1/2/12 An 'inconvenient truth' about the wind industry AND Mount Pleasant to get waxed by SC Johnson wind turbines AND What's happening with Goodue Wind in 2012
Vermont’s Energy Options is a documentary work-in-progress being produced by non-profit Energize Vermont. The purpose of the documentary is to examine the different paths Vermont has to a renewable energy future and create a dialogue around their respective impacts and benefits. The final product is intended to be full length 40-60 minute film, and may be adapted as the state’s energy landscape changes. Before the final product is released, we plan to update this space with extended interviews and additional information. The documentary is completely funded by Energize Vermont, which is funded by its members.
Video below from Scotland: Do you call this green? Forest gone, clearcut logs piled to the side, mud roads: what to expect when you are expecting turbines.
Want to watch more? What people living near turbines have to say about it.
LEADING BIRD CONSERVATION GROUP FORMALLY PETITIONS FEDS TO REGULATE WIND INDUSTRY
ABC is filing this petition because it’s clear that the voluntary guidelines the government has drafted will neither protect birds nor give the wind industry the regulatory certainty it has been asking for.
(Washington, D.C., December 14, 2011) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today formally petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect millions of birds from the negative impacts of wind energy by developing regulations that will safeguard wildlife and reward responsible wind energy development.
The nearly 100-page petition for rulemaking, prepared by ABC and the Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal (MGC), urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to issue regulations establishing a mandatory permitting system for the operation of wind energy projects and mitigation of their impacts on migratory birds. The proposal would provide industry with legal certainty that wind developers in compliance with a permit would not be subject to criminal or civil penalties for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
The government estimates that a minimum of 440,000 birds are currently killed each year by collisions with wind turbines. In the absence of clear, legally enforceable regulations, the massive expansion of wind power in the United States will likely result in the deaths of more than one million birds each year by 2020. Further, wind energy projects are also expected to adversely impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat, and another 4,000 square miles of marine habitat.
The petition highlights the particular threat from unregulated wind power to species of conservation concern and demonstrates the legal authority that FWS possesses to enforce MBTA regulations and grant take permits under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The petition also provides specific regulatory language that would accomplish the petition’s objectives, identifying the factors that would be considered in evaluating a permit for approval, including the extent to which a given project will result in adverse impacts to birds of conservation concern and species that are under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
ABC is filing this petition because it’s clear that the voluntary guidelines the government has drafted will neither protect birds nor give the wind industry the regulatory certainty it has been asking for. We’ve had voluntary guidelines since 2003, and yet preventable bird deaths at wind farms keep occurring. This includes thousands of Golden Eagles that have died at Altamont Pass in California and multiple mass mortality events that have occurred recently in West Virginia,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator for ABC.
“The status quo is legally as well as environmentally unsustainable. The federal government is seeking to promote "a smart from the start” energy sector in a manner that is in violation of one of the premier federal wildlife protection statutes. ABC’s petition seeks to bring wind power into harmony with the law as well as with the needs of the migratory bird species that the law is designed to safeguard,” said Shruti Suresh, an attorney at MGC, the law firm that prepared the petition with ABC and that has brought many legal actions enforcing federal wildlife protection laws.
The petition is available online here.
ABC supports wind power when it is “bird-smart”. A coalition of more than 60 groups has called for mandatory standards and bird-smart principles in the siting and operation of wind farms. The coalition represents a broad cross-section of respected national and local groups. In addition, 20,000 scientists, ornithologists, conservationists, and other concerned citizens have shown their support for mandatory standards for the wind industry.
"ABC’s petition would safeguard more than just birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It proposes a model rule that would allow the government to consider impacts of wind farms on all bird species, as well as bats and other wildlife,” said Fuller.
Mount Pleasant approves SC Johnson wind turbines
By Kimber Solana
December 12, 2011
MOUNT PLEASANT - Amid some opposition from neighbors, SC Johnson is set to build two of the largest wind turbines in Racine County at its Waxdale manufacturing facility, a project expected to supply about 15 percent of the facility's electricity usage.
