Entries in wind energy (195)
SIGN THEFTS IN TOWN OF FOREST LEAVE SOME RESIDENTS UNERVED
SOURCE: New Richmond News, www.newrichmond-news.com
March 1, 2012
The Town of Forest has been the target for a 102 megawatt wind turbine project that will be comprised of 41 500-foot towers.
Local residents have diligently fought against the project for over a year and a half, even to the point of recalling the all the members of the town board prior to February 2011.
The project is up for approval by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and is supported by the developer, Emerging Energies of Wisconsin LLC, host land owners and various green lobbyist organizations.
The residents opposed to the project formed the Forest Voice LLC and continue to fight against it due to the decline in surrounding property values and adverse health effects the turbines would cause. Until now, the opposing sides have interacted mainly in town meetings, letters to the editor, and posting signs in yards – all legal activities.
The climate is beginning to change by recent activities of theft and vandalism to private property by the pro-wind side. Many residents opposed to the project are now afraid on how much this will escalate and what will happen next.
Some town residents who oppose the Highland Wind Farm Project had “No Wind Turbine” signs stolen off their properties overnight Feb. 12th. At least 29 signs were illegally removed and the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department was notified. An investigation is currently underway.
The developer of the proposed project Emerging Energies of Wisconsin LLC had just announced last week that they were going to drop a $25 million claim against the township in order to create better relations with the Town of Forest. While it is still not known who removed the signs, it was definitely someone that was unhappy with the local opposition to the project.
This is a project that will receive federal subsidies from the Department Of Energy, which of course is (made possible by) our tax dollars. By removing these signs, it is a clear violation of our First Amendment Rights to express our opposition. It is ironic that the various parties supporting it feel it necessary to deny us this right to the point they would illegally trespass on private property to vandalize and steal.
Many of the people that had the signs stolen are now very concerned about the violation of their private property and how far this could escalate.
Over the past year, there have been threats made and reports of unfamiliar vehicles in the township cruising very slowly and observing residences of people known to be in opposition of the wind development.
It is not right that these folks should have to live in fear in their own houses simply because they choose to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Emerging Energies of Wisconsin LLC needs to step up to the plate on this one and assist local law enforcement in apprehending the perpetrators if they truly want to improve relations with the Town of Forest.
A $100 reward is also available for information leading to an arrest.
Town of Forest
WIND PROJECT IS NOT WELCOME
By Brenda Salseg
February 24, 2012
I can only surmise two reasons the wind developer, Emerging Energies LLC, a.k.a. Highland Wind, dropped its potential $25 million lawsuit against the Town of Forest for breach of contract: 1. the developer knows it would be unwise to open up township records to legal scrutiny, and 2. the wind developer is trying to improve its image with other townships it may be targeting next for a wind project.
Logically, any township near the Town of Forest would also be ripe for the expansion of an industrial wind turbine project, including the towns of Glenwood, New Haven, Cylon and Emerald. Virtually, any township in the state of Wisconsin can be targeted and county and local ordinances overridden if a developer pushes its project over 100 megawatts, which requires permitting through the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
Emerging Energies/ Highland Wind is attempting to “force” the project on the Town of Forest via the PSC. Yet 70 percent of the residents of Forest are against living within an industrial wind park.
Well documented studies by leading scientists, physicians, acousticians, electrical engineers and appraisers link evidence directly to health problems and property devaluation that result wherever industrial wind turbine projects are sited too close to neighboring homes.
The most compelling evidence is the Shirley Wind Project in the Town of Glenmore, Wis. Go to www.youtube.com and search “Shirley Wind Project.” Watch the video. The families, who live south of Green Bay are suffering negative health effects and livestock deaths they believe are the result of eight 500-foot tall German-made industrial wind turbines sited in their community and installed by the same wind developer, Emerging Energies. Some of these families live more than a half mile from the nearest turbine.
Emerging Energies’ public relations tactics do not fool us who oppose the wind project in the Town of Forest. Industrial wind energy does not work, is a waste of billions of taxpayer dollars, results in few permanent jobs, does not close down coal plants, and siting turbines too close to homes and livestock is negligent and irresponsible.
Bill Rakocy, managing partner of Emerging Energies, has been quoted as saying, “We’re excited to develop as much wind (power) as we can in Wisconsin.” Of course the developer is; the eight turbines in the Shirley Project netted $13 million in taxpayer subsidy.
