2/16/12 Wind Industry: Let us Keep our Cash Cow AND Let us Kill Golden Eagles AND We Don't Know Why that Turbine Caught Fire ANDTaking heat on U.S. Senate Floor
PTC EXTENSION ABSENT FROM PAYROLL TAX DEAL
Source: Sustainable Business Oregon
Lawmakers in Washington appear to have hammered out a deal on a major payroll tax cut. But contrary to the hopes of renewable energy advocates, an extension of the expiring wind energy Production Tax Credit wasn't part of the package.
The payroll tax bill was viewed as a potential landing place for the Production Tax Credit, or PTC, which is seen as vital to the U.S. wind energy industry.
But late in the day Wednesday, it became clear that the PTC didn't make it into the final stages of negotiation.
Wind energy advocates, led by the American Wind Energy Association, have said that passing a PTC extension in the first quarter of the year is vital to ensuring that the industry — from wind farm project development to manufacturing by companies such as Vestas — is able to maintain its current level of activity and look toward growth.
The PTC, which provides 2.2 cent per kilowatt hour credit for power produced by qualifying renewable energy sources, is set to expire at the end of the year.
Last November, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) joined with Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) to propose legislation to renew the credit and Oregon's delegation has been supportive of the PTC cause.
While it's unclear what the next window of opportunity will be to get the extension approved by lawmakers, AWEA officials said Wednesday that new efforts are underway.
"A bipartisan group of members of Congress are continuing to provide leadership in extending the wind PTC. They're looking at every opportunity to get this done in the first quarter, because they realize the urgency of keeping the tens of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs that are on the line, in particular," AWEA officials said in a statement, citing several examples of efforts in the works.
In addition, Nike, Hewlett-Packard, Staples and Starbucks among others have added their support to a PTC extension.
U.S. PROBES GOLDEN EAGLES' DEATH AT DWP WIND FARM
Two more golden eagles have been found dead at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains, for a total of eight carcasses of the federally protected raptors found at the site.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to determine the cause of death of the two golden eagles found Sunday at the Pine Tree wind farm, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and 15 miles northeast of Mojave, said Lois Grunwald, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The agency has determined that the six golden eagles found dead earlier at the 2-year-old wind farm in Kern County were struck by blades from some of the 90 turbines spread across 8,000 acres at the site.
Those deaths give Pine Tree one of the highest avian mortality rates in California's wind farm industry. The death rate per turbine at the $425-million facility is three times higher than at California's Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, where about 67 golden eagles die each year. However, the Altamont Pass facility has 5,000 wind turbines — 55 times as many as Pine Tree.
The flight behavior and size of golden eagles make it difficult for them to maneuver through forests of wind turbine blades spinning as fast as 200 mph — especially when the birds are distracted by the sight of squirrels and other prey. Golden Eagles are about 40 inches tall and weigh about 14 pounds,
The DWP is developing a avian and bat protection plan that "will include measures for mitigating risks to golden eagles," utility spokesman Brooks Baker said.
Critics say the problem is fundamental. "The increasing golden eagle mortality at Pine Tree clearly points to wind turbines built in the wrong location," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. The utility needs to redesign its 250-megawatt Pine Tree network and Kern County needs to put a moratorium on construction of nearby wind farms to prevent deaths, Anderson said.
Garry George, renewable energy project director for Audubon California, said the best solution is to devote years of research into golden eagles' behavior in an area before deciding where to erect turbines. "If you don't ... you wind up with a Pine Tree," George said.
Killing golden eagles is illegal under federal law, but so far, federal authorities have not prosecuted any wind farm operators for violations.
A prosecution in the Pine Tree case could force the booming alternative energy industry to revise its approach at a time when Kern County is drafting boundary maps for wind resource areas for dozens of proposed wind projects designed to generate electricity for Los Angeles County.
A year ago, the Kern County Board of Supervisors adopted a renewable energy goal of having 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production by 2015. Los Angeles has a renewable energy goal of 35% by 2020.
A coalition of environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Defenders of Wildlife recently sued Kern County to block construction of the proposed North Sky River and Jawbone wind energy projects, which would operate on 13,535 acres of mountainous terrain adjacent to Pine Tree.
According to the lawsuit, the projects would have an unacceptable effect on protected bat and avian species, including the golden eagle and the rare and protected California condor, and on an important avian migratory corridor.
