Entries in Wisconsin public service commission (7)

3/28/11 Was it the regulatory environment or "Naked-Wind Farm" situation that caused Invenergy to cancel Brown County project AND Big Wind+Big Money+The Mob = True Love AND Why a stroll in the prairie might be a bad idea

Note from the BPWI research nerd: In wind-industry speak, a wind project that does not have a power purchase agreement with a utility is known as a "Naked Wind Farm"

 Use of term “Naked wind farm”:

"NextEra Energy Inc., the largest U.S. generator of wind power, said it hasn't been able to obtain multiyear contracts for about $1 billion in turbines capable of generating 612 megawatts of electricity. These so-called naked wind farms increased as cheaper natural gas and the lack of a federal clean-energy mandate reduced pressure on utilities to buy renewable power.

SOURCE: Stamford Advocate"

Without a utility committing to a long term power purchase agreement, financing for a large wind project becomes very difficult. Was this the real reason Invenergy pulled out of the Brown County wind project?

Although Invenergy claims it's Wisconsin's regulatory environment that caused them to cancel the project, in the same letter to the PSC they make it clear they will continue development of other wind projects in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Invenergy and wind lobbyists push a media spin on the story that does not stand up to scrutiny.

Examples of spin on Invenergy’s cancellation of wind project


Now Wisconsin Loses a Wind Farm – CleanTechnica: Cleantech ... <http://cleantechnica.com/2011/03/26/now-wisconsin-loses-a-wind-farm/>

Large Wisconsin Wind Farm Killed By Politics | EarthTechling <http://www.earthtechling.com/2011/03/large-wisconsin-wind-farm-killed-by-politics/>

Wind Power Wilts in Wisconsin, Surges in North Dakota <http://cleantechnica.com/2011/03/27/wind-power-wilts-in-wisconsin-surges-in-north-dakota/>

Developer Pulls Plug on Wisconsin Wind Farm Over Policy .. <http://solveclimate.com/news/20110323/wisconsin-wind-energy-renewable-portfolio-standard>

Teamster Nation: Developer cancels plan for WI wind farm because of Walker  <http://teamsternation.blogspot.com/2011/03/developer-cancels-plan-for-wi-wind-farm.html>

Regulatory Flux Blamed for Canceled Wisconsin Wisconsin Farm ... <http://midwest.construction.com/yb/mw/article.aspx?story_id=157119321>

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ruins everything, including wind power ... <http://www.grist.org/article/2011-03-25-wisconsin-gov.-scott-walker-ruins-everything-including-wind-powe>

Better Plan noted that reporter Thomas Content did not mention Invenergy's plans to continue development of wind projects in our state when he first reported the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. We are glad to say he has included this critical piece of information in the following story:

RULES MAY CHANGE FOR WIND FARM SITES: LEGISLATURE LIKELY TO ASK PSC TO CREATE NEW SET OF GUIDELINES

SOURCE: Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com

March 27, 2011

By Thomas Content  

State energy regulators would be asked to go back to the drawing board to develop statewide rules governing wind power projects, under a bill to be considered this week.

The Legislature’s joint committee for review of administrative rules voted earlier this month to temporarily block a wind farm site rule developed by the state Public Service Commission.

But that action was only good for 30 days. To keep the rule from taking effect Friday, the committee will meet again Tuesday to consider a bill that would send the issue back to the PSC and direct the agency to develop revised guidelines within six months.

After the rule was suspended, Chicago wind energy developer Invenergy LLC dropped its plan to build a large wind farm near Green Bay.

Invenergy’s proposal would have included setbacks of 1,000 feet, which is less than the 1,250-foot minimum sought by the PSC in its rule. The PSC rule that’s been blocked from taking effect also would have provided specific noise and shadow flicker requirements for wind farm turbines.

A property rights bill introduced in January by Gov. Scott Walker and supported by wind farm opponents and the Wisconsin Realtors Association would restrict development unless a turbine is placed 1,800 feet from a neighbor’s property line.

That bill threatens to stall wind power development in the state but was welcomed by a citizens group that has fought the Invenergy proposal.

The Brown County Citizens for Responsible Energy said it was pleased that the Invenergy proposal was dropped. Group spokesman Steve Deslauriers said the 1,000-foot setbacks were “irresponsible” and would have harmed nearby homeowners.

The local group mobilized against the Invenergy Ledge Wind energy project, and residents near the Invenergy project were well represented at public hearings earlier this year on wind farm siting.

The property rights group is seeking an even stricter statewide standard than that sought by Walker – 2,640 feet, Deslauriers said.

“Our hope is that real world experience of existing wind project residents be heard and addressed in the new statewide wind siting rules,” he said.

Invenergy’s decision “will benefit the taxpayers and ratepayers of Wisconsin, as well as preserve the health, safety, and property values of those who would have been forced to live within the industrial turbine project,” the Brown County group said.

The organization said it “will continue to work vigilantly to prevent the irresponsible development of industrial wind projects.”

Supporters of wind energy development say the state of flux on wind rules will stall development, leading to a loss of jobs tied to wind turbine construction as well as revenue for host property owners and local governments.

The PSC rule would not have applied to large wind farms like Invenergy’s, although Walker’s bill would have. Utility observers expect the PSC to adopt consistent standards for all wind projects.

In its most recent wind farm decision, the PSC ruled that 1,250-foot setbacks be required for We Energies’ Glacier Hills Wind Park, now under construction in Columbia County.

Alissa Krinsky, Invenergy spokeswoman, declined to say whether the 1,250-foot setback imposed in the We Energies case would have been acceptable for the Brown County project.

Invenergy said last week it would increase its development efforts outside Wisconsin, in light of regulatory uncertainty here. At the same time, Invenergy said it planned to develop other in-state projects that “do not require as significant an investment during an unstable climate.”

Jeff Anthony, vice president of business development at the American Wind Energy Association, said he realized there was significant opposition to the Invenergy project, but he said the state’s regulatory climate likely proved to be “the last straw” for the Chicago firm.

“This is not rhetoric. This is real, in terms of lost opportunity for jobs and economic development in the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of compromise, Anthony said wind developers already compromised during the drafting of the PSC rule. Along with the setbacks, the noise and shadow requirements set by the PSC “were going to be very tough rules to meet” but provided the industry a framework to proceed with projects, he said.

Next Story

HAWAII WIND DEVELOPER TIED TO LARGEST EVER ASSET SEIZURE BY ANTI-MAFIA POLICE

SOURCE: Hawaii Free Press

Monday March 28, 2011

by Andrew Walden

Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind stood comfortably with Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, Rep Mazie Hirono, and HECO CEO Dick Rosenblum at the grand opening of the Kahuku Wind energy project on Oahu’s North Shore Thursday.   As he should. 

First Wind–formerly known as UPC Wind--got its start in wind energy by launching Italy’s IVPC--a company now subject to a record breaking asset seizure by Italian police.  The Financial Times September 14, 2010 explains:

Italian anti-mafia police have made their largest seizure of assets as part of an investigation into windfarm contracts in Sicily. Officers confiscated property and accounts valued at €1.5bn belonging to a businessman suspected of having links with the mafia.

Roberto Maroni, interior minister, on Tuesday accused the businessman – identified by police as Vito Nicastri and known as the island’s “lord of the winds” – of being close to a fugitive mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro.