If Emerging Energies succeeds in the installation of a 41-wind turbine project, it would be a hostile take-over of our community and de facto eminent domain of nonparticipating properties, some 20,000 acres not under lease. One would have to question what it means to live in the United States of America if corporate interests can supersede constitutional rights.
The people of Forest that stand together against industrial wind will not stand down and allow our township to be taken over by greed under the guise of noble-sounding, planet-saving rhetoric which is not based on the facts. Nor were residents intimidated by Sunday night’s vandalism and theft of more than 30 “No Turbines” signs located on individual private property.
As taxpayers and residents of northwestern Wisconsin, if you turn a blind eye to an industrial-scale wind project in the Town of Forest, how will you respond when Big Wind comes knocking on your township’s back door and attempts to take your property as project foot-print acreage to site industrial wind turbines next to your home without your agreement?
Town of Forest
St. Croix County
2/17/12 Sleepless Fond Du Lac County wind project residents suffer and abandon their homes because of wind turbine noise and vibration, Madison lobbyist dismisses their problems and $ings $ame old $ong for his $upper AND More from wind project residents
FOND DU LAC COUNTY RESIDENTS WANT RELIEF FROM WIND FARMS TOO
Source: WFRV, wearegreenbay.com
February 16, 2012
Brown County will be asking for state aid to relocate residents who say they’re becoming ill because of wind turbines. That was decided at a board meeting Wednesday night.
Those residents say they’ve had to leave their homes after getting sick from low frequency noises. Now, the state legislature can either approve or deny the request for funding.
Residents living near an 88 turbine wind farm in Fond du Lac County are hopeful the decision will mean relief is also on the way, or at least a possibility. Many residents are complaining about similar problems. They claim there is constant noise generated from the turbines that keeps them up at night and even builds up pressure, giving them severe headaches.
We’re told several people have moved out of their homes. They hope similar action can be taken to help them.
“It’s about time somebody starts looking into this, finding out what they really do to people,” says resident Joan Brusoe, who lives 1400 ft. from a turbine. Her neighbor, Larry Lamont, is 1100 ft. away from one: “They could mediate some of the problems these things are creating, that would help. I don’t know if there is a total solution.”
We spoke with representatives from RENEW Wisconsin. They are a non-profit group that promotes environmentally sustainable energy policies in our state. They tell Local 5 health concerns are untrue and undocumented.
Director Michael Vickerman says, “Very few people object to wind projects. It’s just an organized group of people who don’t like these developments.”
He calls Brown County’s decision a move to step up pressure on legislators, stopping wind development in Wisconsin.
Next Feature: From Massachusetts
TURBINE CRITICS RIP STATE REPORT
By Patrick Cassidy,
Source Cape Cod Times,www.capecodonline.com
February 17, 2012
BOURNE — One after another, residents from towns across the southeastern part of the state stood up in Bourne High School Thursday night and said they didn’t buy a state-sponsored report that found no direct health effects from the operation of wind turbines.
“Please do not tell us that turbines do not make us sick,” said Neil Anderson, one of several Falmouth residents who spoke at the public hearing on the state report released in January.
Others in the crowd of more than 50 people came from Nantucket, Fairhaven and Duxbury. The majority voiced their disbelief that the report’s authors found that wind turbines did not affect the health of people who live near them.
“I can’t find where you’ve interviewed a single victim of ill health effects or where you’ve interviewed a doctor who treated them,” said Bruce Mandel of Nantucket. “The victims shouldn’t have to prove that they’re sick.”
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell told the audience that state officials have not made up their mind on the question of whether there are health effects from the operation of turbines, such as the two at the Falmouth wastewater treatment facility and a third private turbine built nearby.
“We are glad to be here,” Kimmell said. “We have an open mind and open ears.”
The DEP and the state Department of Public Health commissioned a group of experts last year to study existing scientific literature about the effect of wind turbines on health after dozens of residents living around the Falmouth turbines complained the spinning blades disrupted their sleep, and caused ailments that include high blood pressure, migraine headaches and nausea.
Town officials have restricted the operation of the first turbine installed at the town wastewater treatment facility for the time being. The second turbine there is undergoing a test run to gauge its effect on neighbors.
The seven-member panel commissioned to look at health issues associated with the technology included health professionals and academics from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University, the University of Massachusetts and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Thursday’s meeting was the second of three being held across the state to accept comments on the report and what should be done with it. The state will accept written comments until March 19.
The report found that noise from turbines could disrupt sleep and cause annoyance. The report’s authors found that there is evidence “that sleep disruption can adversely affect mood, cognitive functioning, and overall sense of health and well being.”
