Entries in wind power (141)
WIND COMPANY SUING BELLE CREEK TOWNSHIP
By Regan Carstensen
SOURCE: The Republican Eagle, www.republican-eagle.com
December 17 2011
Belle Creek Town Board Chair Chad Ryan was served papers Thursday night, informing him that AWA Goodhue was suing Belle Creek Township for “declaratory judgment” and “injunctive relief.”
The Belle Creek Town Board adopted a one-year moratorium in June 2010 to prevent any development, siting or construction of a wind project within the township while the board completed various planning activities. The moratorium was extended in May 2011 to last 120 days later than the date AWA Goodhue completed the permitting process for its 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County — much of which lies in Belle Creek Township.
According to state statute 216F.07, the site permit that was issued for AWA Goodhue by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in June was the only approval the wind company needed to obtain for the location of its project.
AWA Goodhue attorneys argued in the summons served to Ryan that AWA Goodhue is entitled to a declaratory judgment that the permit pre-empts and supersedes the township’s effort to regulate the project with a moratorium.
The summons also says that AWA Goodhue “will potentially suffer irreparable harm” if Belle Creek is allowed to interfere with its rights under the site permit to proceed with developing the project, and attorneys argue that the wind company is entitled to an injunction preventing the township from any such interference.
Belle Creek Town Board has 20 days from the date papers were served to provide a written response to the compliant. If no response is filed in that time, the board will not get to explain its case to the court.
Ryan had no comment on behalf of the Belle Creek Town Board.
A call for comment was not returned by AWA Goodhue representatives.
SECOND STORY: SAME WIND DEVELOPER....
WIND FARM TENSIONS FLARE UP OVER EAGLE STUDY
By JOSEPHINE MARCOTTY ,
Source: Star Tribune, www.startribune.com
December 16, 2011
A large number of eagles are active around the footprint of a controversial wind farm under development in Goodhue County, according to a wildlife survey the developer conducted this fall under orders from state regulators.
But AWA Goodhue Wind said in filings with the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that the count has been inflated by project opponents who are purposely attracting birds by dumping animal carcasses on the site as part of an eagle-baiting campaign.
The charges have not been verified by state investigators. But true or not, they represent yet another escalation in a fight between the developer and local residents that has split the community and which is occurring at other sites around the country as the wind industry evolves.
The 50-turbine wind farm, approved this year by the PUC, will be located on 12,000 acres that are home to both bald and golden eagles, as well as other protected birds and bats.
Officials from Goodhue Wind, who did not return phone calls Friday, have made changes in the project’s design in response to concerns from state and federal wildlife officials. But there is a growing realization nationally that the clean energy from wind is having an impact on wildlife.
The Goodhue County Board and other local governments and some residents have fought the project for more than two years over concerns about setbacks, noise and movement from the massive blades. The fight over birds and bats emerged when residents began documenting eagle nests in the spring and dozens of migrating eagles that hung around the area this fall. Both bald and golden eagles are protected by federal law.
To date, there are only five known instances in North America of bald eagles killed by wind turbines, said Rich Davis, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who has been monitoring the project for two years. But the Goodhue project is the first to be constructed in an area widely used by both bald and golden eagles for nesting and migrating, he said.
“I’m confident that there are birds using the area whether there is baiting or not,” he said. “I would definitely say that there is risk at that site.”
Davis said he’s just as concerned with the number of bats that the survey turned up, including rare northern long-eared bats and little brown bats. The project, in short, is likely to be a large experiment in whether, and how, both species can accommodate turbines, he said.
Such concerns prompted the PUC to order Goodhue Wind to conduct a wildlife survey and develop a protection plan, which was filed on Thursday. The company has been working with both state and federal wildlife officials.
The document says collisions with eagles will be rare, but projections are uncertain because the surveys “have been seriously compromised by an active baiting program being conducted by project opponents.”
Two golden eagles, which are on the federal endangered species list, were spotted near the site of a future turbine, the report said. One was soaring, and the other was attracted to “an active baiting location.”
Opponents deny baiting
Opponents of the project said there is no baiting going on, and that the company is making the allegations to obscure the true number of eagles in the area.
“They think we are purposely taking dead animals and throwing them in our fields to feed the eagles,” said Ann Buck, who owns a nearby dairy farm.