General Antonio Mirone, of the anti-mafia police, said the seized assets included 43 companies – some with foreign participation and mostly in the solar and windpower sector – as well as about 100 plots of land, villas and warehouses, luxury cars and a catamaran. More than 60 bank accounts were frozen.

Until his arrest last November, Mr Nicastri, based in the inland hill town of Alcamo, was Sicily’s largest developer of windfarms, arranging purchases of land, financing and official permits. Some projects were sold through intermediaries to foreign renewable energy companies attracted to Italy by generous subsidy schemes….

The renewable energy sector is under scrutiny across much of southern Italy. Some windfarms, built with official subsidies, have never functioned….

Mr Nicastri sold most of his windfarm projects to IVPC, a company near Naples run by Oreste Vigorito, also president of Italy’s windpower association. Mr Vigorito was also arrested last November on suspicion of fraud and later released. He denied wrongdoing.

Of course the folks who started IVPC know nothing about any of this.  Reacting to an earlier round of arrests, First Wind founder Brian Caffyn told the November 15, 2009 Boston Herald: “I read about it in the papers, and I was very surprised.”

Will Hawaii’s windfarms actually work?  The “Clipper Liberty” wind turbines installed at Kahuku and on Maui are made by a company founded by a former Director of Enron Wind.  Clipper Liberty Vice President of Engineering is also an Enron Wind veteran.

Gaynor and Caffyn were once much more public about their corporate ties to Vigorito’s IVPC.  First Wind was originally known as UPC.  The UPC Solar website touts “Mr. Caffyn personally oversaw the establishment and construction of the largest wind energy company in Italy — Italian Vento Power Corporation.”

IVPC’s english-language website states:  “The Group came to light in 1993 from an idea of Oreste Vigorito who formed the company I.V.P.C. S.r.l. on behalf of UPC, an American company which operates in the wind sector in California.”  (Emphasis added.)

The UPC Solar website explains: “UPC’s earliest wind farm developments were built in 1995 in Italy. At the time UPC sold IVPC, its Italian wind business, in 2005, it had built approximately 650MW of capacity representing over 50% of the total installed Italian wind capacity.”

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute News Summer, 2005 reports on the activities of WPI alumnus Gaynor: 

"...As president and CEO of UPC Wind Management, located in Newton, Mass., Gaynor was tapped to bring the success of the parent company, UPC Group, to North America. In Europe and North Africa, UPC affiliates—including Italian Vento Power Corporation—have raised over $900 million in financing and installed some 900 utility-scale wind turbine generators (WTGs), with a total capacity of more than 635 megawatts. UPC subsidiary companies, positioned across the United States and in Toronto, are currently pursing some 2,000 megawatts in projects from Maine to Maui..."

In March, Gaynor secured financing for a $70 million project on the island of Maui. [The project is a joint venture with Makani Nui Associates, which owns 49 percent.] The 30-megawatt wind farm at Kaheawa Pastures will be Hawaii’s first utility-scale project to be put into service since the 1980s. Plans call for 20 towers, 180 feet tall, with 1.5-megawatt General Electric turbines. Construction is expected to begin this summer, and the project should be completed by the first quarter of 2006. When operational, the wind farm will supply up to 9 percent of demand to customers of Maui Electric Company.

The Kaheawa Pastures site is situated on state conservation land, between Ma’aleaea and Olowalu, at elevations ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

Makani Nui is also a partner in the Kahuku Wind project.

Business Week reports that Caffyn is a Director or Partner in dozens of Limited Liability Corporations tied to wind energy projects.  These include Hawaii’s Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC, Kaheawa Wind Power II, LLC, Hawaii Wind Construction, LLC, and UPC Hawaii Wind O&M. 

Caffyn is also listed as a Director or Partner of Italian Vento Power Corporation (IVPC), Srl, IVPC 4, Srl. (Italian Vento Power Corporation), IVPC 6, Srl, IVPC 2000, Srl., IVPC Energy B.V., IVPC Energy 3 B.V., IVPC Energy 4 B.V., IVPC Energy 5, B.V., IVPC Energy 6, B.V., IVPC Energy 7, B.V., IVPC Gestione, Srl, IVPC Management, Srl, IVPC Management 2, Srl and IVPC Marche, Srl. Mr. Caffyn served as Director or Partner of IVPC Marche 2, Srl., IVPC Puglia, Srl, IVPC Service, Srl, IVPC Service 2, Srl, IVPC Service 3, Srl, IVPC Service 4, Srl, IVPC Service 5, Srl, IVPC Service 6, Srl, IVPC Sicilia, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 2, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 3, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 4, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 5, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 6, Srl., IVPC Umbria, Srl., IVPC Wind, Srl.

The UK Independent September 16, 2010 reports:

After decades of drug-running, extortion and prostitution, the Mafia appears to have found a rather more ecological way of laundering their money: green power.

And if the assets of the Italian police's latest target are any indication, the Mafia is embracing the renewable energy business with an enthusiasm that would make Al Gore look like a dilettante. The surprising revelation of organised crime's new green streak came as Italian police said yesterday they had made the largest recorded seizure of mob assets – worth €1.5bn (£1.25bn) ($2.1bn US) – from the Mafia-linked Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, who had vast holdings in alternative energy concerns, including wind farms.

Organised crime in Italy has previously been notorious for trading in environmental destruction – principally earning billions of euros by illegally dumping toxic waste. But most of the newly seized assets are in the form of land, property and bank accounts in Sicily, the home of Cosa Nostra, and in the neighbouring region of Calabria, the base of the rival 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

So naturally, First Wind is very comfortable with Hawaii politicians and business leaders. 

THE FUTURE: Wind Energy's Ghosts

The list First Wind owned companies (some inactive) registered in Hawaii includes the following:

 



ND WIND TURBINE ACCIDENT PEGGED TO BOLT FAILURE


Source: CBS MONEY WATCH

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Bolt failures caused a wind turbine's rotor and blades to fall from a tower in north-central North Dakota, and six other turbines have been shut down while their bolts are replaced, a state regulator said Thursday.

Members of North Dakota's Public Service Commission, which oversaw the development of the 71-turbine wind farm, said Thursday they would seek more detailed information about how widespread the problems may be.

"That's a fair bit of equipment concern that I would have, quite frankly," Commissioner Kevin Cramer said.

The wind project, which was dedicated last October, is located near Rugby in Pierce County. It is capable of generating up to 149 megawatts of electricity.

It is owned by Iberdrola Renewables Inc. of Portland, Ore., which is a unit of Iberdrola Renovables SA of Valencia, Spain. The turbines themselves were manufactured by Suzlon Wind Energy Corp., a unit of Suzlon Energy Ltd., based in India.

Spokeswomen for Iberdrola and Suzlon did not immediately reply to telephone and email requests for comment Thursday. Suzlon has previously described the accident as an isolated incident.

Jerry Lein, a commission utility analyst, said Iberdrola officials told him that bolts that attached the wind turbine's rotor and blades to a power shaft had failed. The shaft transfers the energy generated by the turning blades to an electric generator.

No one was injured when the rotor and blades toppled from the tower March 14 and crashed to the ground.

Lein said the wind farm was shut down and its turbines inspected. The turbines that did not need bolt replacement have been restarted, he said. The damaged material has been sent to a lab for analysis.

"They want to look further into the mechanism there that was failed before," he said. "They said that, specifically, they're replacing the bolts that hold it together."