Despite this, they concluded that there is no evidence that turbines were directly causing health problems.
Several speakers took issue with the authors’ seemingly contradictory line of reasoning.
“How can you have it both ways?” said Todd Drummey of Blacksmith Shop Road in Falmouth. “That’s like saying cigarettes don’t cause health impacts if you don’t smoke them.”
Others in the audience questioned the independence of panel members who co-authored the report, pointing to previous work done by panelists on the subject, including one member who consulted on wind energy projects.
Colin Murphy of Falmouth said that he has to deal with “pounding” in his yard from the turbines near his home.
“There’s definitely annoyance and what does annoyance lead to?” he said. “I would say stress and anxiety.”
He didn’t understand why the authors of the report didn’t come to Falmouth to talk to people who lived near the turbines, Murphy said.
“I don’t understand why there wasn’t a lab section to that study,” he said.
After he puts his kids to bed and closes his eyes at night, he thinks about what the turbines could do to the value of his property, Murphy said.
“When you close your eyes and say your prayers, I hope you really believe that you’re doing the best for the people of Massachusetts,” Murphy told Kimmell and the other state officials at the meeting.
While most of the speakers blasted the report, a small minority praised the state for its work.
Thousands of people die each year from asthma and other diseases caused by the burning of fossil fuels, said Richard Elrick, vice president of Cape and Islands Self Reliance and energy coordinator for the towns of Barnstable and Bourne.
Elrick, who said he was speaking only for himself, said there were thousands of turbines around the world where there were no problems such as those reported in Falmouth.
Everyone has an obligation to do something to try and address the problems associated with climate change, Elrick said.
“Every energy source requires sacrifices of one kind or another,” he said.
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.
2/6/12 Big Wind's dark side exposed in movie "Windfall". Even National Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal get it: Will Wisconsin legisators? AND Should your money keep feeding wind developer's cash cow?
WIND POWER DOCUMENTARY TAKES A SKEPTICAL TURN
February 2, 2012
By Mark Jenkins
As is often the case, the outside developer's biggest asset was the local elite, which was certain it knew best. Farmer and town council leader Frank Bachler joined the town's attorney in overruling a skeptical planning commission report about the effects of erecting the turbines.
Not even the most ecologically minded are always keen on the prospect of giant wind turbines near their homes. But Meredith, N.Y., welcomed "Big Wind" when it first came whistling through town. That's what makes Windfall so interesting: The documentary is the story of an education.
In some ways, Meredith seems a natural place for a wind farm. Situated in one of New York's poorest counties, it's in an agricultural area whose principal enterprise, dairy farming, has dramatically declined. But the area is mostly home to small landowners, with few large tracts that could be developed without affecting nearby neighbors. And some of those neighbors are refugees from New York City, where they learned to be skeptical and outspoken.
Director Laura Israel is among the Meredith residents who split their time between the town and the big city 160 miles to the southeast, which explains why she was able to follow the controversy over a year or more, as pro-windmill sentiments gradually shifted to anti-.
This is no first-person piece, though; Israel stays off camera, allowing her neighbors to speak. She doesn't present the views of the wind-power developer, Airtricity (originally Eiretricity, before the Irish firm was sold to Scottish and German interests), but that may be because the company is a low-profile one that didn't address the community collectively, and insisted on confidentiality agreements before it would even enter into negotiations with property owners.
As is often the case, the outside developer's biggest asset was the local elite, which was certain it knew best. Farmer and town council leader Frank Bachler joined the town's attorney in overruling a skeptical planning commission report about the effects of erecting the turbines.
Bachler and other supporters labeled the anti-windmill forces "a vocal minority." But with an election looming, the pro-wind forces had to double-check their math. Even Bachler, one of the principal on-screen proponents of the turbines, would give the whole idea a second thought.
In Meredith, the case against wind turbines turned on their size — about 400 feet high and 600,000 pounds each — not to mention their grinding noise, their bone-shaking vibrations and the flickering shadows they cast, which disrupt light and sleep (and video games). One of the opponents, Ken Jaffe, is a retired doctor who looked into the high-tech windmills' medical side effects.
Also, the turbines sometimes fall over, catch on fire or hurl dangerous ice projectiles. They kill birds and bats in large numbers. And there's more.