Buck said an investigator from the State Board of Animal Health came by to check on a complaint from Goodhue Wind about a dead calf in her pasture. It had been stillborn by one of her cows, she said. If there are animal carcasses that have been dumped, she said, they are likely put out as coyote bait, not eagle bait.
That might be true, said Carl Denkinger, an agricultural consultant with the Board of Animal Health. He said he has received six complaints from the wind company about animal carcasses, but only two seemed suspicious. Piglet carcasses were dumped out in the field, he said.
“This was done for a purpose,” he said. “What that purpose is I’m not prepared to say.”
DISPUTE ENDS OVER SETBACK FOR TURBINES IN IROQUOIS COUNTY TOWNSHIP
by Will Brumleve
SOURCE The News-Gazette, www.news-gazette.com
December 3, 2011
Douglas Township’s adoption of the 2,000-foot setback is believed to be the first time a township in Illinois has adopted a wind-turbine setback more restrictive than its county’s, according to Kevin Borgia, executive director of the Illinois Wind Energy Association.
WATSEKA — Iroquois County State’s Attorney Jim Devine has conceded that Douglas Township officials obeyed the state’s sunshine laws — to a “minimally acceptable” standard — when they approved increasing the distance required between wind turbines and homes on properties not being leased for a wind farm.
After a months-long legal dispute, Devine said he drafted an amendment to the county’s ordinance regulating wind farms last week to reflect the increased setback for turbines from “non-participating primary structures” within Douglas Township. A new ordinance, signed by County Board Chairman Ron Schroeder, was filed in the county clerk’s office on Tuesday, and it is now in effect, Devine said.
The county board approved changing the county’s ordinance on July 12 to allow a 2,000-foot setback in Douglas Township — a setback that is 500 feet deeper than required by the county. The county board’s approval came after Douglas Township’s board of supervisors and plan commission both approved the setback in June and then requested the county board approve the change.
But until last week, Devine had refused to draft the ordinance that was approved because he felt township officials did not properly notify the public. In late August, Douglas Township officials and their attorneys threatened litigation to force Devine to draft the ordinance.
Devine said Thursday that his concerns about the township providing proper public notice have been alleviated.
“I consulted a township expert attorney and used his expertise to guide me on this,” Devine said. “The conclusion was what (the Douglas Township board and plan commission) did was minimally acceptable but acceptable nonetheless, so I went ahead and wrote the ordinance that was already approved, and it’s now law.”
Rod Copas, an Iroquois County Board member from rural Onarga who also serves as a Douglas Township supervisor, said he is “glad it’s done,” adding, however, that “it’s unfortunate we’ve had to waste (Iroquois County) taxpayers’ money on things like this instead of finding out first (what is and is not legal).
“I’m just amazed it’s taken this long to get where we’re at.”
Douglas Township’s adoption of the 2,000-foot setback is believed to be the first time a township in Illinois has adopted a wind-turbine setback more restrictive than its county’s, according to Kevin Borgia, executive director of the Illinois Wind Energy Association.
Iroquois County’s setback of 1,500 feet, approved in June, was already the largest countywide setback in the state for wind turbines. But Douglas Township officials did not think that was enough. The township was legally allowed to adopt a larger setback than its county’s because the township has a planning commission.
Some wind farm companies have said a 2,000-foot setback would be so restrictive that it would effectively eliminate the possibility of a wind farm. But Copas noted it is a “waivable setback,” so a landowner can agree to allow a turbine placed closer to his or her home.
Under the county’s ordinance, a turbine can be no closer to a home than 1.1 times the tower’s height. That means that a 400-foot turbine could be placed as close as 440 feet from a home.
Copas said the 2,000-foot setback should be a “benefit to the township” and help protect the quality of life of rural residents who live on small farms not being leased for a wind farm. Copas noted that “63 percent of our residents that are in the rural areas (of Douglas Township) just have small home acreages and need some protection.”
Copas said the setback would also provide protection for the property values of homes around any wind farms that are constructed in the township. The setback would also ensure residential and commercial growth remains an option, Copas said.
“People won’t build new homes near these things,” Copas noted.
Devine had argued in a letter he wrote in August to Douglas Township attorneys that the Illinois Township Code requires a meeting’s agenda and notice be posted at least 10 days before a meeting, as well as in a local newspaper, but “neither of these requirements were done” when the township board and its plan commission held meetings to approve the setback.