The bolts are normally checked every six months, Lein said.

Commissioner Brian Kalk said the agency should seek to examine the wind farm's maintenance records. He wants to hear more information from the companies within two weeks, Kalk said.

"I'd like (the companies) to get back in front of us as quickly as possible ... and give us their best estimate of what is going on," Kalk said.

The commission's president, Tony Clark, said the agency should hold an informal hearing on the incident.

"Nobody has a greater incentive to find out what went wrong than the company does," Cramer said. "But, at the same time, the citizens of Pierce County, they're probably a little bit concerned too. ... You might not want to go hiking in the prairie for a while." ´╗┐

3/2/11 Wisconsin PSC wind rules suspended AND No turning, no problem--the money will roll in anyway AND why does big wind make grid guys nervous?

NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Click on the image below to see members of the wind siting council dismiss safety concerns while creating setback guidelines for Wisconsin.

Yesterday, a joint committee that reviews administrative rules suspended the wind rules created by the PSC "on the basis of testimony it received at its February 9, 2011" and on the grounds that the PSC rules "create an emergency relating to public health, safety or welfare"  and are "arbitrary and capricious" and "impose undue hardship on landowners and residents adjacent to wind turbine sites."

 CLICK on image below to watch TV report on the rule suspention SOURCE: FOX 11 NEWS

STATE LAWMAKERS DENY PROPOSAL FOR NEW WIND ENERGY SYSTEMS

SOURCE: The Badger Herald, badgerherald.com

March 1, 2011

By Maggie Sams,

“The purpose of this hearing was not about whether wind is effective but whether this rule by the PSC was reasonable or not.

We are trying to balance the needs of industry workers and health-concerned citizens,” JCRAR co-chair Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said.

“The biggest issue we heard came from testifiers at the hearing that 1,250 ft. is too close and will result in shadow flicker and noise issues.

The health issue from testimony was the determining factor in my vote.”

To the dismay of wind energy advocates, a state legislative committee suspended enacting a rule that would have implemented statewide wind energy production regulations.

The rule would have standardized regulations concerning the construction of wind turbines in the state of Wisconsin. It also included regulations to address issues like noise level and shadow flicker.

Another part of the rule would mandate setback distances between turbines and adjacent, non-participatory properties to equal three times the maximum length of the turbine blade — roughly 1,250 feet. Turbines would only have to be one blade length away from the property hosting it.

Republicans on the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules said they voted against the rule in the interest of citizen health and well-being.

“The purpose of this hearing was not about whether wind is effective but whether this rule by the PSC was reasonable or not. We are trying to balance the needs of industry workers and health-concerned citizens,” JCRAR co-chair Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said. “The biggest issue we heard came from testifiers at the hearing that 1,250 ft. is too close and will result in shadow flicker and noise issues. The health issue from testimony was the determining factor in my vote.”

Although the vote to suspend the wind-siting rule pleased many homeowners living near turbines, it upset wind energy activists. Those who were in support of the rule believed it would have provided a boom to the economy and help create jobs.

“Creating uniform regulations for the state of Wisconsin would have brought hundreds, if not thousands, of job opportunities to the state,” Clean Wisconsin Program Director Amber Meyer Smith said. “With the return to local regulation we have jeopardized at least eleven prospective clean energy projects.”

Not only did advocates claim Wisconsin would lose jobs, but many also said they feared Wisconsin’s wind industry would move to surrounding states.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, echoed concerns that the committee’s vote to suspend the rule was a major setback for the wind industry.

“We have developers of alternative energy — in this case wind — that have been given a kick to the gut. These folks who were going to create jobs are now going to have to go to different states,” Hebl said. “Not only would this have created hundreds of jobs, they would have been green jobs. It would have been a win-win.”

The rule would have become effective March 1, but the JCRAR chose to have another hearing to suspend the wind-siting rule after a long and passionate hearing on the rule Feb. 9.

“We heard nearly nine hours of testimony during February’s hearing,” Ott said. “Based on the testimony — some pro and a lot of con — we decided to hold a motion to suspend the rule. This is a situation where the legislature is exercising its oversight of a public agency.”

The committee voted 5-2 along party lines. The committee normally has ten voting members, but two of the 14 Democratic senators in Illinois to prevent a vote on the budget repair bill did not attend, and one Republican was on leave for unknown reasons.

COMMITTEE SUSPENDS RULE GOVERNING PLACEMENT OF WIND TURBINES

SOURCE: Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com

March 1, 2011

By Thomas Content

A legislative committee voted Tuesday to suspend rules adopted by the state Public Service Commission last year regarding the placement of wind turbines.

The 5-2 vote by the joint committee that reviews administrative rules means there are now no statewide standards in place governing setbacks – the minimum distance between a turbine and a nearby home – and other permitting requirements for wind turbines on small wind projects.

In a debate that has pitted economic development opportunity against concerns about property rights, wind energy supporters argued in favor of the rule while critics of wind power projects contended it was not restrictive enough.

The PSC rule, finalized in December, would have taken effect Tuesday if the vote had failed.

Jennifer Giegerich of the League of Conservation Voters expressed disappointment with the vote, saying it sends the wrong message on job creation at a time when the wind components industry in the state has been expanding.

“Now we’re back to where we were two years ago when wind developers said Wisconsin was an unfriendly place to build,” she said.

The full Legislature must follow up on the committee’s vote by passing a bill to throw out the PSC rule. A bill under consideration would send the matter back to the PSC for revision, giving the agency seven months to complete that work, said Scott Grosz, a state Legislative Council attorney.

Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) said the PSC rule was tantamount to “a government-sanctioned taking because it reduced the value of property for nonparticipating landowners without their consent and without compensation.”

But Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) said all energy choices are controversial, including coal, and it’s important for the state to support wind energy.

“This is the next generation of technology,” he said. “Why would we not be supporting this when they say if you suspend these rules they’ll just go to another state.”

The American Wind Energy Association said the PSC rule was restrictive enough, given that it set specific noise limits and restrictions on shadow flicker in addition to turbine distance setbacks.

“These rules were developed collaboratively by the wind energy industry and all major stakeholders in Wisconsin, based on input from six public hearings and two years of information gathering, to protect the interests of all involved parties,” said Jeff Anthony, director of business development at the American Wind Energy Association and a Wisconsin resident.

But Bob Welch, a lobbyist for the Coalition for Wisconsin Environmental Stewardship, which represents groups that have been fighting wind projects, said his constituents need a “fair hearing” at the PSC. “As far as those who want to build wind turbines in Wisconsin, all they’ve got to do is treat their neighbors fairly,” Welch said. “Property rights need to be protected.”

SECOND FEATURE:

WHY AREN'T LACKAWANNA WINDMILLS TURNING?

SOURCE: wivb.com

 March 1 2011,

George Richert, 

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Have you noticed many of the new windmills along Route 5 are not working?

This isn’t the first time they’ve had mechanical problems, and we managed to dig up some hard numbers on just how much electricity they actually are generating.

In its first year, Steelwinds had to replace all of the gear boxes in the eight turbines. The next year, the blades had to be fixed. And for this entire winter, only half of the Lackawanna windmills have been working at any given time.

So we did some research to see just how much electricity these turbines have actually been producing. According to the numbers filed with the NY Independent System Operator, the eight Lackawanna windmills averaged about 40 Megawatt hours of electricity per year in 2008 and 2009. That’s enough to power almost 6,000 homes, and works out to about 23 percent of its capacity. 100 percent would only be achieved in a constant wind, with turbines that never needed maintenance, so 30 percent is the average capacity for a wind farm.