To optimize the investment, wind-power developers tend to build a lot more turbines than they initially propose. In Tug Hill, farther north in upstate New York, a proposed 50 high-tech windmills became 195. As skeptics began to investigate, they learned that wind power is too unreliable to replace dirtier forms of generation, and that the wind business is based less on electricity than on tax credits: Big investment companies keep flipping the companies so as to restart the depreciation process.
A veteran film editor making her first feature, Israel emphasizes the area's low-key beauty. She conducted most of the interviews outside to show the landscapes. When the movie finally gets to Tug Hill, the contrast is all the more striking. Meredith, N.Y., may not be paradise, but it's clear why residents didn't want to sacrifice its rustic appeal to the steady whomp of industrial windmills.
By John Anderson,
Via The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com
February 3, 2012
Speaking of horror movies, the monsters are 400 feet tall in “Windfall,” easily the more haunting film of this week and a sublimely cinematic documentary by the film editor-cum-director Laura Israel. Her subject is the battle waged over wind power in the tiny upstate New York town of Meredith. What’s so scary? Industrial wind turbines, the fetish objects of the green-minded, those sleek, white, propellered and purportedly eco-friendly energy collectors that one might have seen dotting the desert outside Palm Springs, and which may soon be sprouting out of Nantucket Sound. They’re sustainable, they produce no emissions and they’ll reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. Right? Not quite. And living next to one seems like a nightmare.
Ms. Israel’s movie proves, once again, that the best nonfiction cinema possesses the same attributes as good fiction: Strong characters, conflict, story arc, visual style. The people of Meredith, be they pro or con the wind-turbine plan being fast-tracked by their town council, are articulate, passionate, likable. The issues are argued with appropriate gravity, and even though Ms. Israel, a Meredith homeowner herself, is clearly antiturbine, the other side gets a chance to speak its piece: Farmers, an endangered species, need income. Turbine leases are a way to it. But not only do the energy and ecological benefits fall short of what they’re cracked up to be, the turbines themselves are an environmental disaster: The monotonous whoosh of the propellers, the constant strobing effect caused by the 180-foot-long propellers, the threat of ice being hurled by the blades, the knowledge that it’s never going to end, all adds up to a recipe for madness. And that’s just during the movie.
“Windfall” is thoroughly engaging, educational and entertaining; the neo-blues music by Hazmat Modine is a real plus. Ms. Israel might deny it out of respect for her collaborators past and future, but documentaries are all about the editing. Many filmmakers might have been able to assemble the parts of “Windfall.” Far fewer would have produced as stylish a result.
TILTING AT WINDMILLS
By ROBERT BRYCE
via New York Post, www.nypost.com
February 4, 2012
The battle in Meredith (population: 1,500) pitted landowners who stood to profit by putting the wind turbines on their property against those who didn’t. Israel interviews one couple, Ron and Sue Bailey, who took money from a wind company, a move they soon came to regret. The couple said they “were blinded by the money” and “never thought about what our neighbors across the road would think.”
Documentary makers are always hoping that their film will come out at just the right moment, when a favorable news cycle and popular sentiment are converging so that the public is primed for their message.
In 1989, Michael Moore made his career with “Roger & Me,” a documentary that pinned the decline of his hometown — Flint, Mich. — on General Motors. By focusing his fire on GM’s chairman, Roger Smith, Moore tapped into the public’s anger at tone-deaf corporate bosses as well as the growing disenchantment with the American car industry.
Laura Israel’s new film, “Windfall,” has the same sort of fortuitous timing. Her documentary — which focuses on the fight over the siting of wind turbines in the small upstate town of Meredith — premieres at the same time that “green energy” stimulus failures fill the news, and the wind-energy industry faces an unprecedented backlash from angry rural residents.
Consider this Nov. 1 story from The Village Market, a news outlet in Staffordshire, England, about 150 miles northwest of London. The paper’s reporter, covering the staunch local opposition to a proposed wind-energy project near the tiny village of Haunton, wrote, “Huge numbers of people in rural areas are rising up against the technology, despite government assuming they would support it.”
Throughout the UK — indeed, all over the world — fights against large-scale wind-energy projects are raging. The European Platform against Windfarms lists 518 signatory organizations from 23 countries. The UK alone now has about 285 anti-wind groups. Last May, some 1,500 protesters descended on the Welsh assembly, the Senedd, demanding that a massive wind project planned for central Wales be stopped.
Although environmental groups like Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace claim that wind energy is the answer when it comes to slowing the rate of growth in carbon dioxide emissions, policymakers from Ontario to Australia are responding to angry landowners who don’t want 100-meter-high wind turbines built near their homes.