Douglas Township attorneys wrote in response that a township board must provide 48 hours’ notice of a meeting, not 10 days. They added that notices and agendas for the township meetings were posted at the building in which the meetings were to be held and in “various prominent places throughout the township.”
However, Linda Dvorak, superintendent of the Iroquois West School District, which includes Douglas Township, expressed concerns last summer that she was never notified of the meeting and subsequently was unable to provide any input on how a 2,000-foot setback could affect the district’s potential for attracting wind farms and increasing its tax base.
10/28/11 Taking the problem seriously: Senator Lasee speaks out on behalf of those who will be most affected AND Fire in the belly VS Fire in the hole: Standoff on Lowell Mountain continues. Protesters stand firm
The video above shows wind turbine shadow flicker affecting homes in Fond du Lac County. Filmed by Invenergy wind project resident, Gerry Meyer
GET THE FACTS BEFORE MAKING SITING DECISIONS
By State Sen. Frank Lasee,
SOURCE Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com
October 27 2011
How would you feel if you or your kids started feeling sick? What if you or your kids suddenly started having headaches, ear aches, nausea, dizziness or couldn’t sleep well anymore in your own home and you knew it wouldn’t ever go away?
This is happening right now in Wisconsin. Families who had happy, healthy lives found themselves suffering illnesses that started after wind turbines were built near their homes. Scientific evidence indicates that there are health impacts that are associated with large wind turbines, many as tall as 500 feet. A bill that I introduced requires new safety setback rules based on health studies.
We aren’t sure why wind turbines seem to cause illnesses. Is it electrical pollution, radio waves, sound waves that are too low to hear, vibrations, shadow-flicker or noise?
We know some adults and children who live near turbines feel nausea, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, ear aches, agitation, and other symptoms – and their illnesses clear up when they are away from home.
Two families whom I represent have moved out of their homes because of illnesses they felt after eight wind turbines were built nearby; others want to move but can’t afford to. A Fond du Lac family abandoned their $300,000 remodeled farm house because their 16-year-old daughter developed intestinal lesions and was hospitalized for them. After they moved away, she recovered. Others have said that deer and birds they feed in their backyards disappear when the turbines turn, and they return when the turbines stop.
This problem isn’t confined to Wisconsin. There are studies coming from other countries and states that report health issues for those who are too near large wind turbines. These new wind turbines are nearly 500 feet tall, taller than 40-story buildings, and nearly twice as tall as the state Capitol.
To be fair to people who live in rural areas where turbines are being built, we need to find out what is “too close” and what distance is acceptable for the health of adults, children and animals. Right now, we don’t know. Right now, it depends on whether you are pushing for or against wind turbines or have to live near them.
The purpose of my bill is to get the facts before others are harmed. It requires that a “peer reviewed” health study address these health effects and be used by the state Public Service Commission to establish a safe distance for wind turbine setback rules.
People should be secure in their homes; they shouldn’t be forced to move because they are being made ill by something built near them. In Wisconsin, we owe our citizens more than someone’s opinion on whether their home is safe -whether their children are safe.
Wind turbines are causing real hardship for real people. Some can’t afford to move to preserve their or their kids’ health. Could you? Our government has a duty to know the facts and protect our citizens regardless of whether we are “for” wind energy or “against” wind energy.
State Sen. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, represents Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District.
The video above was recorded by Larry Wunsch, a resident of the Invenergy wind project in Fond du Lac County. Wunsch is also a firefighter and a member of the Public Service Commission's wind siting council. His recommendations for setbacks and noise limits were shot down by other members of the council who had a direct or indirect financial interest in creating less restrictive siting guidelines.
NEXT STORY: FROM VERMONT
PROTESTERS AND BLASTERS CONTINUE LOWELL STANDOFF
by Chris Braithwaite, The Chronicle, 26 October 2011 ~~
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, the old question goes, does it make a sound?
Here’s a more timely variation on the question: If you hold a demonstration in one of the most inaccessible places in the Northeast Kingdom, have you demonstrated anything?
There was a certain brilliance in the idea, dreamed up by opponents of the industrial wind project on Lowell Mountain, of planting a campsite on the western edge of Doug and Shirley Nelson’s farm, too close to the wind project to permit safe blasting.
But there was also a weakness inherent in the plan. It’s so hard to get to the campsite that almost nobody knows what goes on up there.
There’s great drama in the idea of determined demonstrators standing up to the high explosives that, as this is being written, are reducing four miles of remote ridgeline to a nice, level, 34-foot-wide gravel road.