The bottom line is Steelwinds is putting out less electricity than an average wind farm, partly because of mechanical problems, but it has no effect what Lackawanna gets.

Mayor Norman Polanski said, “We still get our money from them, our $100,000 a year. Uh, but people call about them all the time, they want to know what’s going on.”

At the going rate for electricity, Steelwinds is still making over $2 million a year for the electricity it is generating. On top of that, its investors get an extra two cents a kilowatt for going green. So the investors that helped pay a million bucks to build each one of these turbines get $800,000 every year in federal tax credits.

Steelwinds has plans to build six more, but the company just notified Erie County that plans have been “delayed for several months” until next December because of “delays in completing all of the PILOT agreements, and other circumstances beyond Erie Wind’s control.” You can read the full letter here.

We reached the project manager and a Steelwinds spokesman weeks ago about this story, but they had no comment about any of it.

UPDATE: John Lamontagne of First Wind contacted News 4 Tuesday night with this explanation: “The turbines are currently down due to composite work being completed in the towers. Given the scope of work being done and the the harsh winter conditions, there has been a delay in returning the turbines to service. We expect the turbines to return to service in the near future.”

´╗┐NEXT FEATURE:

 WIND SHORTFALLS MAKE GRID GUYS NERVOUS

Source: energyBiz: For Leaders in the Global Power Industry

March 2, 2011

By Ken Silverstein

When it comes to integrating wind into the transmission lines, system operators say that they are challenged. While they understand and appreciate the reasoning, they are saying that the networks lack the flexibility to handle wind variation. 

Green energy has a lot of public appeal. But the intermittent nature of wind and solar power coupled with the relatively higher costs put the grid’s traffic cops in an untenable position. Those are the fellows whose job it is to schedule the resources to where they need to be so that the electricity keeps flowing. Their task is to maintain that reliability with the lowest-priced fuels. 
 
“We have to be truthful about what the impact will be,” says Jim Detmers, principal in Power Systems Resources and the former chief operating officer of the California ISO. “The devil is in the details. These new embedded costs will be significant.” Better communication with policymakers is essential. 

In the case of California, it now has 3,000 megawatts of wind. In a few years, that will be 7,000 megawatts. A few years later, it will be 10,000 megawatts. By 2020, the goal is to have 33 percent of electricity generated from renewable energy. “That’s making grid operators nervous,” says Detmers, who spoke at Wartsila’s <http://www.wartsila.com/en_US/about-us/overview>  Flexible Power Symposium in Vail, Colo. 
 
Simply, the wind does not blow on demand. Ditto for the sun. So these resources must be backed up with other, “dispatchable” forms of generation. But such “firming” or “cycling” creates two distinct issues: The first is that the power is not free and the second is that if coal plants are “cycled” up and down, they release more pollutants per unit of output than if they ran full steam ahead. 

No doubt, the price of wind and solar energy is falling while their productivity rates are increasing. But the technologies still have a ways to go. 

“If you are a grid operator, you must be dispassionate and follow the engineering,” says David O’Brien, former head of the Vermont’s Department of Public Service and now a consultant for Bridge Energy Group, during a phone call. “The best thing they can do is to provide the data to their stakeholders and to be an honest broker. But they have to ultimately accept the policy mandates.”

Public Demands
 
According to Steve Lefton, director of Intertek Aptek who also spoke at the Wartsila conference, those base-load coal units developed decades ago were never designed to firm-up wind generation. They were made to run at full capacity. So when they are used as such, they create excess emissions. 
 
As wind energy increases its market share, thermal plants can be expected to rev up and down more often. If coal is the main fuel source that is dispatched, it will decrease the emissions savings from wind. 
 
“The actual emissions reduction rates from wind are far less than what the lobbyists are touting,” if system operators do not have the flexibility to use cleaner backup fuels, says Brannin McBee, energy analyst for Bentek Energy <http://www.bentekenergy.com/> , a speaker at the conference. “Thermal plant cycling is also very expensive,” particularly if the older coal plants are used to firm up the wind generation. 
 
With the public demands to increase green energy growing, what might be an optimal firming fuel? The answer could be natural gas. Regulators tend to favor it because it releases far fewer emissions than coal while the price is expected to remain low at $4-$7 per million BTUs. 
 
Coal facilities without carbon capture and sequestration cannot get the permits to operate, says Doug Egan, chief executive of Competitive Power Ventures. And if the plants are built with such capacity they are too costly. Even those with coal gasification that nearly eliminate the sulfur, nitrogen oxide and mercury but which don’t capture and bury the carbon are prohibitively expensive, he adds. 
 
In recent years, developers have abandoned their plans to build 38 coal plants, says the Sierra Club <http://sierraclub.typepad.com/compass/2010/12/this-year-the-outlook-dimmed-for-coal.html> . Meanwhile, it says that 48 more can be expected to be retired. 
 
Natural gas is the most plausible option to firm up wind and solar. More than enough of it exists with the recent discoveries of shale gas, the unconventional source that is extracted from rocks more than a mile beneath the ground using hydraulic fracturing. That withdrawal technique, though, is under fire from some community organizations that say it is polluting their drinking water. 
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants developers to voluntarily disclose the chemicals they are using as a way to ease tensions. Producers are balking for now, saying its exploratory methods are proprietary. 

“Fracking can be dealt with,” says Egan. “Producers will share their secret sauce. It will make it the process slightly less efficient. But a deal with get cut.” 
 
Managing a grid and keeping the lights on is difficult. Green energy’s role will increase but so too will the challenges associated with delivering it -- facts that must be relayed to policymakers and customers alike. Older coal plants present the most issues but the newer gas-fired generation may be more accommodating.

7/28/10 DOUBLE FEATURE: Wind foxes finalize rules for hen house, and they look just like the old ones that have caused so much trouble for residents of rural Wisconsin AND Yet another wind turbine blade failure in an Invenergy wind project 

What happens when rules are written by those who stand to gain financially from the outcome?

Wind siting council member Larry Wunsch has been living with a 400 foot tall wind turbine sited just 1100 feet from his door for over two years.

Council Member Dwight Sattler lives about half a mile from the closest turbine to his house. He says he can sometimes hear them, but at half a mile it doesn't bother him.

At half a mile, no problem. At 1100 feet, the noise is bad enough to cause the Wunsch family to put their home up for sale.

Longer setbacks and lower noise limits mean greater protection for rural Wisconsin residents, but less money for those with financial interests.

Should the wind siting council consider what Larry Wunsch has to say when creating siting recommendations for our state?

Or should they follow Wind Sitng Council chairman Dan Ebert's lead and gloss over the issues to speed up the process in order to create guidelines which protect business interests instead of residents of rural Wisconsin?

SECOND FEATURE:

ANOTHER 'CAUSE UNKNOWN' TURBINE BLADE FAILURE IN ILLINOIS

SOURCE: The Times, mywebtimes.com

July 27, 2010 Dan Churney,

Barbara Ellsworth was troubled, but not surprised Saturday morning when she spotted a broken blade on a wind tower near her home.

“We thought, ‘Hah! We knew that would happen.’”