Last September, CBC News reported that Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment has logged “hundreds of health complaints” about the thumping noise generated by the province’s growing fleet of wind turbines. In December, government officials in the Australian state of New South Wales issued guidelines that give residents living within two kilometers of a proposed wind project the right to delay, or even stop, the project’s development.
Back here in the States, many communities are passing ordinances that prohibit large-scale wind energy development. On Nov. 8, for instance, residents of Brooksville, Maine, voted by more than 2 to 1 in favor of a measure that bans all wind turbines with towers exceeding 100 feet in height.
Meanwhile, the promoters of Cape Wind, a large offshore wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound, are still hoping to get their project built. But they continue to face lots of well-heeled opposition, including, most notably, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Well-known for his advocacy of renewable energy, Kennedy opposes the wind project — because it will be built a few miles from his family’s estate in Hyannis Port.
As “Windfall” is premiering this week in New York, wind-energy lobbyists in Washington are desperately hoping to convince Congress to pass a multi-year extension of the 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy for wind energy. Without it, the domestic wind business, which is already being hammered by falling natural-gas prices, will likely end up becalmed.
Israel’s portrayal of the bitter feuding that happened in Meredith over wind-energy development is similar to fights that have occurred in numerous other rural communities around the world. The battle in Meredith (population: 1,500) pitted landowners who stood to profit by putting the wind turbines on their property against those who didn’t. Israel interviews one couple, Ron and Sue Bailey, who took money from a wind company, a move they soon came to regret. The couple said they “were blinded by the money” and “never thought about what our neighbors across the road would think.”
The landowner faction in Meredith was led by the town’s supervisor, Frank Bachler. Israel portrays him as a well-intentioned man who, in favoring the wind development, is trying to help the area’s struggling farmers. Bachler dismisses the opponents of the wind project as “a minority of people who are very aggressive.”
But Bachler is proven wrong. The anti-wind faction quickly gains momentum and the resulting feud provides a textbook example of small-town democracy. Three wind opponents run for election to the town board with the stated purpose of reversing the existing board’s position on wind. In November 2007, they win, and a few weeks later pass a measure banning large-scale wind development.
Israel’s film also features a colorful interview with Carol Spinelli, a fiery real-estate agent in Bovina, a town of about 600 people located a few miles southeast of Meredith. Bovina passed a ban on wind turbines in March 2007. Spinelli helped lead the opposition, and she nails the controversy over wind by explaining that it’s about “big money, big companies, big politics.” And she angrily denounces wind-energy developers “as modern-day carpetbaggers.”
That’s a brutal assessment. But it accurately portrays the rural-urban divide on the wind-energy issue.
Lots of city-based voters love the concept of renewable energy.
But they are not the ones who have to endure the health-impairing noise that’s created by 45-story-tall wind turbines, nor do they have to see the turbines or look at their red-blinking lights, all night, every night.
So many want to make the world green — so long as it’s not them who have to suffer for it.
TOPPLING TAX DOLLARS FOR TURBINES
by Marita Noon,
February 5, 2012
On February 1, an urgent alert was sent to supporters of wind energy. It stated: “The PTC is the primary policy tool to promote wind energy development and manufacturing in the United States. While it is set to expire at the end of 2012 … the credit has already effectively expired. Congress has a choice to make: extend the PTC this month and keep the wind industry on track…”
The wind energy industry has reason for concern. America’s appetite for subsidies has waned. Congress is looking for any way it can to make cuts and the twenty-year old Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy is in prime position for a cut—it naturally expires at the end of 2012. Without action, it will go away.
The payroll tax extension will be a hot topic over the next few weeks as it expires on February 29. Wind energy supporters are pushing to get the PTC extension included in the bill. Whether or not it is included will be largely up to public response—after all, regarding the PTC’s inclusion in the payroll tax extension bill, the February 1 alert stated: “our federal legislators heard us loud and clear.” In the December payroll tax bill negotiations, the wind energy PTC was placed on a “short list of provisions to be extended through that bill.” Wind supporters are worried—hence the rallying cry.
Due to a deteriorating market, Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of industrial wind turbines, is closing a plant and laying off workers. Everyday citizens, armed with real life information gleaned from the wind energy’s decades-long history, are shocking lobbyists and killing back room deals by successfully blocking the development of industrial wind plants in their communities.