But drama demands an audience. Without one, even the most daring and determined resistance risks becoming an exercise in futility.
Some of the demonstrators who climbed the mile-long trail to their campsite on Wednesday morning, October 19, were prepared to go down the mountain in police custody.
The stage, it seemed, was finally set for the confrontation with authority they were braced for.
It had been set up the Friday before by the wind project’s developer, Green Mountain Power (GMP). The big utility had gone to court and quickly obtained a temporary restraining order against the Nelsons and their guests. It ordered them to be 1,000 feet from the property line for an hour before, and an hour after, high explosives were detonated near the farm.
Blasting had proceeded on Monday and Tuesday, but at a safe distance that didn’t provoke any confrontation between GMP and the handful of demonstrators on hand.
But the mood was different Wednesday. GMP had called the Nelsons to say there would be blasting from 2 to 4 p.m.
On top of the mountain, the demonstrators got their first clear view of two big drill rigs, poking holes in the rock about 800 feet from the campsite.
With binoculars, they could watch workmen carry boxes of high explosive from a cubical white body mounted on tracks to the drill holes. Then they could watch as a large backhoe dragged massive mats of steel and rubber over the blast site, while other massive machines made a ponderous retreat.
All that clatter aside, the place was remarkably quiet. The demonstrators exchanged a bit of small talk, did a bit of planning, but didn’t talk much about their concern for Lowell Mountain, or their despair at what GMP was doing to it. Their presence in that high, steeply sloped forest said those things for them.
Nor did the demonstrators have anything to say to two GMP workers who passed within a few feet of them, putting yet more yellow warning signs on trees along the disputed line that separates the Nelson property from the project.
They numbered each sign with a marker, photographed it, and moved on out of sight to the north.
The four demonstrators who were prepared to be arrested gathered up their gear and tossed it into one of the tents. If necessary, it would be carried down the trail by the people who were there to support them.
Two more GMP workers approached the protesters as they moved as close as they could get to the blast site, just after 3 o’clock.
The one who wore a blue hard hat, Dave Coriell, is community outreach manager for Kingdom Community Wind, which is the name GMP gave to its project.
The one in the unpainted tin hat, John Stamatov, manages the construction project for GMP.
Mr. Coriell, who used to do public relations work for Governor Jim Douglas, looked a little out of his element. That wasn’t true of Mr. Stamatov, though he looked like he’d be more comfortable running a bulldozer than a video camera.
Mr. Coriell stopped within easy earshot of the protesters. Behind him, Mr. Stamatov started recording the proceedings on his camera.
“I’m going to have to ask people to please move back,” Mr. Coriell said. Nobody moved.
If the demonstrators didn’t move 1,000 feet down the mountain, Mr. Coriell continued, they would be in violation of the temporary restraining order.
Copies of the order were nailed to a scattering of nearby trees.
“I ask you to please move back,” Mr. Coriell said. “I’m not going to force you physically to move.” Nobody moved.
“If you’re not going to move, I’d ask you for your name or some identification,” Mr. Coriell said.
Nobody said anything.
“That’s a cute dog,” Mr. Coriell said of Koyo. A handsome yellow lab who’d carried a backpack up the mountain for his owners, Koyo was the only demonstrator who used his real name. If he was flattered, Koyo didn’t say so.
I identified myself to the GMP twosome, and said I planned to stick around and see what happened next.
“By standing there you’re risking serious injury or death,” Mr. Stamatov said.
Knowing that, I asked, was GMP still going to touch off the explosives?
“We’re hoping people move,” said Mr. Coriell.
They withdrew across the wide orange ribbon that divides the construction site from the forest.
But they came back a few minutes later. Stepping up to a tree, Mr. Coriell read the entire text of the restraining order aloud to the silent demonstrators, while Mr. Stamatov recorded the event.
The two withdrew again, but remained in the clearcut that GMP’s logging crew had created where the crane path will run along the top of the ridgeline. They were not significantly further from the blast site than the demonstrators.
Everybody waited. It became quiet, an ominous silence that settled as the last machines withdrew.
The demonstrators were there, of course, in the belief that their presence would stop the blasting.
They had been warned that they were standing in harm’s way, and they had every reason to believe it.
What Mr. Coriell hadn’t told them was that the contractor, Maine Drilling and Blasting, had carefully laid a much smaller charge than it hopes to use in the near future, and covered it with particular care with particularly large blasting mats.