Ellsworth and her husband Mike live three miles south of Marseilles on East 2450th Road, about 1,200 feet from a wind turbine and about 2,500 feet from one of the two towers damaged during the weekend, possibly by high winds. Chicago-based Invenergy Wind operates the string of towers that run through southeastern La Salle County.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY

6/9/10 "Struck by the Incredible Distrust" : Wind siting council chairman shows up with a long speech and a draft proposal of new rules

 Home in the Invenergy wind project near the Town of Byron in Fond du Lac County.  

Yesterday, after a presentation and discussion about how wind projects affect property values,  Wind Siting Council Chairman Dan Ebert presented a draft proposal of the council's siting rules.

This was not on the agenda and for many of us it was a complete surprise.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE DRAFT

The draft proposal has the same noise limits the commission used for the Glacier Hills project however there is no numerical setback from homes. Mr. Ebert explained that a specific setback number was not needed for siting wind turbines in our state.

Before presenting the draft, Ebert gave a lengthy preamble about how Wisconsin had developed a national reputation as an anti-wind state, that the state was losing out economically because of this, how we needed wind projects to meet the renewables mandate, preserve the family farms in our state and to encourage manufacturing and job growth.

The transcription below takes it from there.

Dan Ebert is the vice president of policy and external affairs for WPPI Energy. Previously, he served with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for five years, including three as  Chairman. He is also Chairman of CREWE.

From the CREWE website: "The Coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) has been formed by business stakeholders to partner with the administration, task force members, lawmakers and other businesses and stakeholders as energy policies are developed that transition Wisconsin to a sound economy powered by new green jobs and investment."

 

Transcript taken from the PSC broadcast of the Wind Siting Council meeting,
June 9, 2010


DAN EBERT:
I am struck by the incredible distrust that exists in this state between the various stake holders on this issue.

 I think if we had, five years ago, created this council and had the commission move forward with rules, I think we would be at a very different place in this state.

It is about protecting landowners, it is about the economics of wind, it's about meeting the RPS, it's about health and safety. All of the issues we have been debating and discussing.

Five years ago it was the 'wild west' of wind. You had wind developers coming in, they didn't really have a sense of how to engage with landowners, how to create an environment where you can have a constructive dialog and resolve differences, complaint resolution if you will, we didn't have that.

And because of that--- and on the flip side of that, I think we've also had some bad actors on these issues. I think there are some in this state who have just said "No way, ever never. I don't want to see a wind turbine in my view shed.

And so they have taken the position that, 'We're just going to say no because I own this piece of property and there is going to be an impact, whether it's 1100 feet, in Larry's case, or in the case of the view shed. You know, it could be half mile, it could be a mile away. I'm just going to say no because that's what I want to have happen'

And so developers have been faced with that kind of environment, which I think has spoiled the environment for them. How do you engage constructively when the opponents are raising issues that are not really the issue?

It's not really about sound, it's not really about shadow-flicker, it's really about--- and Larry, the very real impacts that you have shared with all of us, those are real.

And if the motivation had been consistent throughout and your-- the issues that you have brought to this council have been able to be worked on in a constructive environment instead I think a lot of people have used it to say "We're just going to oppose these things and we're going to throw as much against the wall as we can" and I think it's really spoiled the environment.

So I think there's been a fair amount of, you know, mistakes, on many sides of this issue and this debate that have really spoiled the environment. And so as I thought about sort of what's the right framework, one of themes that came through and that I hope I have been able to put in this straw proposal is to level the playing field to allow for constructive dialog between the various stake-holders in this issue where one is not empowered over the other, one cannot just say no, and one can't just say "We're going to put his thing 800 feet from your house."

But rather to create an environment where an honest dialog and discussion can occur and that there are tools that developers have and that landowners have, property owners, local governments, tools in the toolbox, to help make sure that this debate can in fact happen in a constructive way, to work through and resolve issues.

I think if our motivation is those people who just want to say no and that there's ever ever going to be another wind turbine built anywhere that impacts them, this council is not going to get there.

But if we want to talk about how we level the playing field and allow for and give both the developers, utilities, landowners, local government the tools I think we can get there based on last weeks conversation.

And I have been significantly influenced by the people around this table. Tom and George on the real estate issue, I don't agree with you, uh, all the way. I don't think the case has been made about real estate impacts. But I do think the issue of real estate is on that I have a much greater sensitivity than before this wind siting council started.

You know, Bill, I've listened to your passionate description of the personal stake that you have put into building a business, and that's really what you are doing, is you're building a business and you put your own personal family finances on the line because you're committed to building a business and you're trying to do it the right way.

You know, Larry, you have been an effective spokesperson for the impacts. I am not convinced that they-- that we have the evidence to say that there are health impacts.

I am convinced that there are clear impacts for landowners and that in the early days certainly there have been mistakes made in how you deal with landowners and how you resolve conflicts and up to a point empower landowners to protect what they have.

The decision that you made to locate where you did for the reasons you did, you know it could have been handled better and it could have been resolved in a better way.

Jevon's not here but I found, you know, the work that he put in I think has been invaluable to the group. Again, I know there's some folks who don't necessarily agree with some of the conclusions that he made but I think his process and the serious approach that he took has really provided a valuable amount of information for this group.

Jennifer, you're the one person here, maybe not the only one but clearly focussed on economic impacts and what you're trying to do is to create a workforce to support an industry and that is what, quite frankly, one of the driving forces for the legislation.

The legislature wants to create an environment in the state where we can build wind turbines within reason, within a regulatory framework, but we can also then go and create some jobs and economic development around this burgeoning industry.

So, having said all of that, I have taken, uh, I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, I've put together a framework, it is a straw proposal, it is not going to be the final product of this group, but what I've tried to do is capture what I think I heard last week.

And I will tell you that everybody around this table will find something that they disagree with and somethings that you disagree with vehemently. What I tried to do is listen carefully and understand where the council members are and put together a framework that we can shoot at.

I hope you don't shoot at me. You can shoot at the proposal. Because what I'm really trying to do is move the debate forward. We've struggled for the last couple of weeks about how to move forward.

And I think as a group we need to, you know, roll up our sleeves and let's start taking a look at the issues and figure out where this council is.

I would suspect that there will be--- we'll have to have some votes. Just listening to the conversation I think we're going to have to have the group-- I think we're going to have to make some votes.

I also believe-- and you will see in what I'm going to hand out here-- that there's a lot that there's already relative consensus. A tweak here and there but there are some aspects of this rule that already have a significant amount of consensus.

But there are going to be those areas, primarily the areas that we talked about last week and this week where there's going to be a difference of opinion and as a group we're going to have to work through those.

So, having said that, I'm going to hand this out and put on my bullet proof vest.

[Pause while Ebert goes around the room to hand the straw rules to each council member]

What I would suggest is that we spend, that I spend just a few minutes going through it. And I'm going to jump over the areas of consensus pretty quickly but I think if council members could look a that and just identify those areas where they are concerned that there may not be consensus and let me know. Actually, probably let Deb know just to make sure we're complying with all of our rules and guidelines for us.

But what I tried to do is, based on all of the issues in the draft rule, identify those areas where I think, you know, again, there might be a tweak here or there but there is general consensus of the group. And part of that is just driven by focus and attention of the council members so there might be some here where I have, where we haven't had a chance to get to it yet or other things, so I just ask you to look through that and let Deb know if in fact those areas are in fact pretty close to consensus.