In a 6-1 vote, the Village Board approved the conditional use petition on Monday to erect the turbines at the facility, 8311 16th St. Trustee Harry Manning dissented, expressing concerns over the size - about 415 feet tall - of the energy facilities.
"The noise is going to be there. There is going to be flickering. You read anywhere, they've had nothing but problems," said Mount Pleasant resident Gail Johnson, 62. Johnson said her home is located on Willow Road, right across from where the turbines are expected to be built.
However, village officials said SCJ has gone "above and beyond" to address concerns by neighbors. Conditions set by the village include ensuring the wind turbines minimize noise decibel levels and shadow flickering.
Any noise would be no louder than traffic heard on Highway 20 or Highway 11, said Christopher Beard, reputation management director at SCJ.
The company has also offered to put in additional landscaping, if needed, such as trees that may block views of the turbines from residences, he added.
In addition, after meetings between the company and some residents, including those who opposed the project, SCJ has reduced the number of turbines from five to two.
Racine-based SCJ has said the wind turbines are the latest in a series of investments at Waxdale that will enable the site to produce 100 percent of its electrical energy on-site, with about 60 percent from renewable sources.
According to Beard, a groundbreaking date for the project remains unknown. SCJ is awaiting approval for the project from the Federal Aviation Administration due to the turbines' height, and proximity to Sylvania and Batten International airports.
The cost of the project was not available Monday, but returns in electrical savings would take years to recoup.
"But we wouldn't propose this project unless we believed it was a good long-term investment," he said, adding customers concerned over environmentally-friendly products now research how products are made.
Waxdale, the size of 36 football fields, is SCJ's largest manufacturing plant globally and where it makes products such as Glad, Pledge, Raid and Windex.
MANY DELAYS DRAG WIND CASE INTO 2012
By Regan Carstensen
January 1, 2011
When the battle over wind development in Goodhue County was the Republican Eagle’s top story at the end of 2010, it was expected that some aspects would stretch into 2011. But it wasn’t quite as expected that the fight would be continuing when 2012 came around.
Just about every bit of controversy possible has been swirling around a 78-megawatt large wind energy conversion system that is planned for Goodhue County by wind developer AWA Goodhue Wind.
Ranging all the way from citizens and the developer disagreeing about eagle activity in the project footprint to lawsuits being filed by project participants, disputes have been abundant.
The AWA Goodhue project has taken several months longer than most wind farms to get to its current stage, which still hasn’t included any construction. A variety of factors contributed to extending the project’s original timeline.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission had been taking its time ever since the end of 2010 to decide whether to approve the project that would be laid out near Goodhue and Zumbrota.
Ultimately, the PUC holds the authority to permit or deny wind farms in the state, but the commission decided to take into consideration a zoning ordinance created by Goodhue County officials in October 2010.
In order to determine the validity of the ordinance, the PUC asked an administrative law judge to review it, which caused the application to drag into April 2011.
It wasn’t until June 30 at a daylong hearing in St. Paul that the PUC approved the project. However, a state government shutdown stalled progress yet again and kept AWA Goodhue Wind from getting its permit.
Putting up a fight
With the Coalition for Sensible Siting, Goodhue Wind Truth, Belle Creek Township and Goodhue County all interested in filing for reconsiderations with the PUC, the case slowly inched forward as a second hearing was scheduled for November 2011 in St. Paul.
In what was probably the quickest decision made so far regarding the AWA Goodhue wind farm: It only took commissioners a matter of minutes to decide that the project should move forward as originally approved.
Still, reconsideration wasn’t the end of the road. Each group, except for Goodhue County, decided to appeal.
The Goodhue County Board was primarily opposed to the idea since it was likely to cost at least $10,000 to follow through with an appeal. A 3-2 majority made it official: The county’s fight was over.
“Wind turbines are coming to Goodhue County,” Commissioner Jim Bryant said after voting against an appeal. “I don’t think anything we do today is going to stop that.”
Looking out for eagles
Over the past year, citizens have shown a variety of concerns with wind turbines, including stray voltage, shadow flicker and noise pollution.