At 3:26 the silence was broken by three loud horn blasts. According to the yellow signs on so many nearby trees, that signified five minutes until the explosion.
Two horns sounded four minutes later, the one-minute warning. Still nobody moved, nobody talked. One demonstrator, a young woman sitting legs crossed in a lotus position, closed her eyes.
The words “fire in the hole” carried through the silent forest from somebody’s radio and the explosives went off, sending a cloud of gray dust into the sky. There were no casualties.
The demonstrators had stood their ground, a they had pledged to do. And GMP had blown up another piece of Lowell Mountain, as it was so determined to do.
If there’s a moral victory to be claimed, it clearly goes to the protestors. But that may only serve as consolation, a year or so from now, as they contemplate the wind towers on Lowell Mountain.
10/27/11 Wind developers Eco-Energy/ Acciona caught red-handed AND turbines shut down at night to protect bats.That's a good start, but what about protecting people?
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Folks in Rock County are quite familiar with the wind developers mentioned in the article below. They had big plans for a major wind project in the Towns of Magnolia, Spring Valley and Union. They began by signing up landowners to long term contracts and working the community to pit neighbor against neighbor.
The project that was the subject of this audit is located just a few miles south of the Wisconsin-Illinois border.
CLEAN-ENERGY DEVELOPERS REAPED EXCESS U.S. AID, AUDITORS SAY
By Jim Efstathiou Jr. - Oct 26, 2011
The Obama administration overpaid renewable power developers in a federal grant program, including $2.08 million distributed to a unit of Acciona SA (ANA), a Spanish maker of wind turbines, according to government investigators.
The excess payment to EcoGrove Wind LLC, a unit of Acciona, was uncovered in an audit by the U.S. Treasury Department’s inspector general. EcoGrove received a $67.9 million grant in October 2009 for a wind farm in Illinois through a program to promote clean power created in the economic stimulus bill that year.
President Barack Obama’s administration already faces congressional inquiries over the Energy Department’s $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra LLC, a maker of solar panels that filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 6. The audits raise questions about the Treasury’s management of a separate grant program that has awarded $9.2 billion to wind, solar and geothermal projects as of Sept. 11.
“A significant number of them no doubt have inflated costs,” William Short, an industry consultant and former investment banker with Kidder Peabody & Co., said in an interview. “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. This one’s a superhighway.”
The grants, covering 30 percent of a project’s cost, are based on what companies claim as the expense of developing a power source. Inspectors found overpayments in four of the five grants they have audited so far. Aside from Acciona, the discrepancies totaled $43,137. The excessive payments may climb as the inspector general investigates more of the 19,875 grants awarded.
The Treasury grants offer a benefit that leads some project developers to “engage in abusive action,” according to George Schutzer, a partner specializing in tax law with Patton Boggs LLP in Washington. Schutzer said he has advised clients seeking grants against being overly aggressive in their claims.
“It’s on the list of the things the Treasury Department is clearly looking at,” Schutzer said in an interview.
The audits by Eric Thorson, the Treasury’s inspector general, have focused on whether projects were eligible for the grants they received and whether the amounts awarded were appropriate, Richard Delmar, counsel to Thorson, said in an e- mail. The office plans to issue reports on nine additional grants next year, Delmar said.
The audits, which began in February 2010, involve visits to the headquarters of companies that received the so-called 1603 grants, and to project sites, Delmar said.
“We do plan to assess common and/or pervasive issues identified through these individual audits in the aggregate as part of a planned report on Treasury’s administration of the 1603 Program and make recommendations as necessary,” Delmar said.
There isn’t a deadline for completion of the “overall program assessment,” he said.
In Acciona’s EcoGrove project, investigators questioned five items including $5.3 million for interest on a late payment related to a turbine supply agreement with another unit of the company. Ineligible costs totaling $6.93 million led to the government overpayment of $2.08 million, Marla Freedman, assistant inspector general, said in a Sept. 19 report.
“People want to make sure they don’t leave money on the table, but you’ve got to strike that balance between what is permissible and what goes too far,” Jeffrey Davis, a tax partner with Mayer Brown LLP in Washington, said in an interview.
Furniture, Spare Parts
The Treasury Department agreed with the inspector general that Madrid-based Acciona should return $35,479 for costs associated with transmission lines, office furniture and expendable spare parts, according to the report. The Treasury hasn’t determined whether the interest penalty is eligible for the grant.