And then it's actually on page three [AUDIO DROPS OUT OF PSC BROADCAST]

[RESUMES SOME MOMENTS LATER] Have on-going responsibility. Just based on what we have before us today I think the setback is 1.1 times the height. But I also, and Larry, in deference to the possibility [AUDIO DROPS OUT]

[RESUMES] I think the council should revisit the 1.1 [AUDIO DROPS OUT]

[RESUMES] the conversation that this group has had but there is a clear difference around the issues related to those small projects and the larger projects and so I would propose that that's where this group start the debate and the discussion.

On noise standard I am persuaded that setting a numeric target is the right protection for particularly non participating landowners. You set it at 1200 feet or 1500 feet you may or may not capture the decibel levels. So I am suggesting what this group do is focus on a policy framework not a setback number around a noise.

And I'm persuaded by what we have heard and the conversation we have had that 45 decibels on a summer night, 50 decibels on a day and non summer night -- and I have to say I was very persuaded by our sound engineer, I mean we all wanted to hear from him.

And the impacts obviously will vary based on the house and insulation and topology and all those sort of things but 10 to 15 decibels below something measured outside is the right standard to end up with.

I would like to highlight at this point connection between the noise and I would also put shadow flicker in there with compensation.

I believe that part of the problem, and we heard it again today, with one of our folks, one of our witnesses here today, that the issue of non-compensation for non-participating landowners has been a significant contributor to the controversy around wind.

And I think for non-participating landowners and I would define that not as the entire area of a project but really those landowners that are adjacent to, and next to, and impacted by the placement of turbines,  that if--- I believe that one of the ways to level the playing field and to allow-- to not give-- to give a non-participating landowner more influence in the debate is to allow them to receive some compensation. And to allow a developer to negotiate with a non participating landowner in return for compensation. And I believe that will resolve many- the majority of the issues. It's not going to resolve them all, I recognize that, but I think tying-- setting what in effect are impacts that are more on the annoyance and impacting the value of a landowner.

Again, I'm not persuaded that the record supports health impacts the way that a health professional would define it.  So as I think about setting the setbacks and the perimeters it's really about what is the minimal protection for particularly non participating landowners.

To set clear standards, to set what I believe are reasonable standards, they are not perfect and they are not going to resolve every single one of the issues but I think they are clear and I think they set the benchmark and then allow a developer the ability to negotiate with that person and to compensate that person to waive some of these frameworks.

Around shadow-flicker, I think the maximum shadow flicker experience at a non-participating residence should be set at 25 hours per year. We should use computer modeling to really try to as best we can estimate that. And that any non-participating residence who can show that they get more than 20 hours of shadow flicker per year automatically are eligible for mitigation.

I think, again, what we want to do is set up a transparent process. You, as a non-participating landowner may receive up to 25 hours per year. If you get more than 20 you do get mitigation, that is your right.

Again, I think individual landowners can waive those for compensation.

On signal interference, I'm persuaded that you're impacting the quality of life, you're not impacting them for a year, your impacting them for the duration that they are there. So I am persuaded that the developer should remedy television, radio, and cellular telephone interference for the life of the wind energy system. I'm open to for the life of the wind energy system and for the duration that they are at that residence.

I think, you know, a new-- somebody buying the property, coming in, probably would have the-- would understand that goes with it--- I think that's open to debate and conversation.

On the notification requirements, I really sort of struggled with this because I understand Tom and other's point about , you know, we should really let the community know as soon as possible.

But I think the balance that I tried to strike here is we should also allow the free enterprise system and an entrepenuer to have some conversations, develop a project, start developing a project, but once that entity understands that there is going to be a project that they give 180 days before the application goes in or before construction begins as the case may be.

I believe that's the right balance that should be struck on the notification requirements. And again, on a small wind energy system, I think 90 days before a project-- as a practical matter, if I'm going to put up a small project on my property I'm probably going to be talking to my neighbors before I get to that point.

I also struggled quite a bit on complaint resolution because I am inclined in this area to be a little bit more prescriptive. But, in-- I mentioned in the beginning the balance, leveling the playing field. I think reasonable efforts on the part of the developer to establish a complaint resolution process and to work with the local government to work through these.

And I think it's a common sense. And Andy I think, I really in particular have valued your expertise and guidance throughout this process because I think that as a company and I think that other council members recognize that, you guys have done a pretty good job of striking this balance and so I was persuaded on the complaint resolution process that that is valuable but I'm also hesitant to prescribe a particular solution because I think every community is different, every developer is different, and it should really be, you know, an honest effort between the local government and the developers to set up that complaint resolution process.

So I think to have the rules say you guys should do this without prescribing a particular solution is the best way to proceed.

Again, this is an area where the wind siting council on an ongoing basis could revisit this and wether or not there are good faith efforts being made by developers and by local governments to try to resolve-- to create a process to resolve and work through these complaints.

Again I think, similar to the compensation, I think this process, if developers had used this process I believe an overwhelming majority of the complaints could have been resolved and could have been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. But there wasn't a tradition. There wasn't a history of doing this.

So, on the wind lease and easements, and decommissioning, you will note that I tracked pretty closely to the draft rule. I believe the rules probably came out pretty close in that area.

This is a straw proposal. It's designed to prompt what I am confident will be a vigorous debate and discussion. Just to have a framework out there to shoot at.


5/24/10 What's on the Wind Siting Council Docket?

HAVE YOU REACHED OUT AND TOUCHED YOUR PSC TODAY?

The PSC is asking for public comment on the recently approved draft siting rules

CLICK HERE to get a copy of the draft siting rules approved by the commissioners on May 14th, and to find out more about the Wind Siting Council

CLICK HERE and type in docket number 1-AC-231 to read what's been posted so far.

CLICK HERE to leave a comment on the Wind Siting Council Docket

What's on the docket?

This from Jarret Treu, a resident of Brown County:

 As a resident of the state who will be directly impacted by your committee`s decisions, I read your draft rules with a great deal of disappointment. What was published left me greatly disappointed for its lack of depth and clarity. What upsets me the most is not what is written, but what is not written. The document does very little to settle the most basic complaints that people have expressed to the PSC in any authoritative manner. Little to no specific referencing of source materials or studies is sited in the draft rules.

Specifically, I would like to know what published scientific literature was used to determine these distances? What expert testimony was referenced and debated to arrive at these distances? What empirical studies did your committee reference of people living in actual wind farms with over 100 megawatts of capacity? How did you reconcile the different setback distance requirements that are promulgated by different states, scientific bodies, and international standards?

Again, I ask your committee to take the time that it needs to arrive at rules that will stand the test of time and not harm the well being of the people of Wisconsin. That should be your primary task.

 I affirm that these comments are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Jarret Treu

In addition:

 Please consider the following information in changing current draft rules to reflect the following scientific information. Setbacks as currently presented in the draft plan will produce noise complaints and loss of sleep to a great number of people.

Acoustic Ecology Institute Fact Sheet:
Wind Energy Noise Impacts
Excerpted from a 25-page AEI Special Report: Wind Energy Noise Impacts, available at: AcousticEcology.org/srwind.html

This AEI Fact Sheet is not intended to over-emphasize noise complaints, but rather to provide information that can foster informed conversation about any specific wind farm proposal.

As you'll read below, it appears that noise can be a significant issue in at least some situations when turbines are within about a half mile of homes, with impacts occasionally occurring up to a mile away.