CLOSE INSPECTION YIELDS LITTLE ABOUT WIND TURBINE FIRE
Source Press-Republican, pressrepublican.com
By MIRANDA ORSO,
February 16, 2012
ALTONA — Noble Environmental Power brought in a basket crane recently to get a closer look at the damage caused to a wind turbine in Altona Wind Park on Jan. 29.
“What they were able to see when they were up there was limited,” said John Bahouth, Noble’s vice president of human resources and communications.
Noble officials were holding a series of meetings this week to discuss possible reasons for the flames.
There was “nothing conclusive yet,” Bahouth said.
Determining the cause of the fire requires gathering large amounts of data, he said, and it can be lengthy process.
“It is important because all disciplines have to weigh in,” he added.
Mechanical, chemical and electrical testing must be completed and analyzed to rule out possible roles in the blaze.
Behouth said they are also considering meteorological factors, as some residents in the area reported lightning flashes before the turbine caught fire.
No final plans had been made for the damaged turbine.
“We are looking at what the next steps are and working with the insurance company. It’s in their hands now,” Bahouth said. “As of now, everything is still speculation.”
This was the second major incident involving wind turbines in the Altona Park. In March 2009, a power outage triggered a fire in a turbine, which collapsed. A second turbine was damaged, as well.
The Public Service Commission found Noble was not at fault in that incident.
ALEXANDER OPPOSES PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT, WIND INDUSTRY SUBSIDY
www.chattanoogan.com 15 February 2012 ~~
In a speech Wednesday on the floor of the United States Senate, Senator Lamar Alexander called on Congress to reject any efforts to “put in the payroll tax agreement a four-year extension of the so-called production tax credit,” calling it “a big loophole for the rich and for the investment bankers.”
Senator Alexander said: “Let’s not even think about putting this tax break for the rich in the middle of an extension of a tax deduction for working Americans this week. Let’s focus on reducing the debt, increasing expenditure for research, and getting rid of the subsidies.
Twenty years is long enough for a wind production tax credit for what our distinguished Nobel prize-winning Secretary of Energy says is a ‘mature technology.’”
The full transcript follows: “Madam President, there are reports in some of the newspapers this morning that there is an effort to try to slip into the negotiation about extending the payroll tax break for the next year a big loophole for the rich and for the investment bankers and for most of the people President Obama keeps talking about as people whose taxes he would like to raise.
What I mean by this is I have heard there may be an effort to put into the payroll tax agreement a four-year extension of the so-called production tax credit, which is a big tax break for wind developers. I cannot think of anything that would derail more rapidly the consensus that is developing about extending the payroll tax deduction than to do such a thing.
We are supposed to be talking about reducing taxes for working people. This would maintain a big loophole for investment bankers, for the very wealthy, and for big corporations. “We hear a lot of talk about federal subsidies for Big Oil. I would like to take a moment to talk about federal subsidies for Big Wind — $27 billion over 10 years.
That is the amount of Federal taxpayer dollars between 2007 and 2016, according to the Joint Tax Committee, that taxpayers will have given to wind developers across our country. This subsidy comes in the form of a production tax credit, renewable energy bonds, investment tax credits, federal grants, and accelerated appreciation. These are huge subsidies. The production tax credit itself has been there for 20 years. It was a temporary tax break put in the law in 1992.
“And what do we get in return for these billions of dollars of subsidies? We get a puny amount of unreliable electricity that arrives disproportionately at night when we don’t need it. “Residents in community after community across America are finding out that these are not your grandma’s windmills. These gigantic turbines, which look so pleasant on the television ads — paid for by the people who are getting all the tax breaks — look like an elephant when they are in your backyard.
In fact, they are much bigger than an elephant. They are three times as tall as the sky boxes at Neyland Stadium, the University of Tennessee football stadium in Knoxville. They are taller than the Statue of Liberty. The blades are as wide as a football field is long, and you can see the blinking lights that are on top of these windmills for 20 miles.
In town after town, Americans are complaining about the noise and disturbance that come from these giant wind turbines in their backyards. There is a new movie that was reviewed in the New York Times in the last few days called “Windfall” about residents in upstate New York who are upset and have left their homes because of the arrival of these big wind turbines.