Perhaps the most talked about, however, has been the concern over the safety of the avian population — whether local or migratory birds — and their chances of getting struck by the blades of a turbine.
On several occasions, area residents invited representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to view the environment within AWA Goodhue’s project footprint.
“It’s nice to try to use alternative energy, but we are right on the Mississippi Flyway,” Jaime Edwards of the DNR said. “You really have to look hard at whether something like this should be placed on a flyway.”
Belle Creek Township made its official decision Nov. 28 to appeal the PUC’s initial decision to approve a site permit. Not long after, however, AWA Goodhue began a lawsuit claiming that a moratorium put in place by the township is interfering with the developer’s rights.
As the new year begins, having lawsuits and appeals up in the air continues to delay progress of the project. Though AWA Goodhue officials would like to start construction in 2012, only time will tell what gets accomplished during the next year.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission debates whether to approve the 78-megawatt project proposed by AWA Goodhue Wind for Goodhue County.
The PUC decides to ask administrative law Judge Kathleen Sheehy whether parts of Goodhue County’s zoning ordinance should be applied to the project.
Administrative law Judge Kathleen Sheehy submits facts and findings that recommend the Public Utilities Commission not apply the Goodhue County’s ordinance to the AWA Goodhue Wind project.
Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher files a response that provides an exception to nearly half of the administrative law judge’s findings.
June 30, 2011
At a hearing in St. Paul, the Public Utilities Commission votes 4-1 to approve an amended site permit and a certificate of need for the AWA Goodhue Wind project.
After several weeks of a government shutdown — preventing AWA Goodhue Wind from moving forward with its wind project — the developer receives its official site permit.
Sept. 6, 2011
Goodhue County commissioners vote 4-1 to allow Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher to file for reconsideration with the Public Utilities Commission, asking it to take a second look at its permit approval.
Belle Creek Township and citizen groups Goodhue Wind Truth and Coalition for Sensible Siting also decide to file reconsiderations.
Sept. 20, 2011
Without getting a response from the Public Utilities Commission regarding reconsideration, the Goodhue County Board reluctantly votes 3-2 to submit an appeal to the PUC’s decision.
The county is told the appeal period expires Sept. 22. If it opts not to appeal, Goodhue County’s battle against the wind project would end if the PUC decides not to reconsider its original approval of a site permit.
Goodhue County, Belle Creek Township, Coalition for Sensible Siting and Goodhue Wind Truth are told there was a misunderstanding with filing deadlines for appeals, and their appeals are dismissed.
They are allowed to wait for the Public Utilities Commission’s ruling on reconsideration and can then re-submit their original appeal without additional fees.
Nov. 10, 2011
The Public Utilities Commission votes 4-1 not to reconsider its approval of a permit for AWA Goodhue Wind.
Nov. 15, 2011
With misunderstandings and deadlines cleared up, Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher asks the commissioners once more whether he should appeal the Public Utilities Commission’s decision not to reconsider approval of a permit for the wind project.
The County Board votes 2-2 to file with appeal, but without a majority the motion fails and Betcher is not directed to appeal.
Nov. 28, 2011
The Belle Creek Town Board votes 2-0 to file for appeal in the wind case.
Angry citizens in Goodhue County District 2 — potential home to much of the wind farm — announce a petition to recall Commissioner Richard Samuelson. Since they want to file for appeal in the wind case and Samuelson is opposed to an appeal, they feel he is not representing them.
Samuelson was absent from the Goodhue County Board meeting Nov. 15, but told those at the Belle Creek Town Board meeting he would have voted not to appeal had he been present.
Dec. 1, 2011
Commissioner Richard Samuelson requests an opportunity for the Nov. 15 appeal vote to be re-taken so his opinion can be officially reflected as part of the vote.
Just as he said he would at the Belle Creek Town Board meeting, Samuelson votes no to an appeal, contributing to the 3-2 failure of the motion to appeal.
Dec. 15, 2011
Belle Creek Town Board Chair Chad Ryan is served papers informing him that AWA Goodhue Wind is suing Belle Creek Township because a moratorium put in place by the township is interfering with the wind developer’s rights under the site permit it received from the Public Utilities Commission.