Some acousticians and health professionals are encouraging setbacks of 1.5 miles (roughly 2km) or even a bit more. In the US, it is quite common to have setbacks defined as a multiple of turbine height; for example, 5 times the turbine height from a home (which would equate to 500m for a 100m turbine).

It appears to AEI that a half-mile (800m) setback is marginally acceptable if the goal is to minimize impacts on residents, though we would prefer a one-mile (1.5km) setback, which would offer near assurance of avoiding noise issues.

Each proposed wind farm site is unique and must be evaluated based on local topographic, atmospheric, and land use patterns. Prevailing wind direction is a key factor, as is topography.

A recent UK government survey suggests that about 20% of wind farms tend to generate noise complaints; the question is, what are the factors in those wind farms that may be problematic, and how can we avoid replicating these situations elsewhere?

Noise impacts are not necessarily deal-killers for wind energy, as long as developers are honest about what is likely to be heard and continue to work diligently to investigate the aspects of wind turbine noise that are still not fully understood.

The Altamont Wind Farm in California, built on a major raptor flyway in the early years of industrial wind development, has continued to be a poster child for the bird-killing power of wind turbines, despite widespread understanding that it was an exceedingly bad siting decision, one not likely to be repeated.

Similarly, many noise complaints today seem to be coming from people whose homes are on the near edge of fairly lax setback guidelines (within 1500 feet in many cases). Will a few ill-considered siting choices similarly poison attitudes about noise issues?

Resistance to wind farms is often belittled as NIMBY-ism (Not In My Backyard); but at the same time, proponents often slip into oversimplified WARYDU rhetoric (We Are Right; You Don't Understand). If we are to forge a reliable energy future that is respectful of both the environment and the rights of neighbors, we'll need to move past knee-jerk reactions on both sides, and develop best practices that can ensure that the landscape and local residents don't become long-term casualties of today's "Klondike Wind Rush."

How Noisy Are Wind Turbines?

The US National Wind Coordinating Collaborative, a multi-stakeholder group that aims to facilitate wind development, summarizes the situation in fairly straightforward terms:

In a similar vein, the American Wind Energy Association's fact sheet on noise notes that "Today, an operating wind farm at a distance of 750 to 1,000 feet is no noisier than a kitchen refrigerator." This raises a question: how many of us sleep in the kitchen?

The bottom line is that most modern industrial wind turbines are designed to keep noise levels at or below 45dB at 1000 feet (350 meters), which should drop to 35-40dB at a bit over a half mile (1000m); commercial turbines are quite often built this close to homes.

Some are rated at lower sound levels. However, as is noted below, atmospheric conditions can wreak havoc with nice clean sound propagation models, especially at night.

And, as turbines get bigger, their noise can be deceptively hard to predict; certainly, they can be quieter at their bases than some distance away, and temperature inversions, wind layers, and other atmospheric effects can lead to surprisingly distant sound impacts.

It appears that turbine noise travels farther in calm night air; one widely-respected study (van den Berg, see below) found that sound levels were 5-15dB louder than predicted in some night-time atmospheric conditions, and noted that residents as far as 1.9km away were disturbed by noise.

In nearly all cases, those downwind bear the brunt of the sound; if you live upwind of a wind farm, noise problems will likely be far less severe.

It is important to recognize that night-time ambient noise levels in rural areas are often 35dB or lower; so, it is not that hard for wind farms to become a new and dominant acoustic presence.

All too often, wind developers tell local planning boards that the turbines will be inaudible, which is rarely the case. Similarly, some investigations of noise complaints come to the conclusion that anomalously high noise levels occur so infrequently that they are insignificant.

But if temperature inversions or other atmospheric stability effects that cause excessive noise occur just 10% of the nights, that means that nearby residents may find their sleep disturbed 35 nights a year. Is this insignificant? Such questions need to be considered directly, not shunted aside.

While in many situations, the sound from turbines is drowned out by nearby wind noise, or is perceived as a gentle whooshing noise that is quite easy to accommodate, in some wind or atmospheric conditions, a pulsing noise can arise, which is much harder to ignore or acclimate to, making it a major source of complaints.

Perceptually, the problem is that any pulsed or irregular sound (this rhythmic thumping tends to wax and wane over the course of a night) will tend to cause more disturbance.

These pulses, sometimes termed Amplitude Modulation, are usually loudest in one or two specific directions, depending on the wind direction.

When considering noise predictions, beware of overly simplistic comparisons of sound levels. Acousticians, as well as advocacy organizations on both sides of the issue, will often say a turbine`s noise is "equal to" or "the same as" a familiar sound (distant traffic, quiet conversation), or is "twice as loud" as something else (perhaps the background noise level).

While these comparisons have a basis in physics and our anatomical responses, the fact is that humans do not perceive and compare sounds as neatly as they perceive, say, height or weight.

Certainly, "twice as loud" is an indefinite value for most people; and, equivalent dB value sounds are experienced very differently depending on the nature of the sound itself and the situation in which we hear it.

By and large, those affected by the noise generated by wind turbines live within a few miles of a large wind power plant or within several hundred feet of a small plant or individual turbine.

Although the noise at these distances is not great, it nevertheless is sufficient to be heard indoors and may be especially disturbing in the middle of the night when traffic and household sounds are diminished.

Low-Frequency Noise

In some cases, low-frequency noise can become an issue with wind turbines. These sounds may be inaudible to the human ear, yet still cause physiological responses in the body.

Such low-frequency noise can be transmitted through the ground from towers, or be part of the broadband noise field generated by spinning turbine blades. Low-frequency noise travels greater distances with less loss of intensity than higher-frequency sound.

It is important to measure the noise from turbines using a dbC scale, sometimes written db(C), which is weighted to accentuate low-frequency components of a sound. Most noise standards are weighted to the dBA/dB(A) scale, which accentuates frequencies heard best by the human ear.

It is becoming a standard procedure in dealing with industrial and machine noise to compare dBC and dBA readings; when dBC is 20dB more than dBA, or when dBC is 60dB or higher, it is considered an indicator that low-frequency noise is at problematic levels, and the need for special low-frequency mitigation is then generally called for.

Health Effects

The World Health Organization has found that to protect children's health sound levels should be less than 30 dBA during sleeping periods. They note that a child's autonomous nervous system is 10 to 15 dB more sensitive to noise than adults (WHO night time recommendations for the general public are 30dB inside bedrooms, and 45dB outside open bedroom windows).

Even for adults, health effects are first noted in some studies when the sound levels exceed 32 dBA, 10-20 dBA lower than the levels needed to cause awakening. The WHO researchers found that sound levels of 50 dBA or more strongly disrupted hormone secretion cycles.

For sounds that contain a strong low frequency component, which is typical of wind turbines, WHO says that the limits may need to be even lower than 30 dBA to not put people at risk.

In early 2009, New York physician Nina Pierpont will release a book that summarizes her preliminary research into the health effects of wind farms, centering on a "case series" study of people with similar physical responses in different locations. She proposes a new term, Wind Turbine Syndrome, to describe what she suspects is a vestibular system (inner ear/balance) disturbance. (It should be clearly noted that only a small proportion of people living near turbines are strongly affected; Pierpont's work focuses on those few and is a first step at moving past a simplistic "it's all in their heads" response to these cases.)