The great American West, which conservationists for a century have sought to protect, has become littered with these giant towers. Boone Pickens, an advocate of wind power, says he doesn’t want them on his own ranch because they are ugly. Senators Kerry, Kennedy, Warner, and Scott Brown have all complained about the new Manhattan Island-sized wind development which will forever change the landscape off the coast of Nantucket Island.
On top of all that, these giant turbines have become a Cuisinart in the sky for birds. Federal law protects the American Eagle and migratory birds. In 2009, Exxon had to pay $600,000 in fines when oil developments harmed these protected birds. But the federal government so far has refused to apply the same federal law to Big Wind that applies to Big Oil, even though chopping up an eagle in a wind turbine couldn’t be any better than its landing and dying on an oil slick. And wind turbines kill over 400,000 birds every year.
We have had some experience with the reliability of this kind of wind power in the Tennessee Valley Authority region. A few years ago TVA built 30 big wind turbines on top of Buffalo Mountain. In the eastern United States, onshore wind power only works when the wind turbines are placed on the ridge lines of Americas most scenic mountains. So you will see them along the areas near the Appalachian Trail through the mountains of scenic views we prize in our State. But there they are, 30 big wind turbines to see whether they would work.
Here is what happened: The wind blows 19 percent of the time. According to TVA’s own estimates, it is reliable 12 percent of the time. So TVA signed a contract to spend $60 million to produce 6 megawatts of wind — actual production of wind — over that 10-year period of time. It was a commercial failure.
There are obviously better alternatives to this. First, there is nuclear power. We wouldn’t think of going to war in sailboats if nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers were available. The energy equivalent of going to war in sailboats is trying to produce enough clean energy for the United States of America with windmills.
The United States uses 25 percent of all the electricity in the world. It needs to be clean, reliable electricity that we can afford. Twenty percent of the electricity that we use today is nuclear power. Nearly 70 percent of the clean electricity, the pollution-free electricity that we use today is nuclear power. It comes from 104 reactors located at 65 sites. Each reactor consumes about one square-mile of land. “To produce the same amount of electricity by windmills would mean we would have to have 186,000 of these wind turbines; it would cover an area the size of West Virginia; we would need 19,000 miles of transmission lines through backyards and scenic areas; so 100 reactors on 100 square miles or 186,000 wind turbines on 25,000 square miles.
Think about it another way. Four reactors on four square miles is equal to a row of 50-story tall wind turbines along the entire 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail. Of course, if we had the turbines, we would still need the nuclear plants or the gas plants or the coal plants because we would like our computers to work and our lights to be on when the wind doesn’t blow, and we can’t store the electricity.
Then, of course, there is natural gas, which has no sulfur pollution, very little nitrogen pollution, half as much carbon as coal. Gas is very cheap today. A Chicago-based utility analyst said: Wind on its own without incentives is far from economic unless gas is north of $6.50 per unit. The Wall Street Journal says that wind power is facing a make-or-break moment in Congress, while we debate to extend these subsidies. So that is why the wind power companies are on pins and needles waiting to see what Congress decides to do about its subsidy.
Taxpayers should be the ones on pins and needles. This $27 billion over 10 years is a waste of money. It could be used for energy research. It could be used to reduce the debt. Let’s start with the $12 billion over that 10 years that went for the production tax credit. That tax credit was supposed to be temporary in 1992.
Today, according to Secretary Chu, wind is a mature technology. Why does it need a credit? The credit is worth about 3 cents per kilowatt hour, if we take into account the corporate tax rate of 35 percent. That has caused some energy officials to say they have never found an easier way to make money. Well, of course not.
So we do not need to extend the production tax credit for wind at a time when we are borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar, at a time when natural gas is cheap and nuclear power is clean and more reliable and less expensive.
I would like to see us put some of that money on energy research. We only spend $5 billion or $6 billion a year on energy research: clean energy research, carbon recapture, making solar cheaper, making electric batteries that go further. I am ready to reduce the subsidies for Big Oil as long as we reduce the subsidies for Big Wind at the same time.
So let’s not even think about putting this tax break for the rich in the middle of an extension of a tax deduction for working Americans this week. Let’s focus on reducing the debt, increasing expenditure for research, and getting rid of the subsidies. Twenty years is long enough for a wind production tax credit for what our distinguished Nobel Prize-winning Secretary of Energy says is a mature technology.