The company said including the interest payment in the cost of the project is “common industry practice” in construction of wind farms, according to the report.
“I don’t think there’s any padding” of costs, Amy Berry, a spokeswoman for Acciona, said in an interview. “You’re talking about companies that have a lot more on the line than a couple million back from U.S. Treasury. Obviously the consequences are huge if we don’t do it right.”
Six months after Obama signed the stimulus measure, the inspector general said managers at the Treasury Department had failed to explain what staffing would be needed to evaluate “the potentially thousands of applications of varying complexity for awards under this program,” according to an Aug. 5, 2009, report.
The Treasury Department responded that “the current team of four is adequate.”
“Just for just practical matters, we have a program to administer,” Ellen Neubauer, grants program manager for the Treasury, said in a Sept. 21 interview. “We have a large number of applications, a relatively small staff. We sort of have to set some parameters on what we’re going to examine more closely and what we’re not.”
The program has led to $31.1 billion in public and private investment in clean-energy projects that have the capacity to generate 13.6 gigawatts of electricity, about the same amount as 13 nuclear reactors, according to the Treasury.
“Treasury’s team works closely with a larger team of reviewers to carefully evaluate each application to ensure that the amount of money awarded is correct,” Sandra Salstrom, a department spokeswoman, said today in an e-mail. “In all instances where funds are found to be paid improperly, Treasury will work aggressively to recoup them.”
In the first five audits, investigators questioned $2.12 million of $306.4 million awarded in grants, or 0.69 percent. In the case of two wind farms developed by EON AG, inspectors reversed initial decisions questioning $1 million in grant awards related to spare parts after Treasury Department officials said the costs were eligible under tax law.
“The auditors that come out aren’t always the subject- matter experts when it comes to tax policy,” Matt Tulis, a spokesman for EON, said in an interview.
Credits Turned Grants
The incentives began under President George W. Bush as a tax credit companies could use to offset profit by investing in renewable energy projects. The 2008 financial crisis dried up company profits and opportunities to use the tax credit, resulting in the move to convert the benefit to grants.
“Our experience shows that it’s difficult getting financing for the projects,” Schutzer, the tax lawyer, said. “That makes the grant or the credit upfront so valuable. I would bet that the rate of mis-claimed charitable deductions is a good bit higher than the rate of abuse you’d find with the grants.”
The grant program, which was set to expire last year, received a one-year extension in December. A second continuation is unlikely, Bill Wicker, a spokesman for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a Sept. 12 e-mail.
“Given the considerable fiscal challenges confronting Congress, renewing this program seems to be a steep hill to climb,” he said.
BAT FATALITIES AT WIND FARMS: CURTAILMENT A MORE COMMON PRACTICE
by Bill Opalka,
October 26, 2011
The recent discovery of a dead endangered bat at a Pennsylvania wind site led to the immediate shutdown of night-time operations of a wind facility. The practice has become more widespread I recent years.
Unlike a few years ago, the wind industry has been armed with studies and procedures that lead to immediate actions to prevent further fatalities, which have been deployed in sensitive areas populate by migrating birds and bats.
On September 27, Duke Energy Corporation notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that a dead Indiana bat, a state and federally protected species, had been found at its 35-turbine, North Allegheny Wind facility.
The facility, located in Cambria and Blair Counties in Pennsylvania, has been in operation since September 2009, and the bat carcass was located during voluntary post-construction mortality monitoring, FWS said.
Duke Energy stopped operating the wind farm at night “to prevent additional mortalities of Indiana bats,” spokesman Greg Efthimiou said.
Efthimiou said the company will continue to switch off the farm a half hour before sunset and a half hour after sunrise until mid-November, when the migration season of the endangered Indiana bat generally ends.
The ridge is in the section of the Appalachian Mountains that extends into West Virginia, where the issue of bat mortality first gained prominence a few years ago.
The bat carcass was discovered by a contracted technician and brought to the office at the end of the day per Duke standard procedures.
Duke immediately curtailed night-time operations of the turbines at the North Allegheny facility, and reported the incident to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Service. The FWS said it is currently reviewing the incident.
A project in West Virginia was itself endangered when the Beech Ridge project avoided denial of its permit when wind developer Invenergy and the Animal Welfare Institute reached a proposed settlement in federal court. The developers sought an “incidental take permit” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recognition that some fatalities will occur from an otherwise lawful activity.
