bonneville Power Administration said Friday it will pull the plug on wind farms at times when excess generation threatens to swamp the system’s ability to handle it.

That could come early next week, as spring runoff increases hydroelectric generation, the agency said.

BPA’s decision is almost certain to trigger litigation from wind farm operators, including independent producers and utilities — whose projects won’t generate expected financial returns. They depend on turbines running flat out when the wind blows to generate not only power, but the renewable energy and tax credits that make up a sizeable slice of their revenue stream.

Wind operators say BPA’s plan, which would unilaterally override their transmission contracts, is discriminatory and designed to protect the agency’s surplus power sales revenue. That revenue goes to lower the rates of the 140 public utilities who buy their power from the federal agency.

“This is a very loud and unmistakable signal to the wind industry that this might not be the place to do business,” said Robert Kahn, executive director of the Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition. “This was predictable and preventable. We should never be in a position of having too much of a good thing.”

BPA sells power from 31 hydroelectric dams in the region and operates much of its transmission network. The agency’s administrator, Steve Wright, has been pressured by members of Congress to back away from the plan. He acknowledged Friday that BPA could quickly face litigation, but said he had little choice.

“We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t have a good chance of winning, so we’re ready if folks choose to sue, he said. “What I regret is that we haven’t found a better solution.”

BPA finalized the policy to prepare for what could be the highest runoff in the Columbia Basin since 1999. That could boost power production from its own dams beyond limited spring electricity demands. The agency is also responsible for integrating generation from wind farms connected to its grid, toggling its own production up and down to match power demand and supply and keep the grid humming along in balance.

Under the terms of the plan, the agency will respond to overgeneration by first curtailing as much coal and natural gas generation as possible, then pull the plug on windfarms. BPA will substitute free hydropower to make up the energy deliveries that the wind farms are otherwise scheduled to make.

The agency contends it can’t turn off its own hydroelectric turbines and spill more water to accommodate wind because the resulting turbulence would violate limits on dissolved nitrogen in the water, harming fish. That leaves wind curtailment as the only choice.

BPA is aware that wind farms don’t want free hydropower because power buyers are also after renewable energy credits. Utilities use the RECs to comply with state renewable energy mandates, and they’re generated only when the turbine blades are spinning. RECs and federal production tax credits can make up 50 percent of the revenue stream for a wind farm.

“We feel there are other options,” said Roby Roberts, vice president at Horizon Wind Energy, which operates three wind farms in Oregon and one in Washington. “We’re going to push for a different resolution.”

BPA has worked on a variety if interim solutions to accommodate more wind, but crtitics say it’s been too little too late. Wright said Friday that most of those measures were stopgaps. What the region needs, he said, is more physical assets, either new transmission or storage of some form, both of which are expensive, longer-term solutions.

“We’ll have to explore all these things,” he said. “The other thing that’s clear is that there’s a lot of wind still coming on the system and the problem keeps getting bigger.”

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