As news of actual wind energy contracts are coming in at three and four times the cost of traditionally generated electricity becomes widespread, and natural gas prices continue to drop due to abundance, states are looking to abandon the renewable energy mandates pushed through in a different economic time and a different political era. American Wind Energy Association spokesman, Peter Kelley, reports: “Industry-wide we are seeing a slowdown in towers and turbines after 2012 that is rippling down the supply chain and the big issue is lack of certainty around the production credit that gives a favorable low tax rate to renewable energy.” All of this spells trouble for the wind energy industry.
The PTC is part of a push for renewables that began in the Carter era. Enacted in 1992, the twenty-year old wind energy PTC was designed to get the fledgling industry going. However, after all this time, wind energy is still not a viable option. Even the industry’s own clarion call acknowledges that government intervention is still needed to keep it “on track.” If the training wheels are removed, it will topple.
Wind energy lobbyists have a plan: HB 3307 will extend the PTC for another four years. If the PTC extension passes, it will add an extra $6 billion to the $20 billion in taxpayer dollars the wind industry has already received over the past 20 years. These are monies we borrow (typically from China) to give to Europe—where most of the wind turbine manufacturers are located.
With advertisements featuring blue skies, green grass, and the warm and fuzzy images of families (and not one shot of a 500-foot wind turbine looming over their home), it is easy for the average person to be taken in and think we should continue to underwrite this “new technology”—after all, there is an energy shortage. “What will we do when we run out of oil?” Wind energy is electricity and electricity doesn’t come from oil—even if it did, we don’t have an oil shortage. Electricity comes from clean-burning natural gas and coal—both of which we have in abundance and know how to use effectively. They don’t need an expensive replacement.
Wind energy supporters often tout turbines because of the misguided belief they will get us off of fossil fuels—when, in fact, they commit us to a fossil fuel future. Optimistically, a wind turbine will generate electricity 30% of the time—and we cannot predict when that time will be. Highly variable wind conditions may mean the turbine generates electricity in the morning on Monday, in the middle of the night on Tuesday, and not at all on Wednesday. A true believer might be willing to do without electricity at the times when the wind is not blowing, but the general population will not. Public utilities and electric co-ops cannot—they are required to provide electricity 24/7 and to have a cushion that allows for usage spikes.
So, during that average 30% of the time that the turbine blades are spinning, the natural gas or coal-fueled power plants continue to burn fossil fuels—though possibly slightly less in an extended period of windy weather, and full-steam-ahead the remaining 70% of the time. (Research shows that turning up the heat on power plants, and then turning it back down, and up again actually increases the CO2 emissions.) Absent a major breakthrough in expensive energy storage, wind can never save enough fossil fuel to make any significant difference. After twenty years of subsidies, wind energy has not replaced one traditional power plant.
Some argue that many new technologies got their start through government support. This might be a good viewpoint if wind energy were “new.” But after twenty years of subsidies it is little better now than it was in the late 1800s. Windmills produced electricity then, and modern industrial wind turbines generate electricity now. It is not that they do not work, they do. They just don’t do so effectively, economically, or 24/7—and they still need Uncle Sam to prop them up.
Those who favor free markets need to seize upon this opportunity to push for the government to get out of the business of picking winners and losers. Clearly the “green” experiment has failed. Billions have been lost in the effort.
If we truly believe in free markets, why stop at just cutting the subsidies to wind energy? Stop the subsidies to all energy! May the strongest survive! The fact is, such a move is afoot. While HB 3307 aims to stretch out the subsidies for wind energy, HB 3308 will stop subsidies for all energy sources—wind and solar, oil and gas. The playing field will be level; billions will be saved!
A congressman I spoke to fears that, in the current political climate, his colleagues will cave on the wind energy subsidy, as they seem unwilling to take a strong stand on any issue. While wind energy supporters are calling their representatives, free-market advocates and everyone who believes the government-gone-wild spending must stop has to place a call, too.
Call, or e-mail, your Congressman, and as many others as you can take the time for, and tell them to stop subsidizing energy: “Do not include HB 3307 in the payroll tax extension bill. Support HB 3308 which will repeal the PTC and numerous other renewable energy tax incentives including the investment tax credit, the cellulosic biofuel producer credit, the tax credit for electric and fuel cell vehicles, and tax credits for alternative fuels and infrastructure. Additionally, HB 3308 will also repeal the enhanced oil recovery credit for producing oil and gas from marginal wells.”
Instead of propping up energy policy based on politics rather than sound science, we have to prop up our representatives and give them the backbone to do what is right.
Tell them to end energy subsidies.