The actual settlement that was agreed upon allows the turbines to be in 24 hour operation between mid-November and April 1 when the bats are hibernating. For the remaining months the turbines may only operate in the daylight hours.
In other locations, bat and bird monitoring has led to wind curtailment. Not the most lucrative solution, as curtailment cuts into wind plant revenue, but it helps avoid a PR disaster-in-the making.
10/4/11 Did you hear the one about the tax man and the wind turbine man and the little man? Guess who loses.
ONTARIO WIND POWER FACES TEST OVER PROPERTY VALUES
by Dave Seglins and John Nicol,
SOURCE CBC News, www.cbc.ca
October 4, 2011
Ontario’s wind power strategy will go under the microscope Tuesday in Eastern Ontario in what could be a precedent-setting case over the impact wind farms have on local property values.
Edward and Gail Kenney, retired civil servants who’ve lived on Wolfe Island for 48 years, are appealing their property tax assessments, set at $357,000, arguing that the 86 wind turbines erected around their home have driven down their property values and should be acknowledged in their tax bills.
“We figure we’ve lost 40 to 50 per cent of the value of these places,” Edward Kenney told CBC News as he looked out at the stands of turbines installed several years ago, some within 400 metres of his home — a distance no longer allowed by the Ontario’s environmental regulations.
The municipality of Frontenac Islands is fiercely contesting the case, fearing that if the Kenneys are successful it could have far reaching effects on tax revenues for the small, largely rural, lakeside community of just 1,300 people.
Tax officials watching case closely
In fact, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), a Crown corporation in charge of assigning values to properties for tax purposes, has twice offered to settle the case.
And though the Kenneys would welcome the end of this costly 30-month battle in front of Ontario’s Assessment Review Board (ARB), MPAC and the municipality insist on making no reference to the wind turbines as a factor in offering the deal.
Because of that insistence, the Kenneys are prepared to stand up without legal representation against the lawyers for the other side, solely on principle of the public’s right to know.
“In this small community,” said Edward, 72, who built the house there in 1965, “we’ve had enough of the secrecy, and the divisions it has caused, and we won’t have any part of that.”
Added his wife Gail: “The people affected by these turbines have the right to know.”
The Kenneys argue that there have been virtually no real estate sales in the last three years near the turbines on Wolfe Island.
“And the three that have been sold,” said Edward, “had been advertised for long periods of time and they sold at sizeable losses.”
The debate comes down to competing experts.
“There is no negative impact on property value, by virtue of the proximity to wind turbines,” argues Tony Fleming, lawyer for Frontenac Islands, which commissioned a consultant’s report by a certified real estate appraiser, Rayner & Associates. It concludes that based on existing sales data and comparisons of various properties on the island “the wind farm has had no measurable impact on value…over the last four years.”
Edward Kenney said he doesn’t think much of the report. “What other issues do we have? The turbines are our issue.”
Rose McLean, director of legal and policy support for MPAC, acknowledges this case could prove to be an important precedent. Though MPAC is studying the issue, she says “there is no evidence across the province that wind turbines drive down local property values.”
McLean says there’ve simply been too few sales of properties adjacent to wind farm turbines for MPAC to change its policy. Currently assessors are directed to deny any appeals or ‘requests for reconsideration.’
“There are not a lot of sales across the province of properties right next to turbines,” says McLean, “Less than 20 in the whole province, if my memory serves. So there’s not a lot of evidence yet one way or another.
“We’d certainly welcome some guidance on this (from the ARB).”
Only one tax reduction so far
To date, only one property owner in Ontario has had their tax assessment reduced due to wind turbine issues. It was in Melancthon, northwest of Toronto, home to 133 turbines in Ontario’s first and largest scale industrial wind farm. In that case a property adjacent to a transformer suffered consistent noise problems.
The only property owners close to turbines routinely enjoying a property increase are those who’ve leased lands to host the turbines themselves. The revenue from those lease agreements have added value to those properties as the turbines provide an annual source of income.
Edward Kenney, though, rues the fact the turbines have created a divided countryside — those for the turbines, who benefit financially, and those who suffer the noise and other negative effects.
The Kenneys’ appeal — along with an appeal by a second property owner in Amaranth (close to the Melancthon wind farm) — could have far reaching implications for municipal tax coffers in communities hosting wind farms if landowners are granted cuts to their taxes.