While industry sources object to this focus on the few with special sensitivity, Pierpont is undertaking the first step in standard medical research: case series studies describe a new health issue, and provide a basis for design of more detailed field and clinical studies.

Her work is generating a surprising amount of enthusiastic praise from fellow doctors, and marks an important new threshold in our consideration of the impacts of wind farms on people living within a mile or so.

Noise Measurement

When the "experts" begin talking about noise, they throw around terms that can make most people`s eyes glaze over. A key factor is that noise is generally measured over a period of time, stated in decibels (usually in dBA; weighted to match human hearing), and then characterized in various statistical shorthands, to clarify different aspects of sound fluctuations.

These include: Leq/LAeq (sound level averaged over a given period of time; will be lower than the loudest sounds and higher than the quietest times); L90/LA90 (sound is louder than this 90% of the time; represents the generally quietest times); L10/LA10 (sound is louder than this only 10% of the time; represents generally loudest times, excluding extreme transient noises).

A crucial decision when writing regulations meant to protect citizens from noise during quiet times of day or night is what period either turbine noise or existing "ambient" background noise is averaged over; day-long averages or 12-hour averages (both of which are preferred by industry noise consultants), can lead to noise standards that do not represent the quietest ambient or loudest turbine conditions, which is exactly when turbine noise can be an issue. A better approach is hourly (or three-hour) averages throughout the day or night, with regulated limits being tied to the quietest ambient period.

What Some Neighbors Are Hearing

Here are a few of the most compelling "real world" reports from people affected by wind farm noise:

Juniata Township, Altoona, PA: 2000-3300 feet from wind farm with 40 turbines

Resident Jill Stull (turbines 2000ft/600m from her house) said, ``You know when you're standing outside and you hear a plane coming about 30,000 feet overhead, then it goes off in the distance? It sounds like those planes are 5,000 feet above your house and circling and never land."

The Stulls said they could move, but they aren't going to. ``We're not going anywhere. I just want them to be quiet. I'm not going to jump on the `I hate windmills' bandwagon because I don't," Jill Stull said. ``I'm just tired of nobody listening. My point is what is your peace of mind worth? I can't play outside with my kids back at the pond in the woods because it gives me a headache."

"On a calm day, you come outside and try to enjoy a nice peaceful day, and all you hear is the noise all the time and you can't get away from it," said Bob Castel, who has two turbines behind his house. "The first time they started them up, I didn't know what it was. I was like man, that's a weird noise. It was that loud," said Castel.

Elmira, Prince Edward Island: 1km (3300 feet) from wind farm with ten 120m turbines

Problems began within weeks after the turbines started operating. Downwind from the turbines, when the air was moving just enough to turn them (12-15 knots from the northeast), the noise was loud. It was a repetitive modulated drone of sound.

Dwayne Bailey and his father Kevin both claimed it sometimes was loud enough to rattle the windows of their homes on the family farmstead. The sound was even worse in the field behind their homes. Distances from 1 to 1.5 kilometers were the areas of the most annoying sounds. This spring the winds created constant misery.

"My idea of noise is a horn blowing or a tractor - it disappears," said Sheila Bailey. "This doesn't disappear. Your ears ring. That goes on continuously." Dwayne developed headaches, popping and ringing ears, and could not sleep. He tried new glasses, prescription sleep aids and earplugs, to no avail.

Dwayne`s two year old was sleeping well prior to the wind farm, but began waking up, 5- 6 times a night.

Freedom, Maine: 1000 and 1400 feet from wind turbines

Local resident Phil Bloomstein used a sound meter to record decibel levels at his home. The results, which Bloomstein captures on a laptop, show a mean sound level of over 52 decibels, never dropping below 48 and peaking at 59 decibels. "When the turbines were being proposed to be put up," he says, "we were told that 45 decibels would be as loud as it would get except for ... no more than eight days a year."

Neighbor Jeff Keating, a bit further from the closest turbine, said, to date, the noise has woken him up three times at night. He likened the experience to hearing the furnace kick on, then lying awake mad about having been woken. "It's not just a physical thing," he said, "there's an emotional side."

Keating's neighbor Steve Bennett said he hears the turbines at all times of day. "It's like a jet plane flying overhead that just stays there," he said.

Complaints from wind farm neighbors about noise are often discounted as the griping of a tiny but very vocal minority. Are we simply hearing from the most sensitive or the most crotchety people? A recent research paper suggests not.

Christopher Bajdek`s paper focused on creating realistic expectations about noise (and in so doing, countered both over- reactions of some websites and overly sanguine projections by industry reps).

Presented at NOISECON 2007, a noise control industry conference, it included two key maps that charted dB measurements and the percentage of residents who were "highly annoyed" by the noise: 44-50% of people under a half mile away were "highly annoyed" (over a third within a half mile had been awakened by turbine noise); only as sound levels drop below 40dB do annoyance levels drop substantially; as sound drops below 35dB (a bit under a mile from nearest turbines), annoyance drops to 4% and less.

Bajdek noted higher annoyance responses to wind farms than to other similarly loud industrial noises, such as roads and railroads, with the supposition that visual impacts elevate reported annoyance.

However, that cannot account for the many people awakened by the noise; the irregularity of turbine noise may be a more important factor in making wind farms more annoying than other industrial sounds.

From a distance, the jet plane analogy fits the sound produced by the turbines - a white noise suggestive of a plane that never entirely passes. Closer to the turbines the sound quality changes.

Each turbine rotates to face the wind and the sound varies in relation to one's orientation to the blades. At close range, facing the turbine head on, the sound is low and pulsing like a clothes dryer.

From the side the blades cut the air with a sipping sound. Either way, when the wind is blowing, there is noise. "They simply do not belong this close to people's homes," Bennett said. "Our property values have been diminished, and our quality of life has been diminished."

YouTube videos from Bloomstein: http://tinyurl.com/7gpvlc

Mars Hill, ME: 2600+ feet from turbine

Mars Hill resident Wendy Todd (house is 2600 feet from the nearest turbine): Unfortunately for us, the very mountain that has provided the wind facility with a class 3-wind resource often acts like a fence protecting us from the upper level winds that push the turbines.

There are many times when winds are high on the ridgeline but are near calm at our homes. The noise and vibrations from the turbines penetrate our homes. At times there is no escape from it, no matter which room you go to. The noise ranges from the sound of a high range jet to a fleet of planes that are approaching but never arrive.

When it`s really bad it takes on a repetitive, pulsating, thumping noise that can go on for hours or even days. It has been described as a freight train that never arrives, sneakers in a dryer, a washing machine agitating, a giant heartbeat; a submariner describes it as a large ship passing overhead.

People think that we are crazy. They drive out around the mountain, stop and listen, and wonder why anyone would complain about noise emissions. But, believe me when we are having noise problems you can most assuredly hear the justification of our complaint.

We have had people come into our yard get out of their vehicles and have watched their mouth drop. We have had company stop in mid conversation inside our home to ask, "What is that noise?" or say "I can`t believe you can hear those like that inside your house."

Two views of the Mars Hill wind farm, showing proximity of rural landowners. It is not hard to imagine noise blanketing the fields, especially when the hill is sheltering the lowlands from wind. Images from National Wind Watch

(Wendy Todd, continued): 18 families, each with homes less than 3000 feet from the nearest turbine, are experiencing disturbing noise levels; the next closest home is about 5200 feet away, and are only occasionally bothered when inside their homes.

Nick Archer, our Regional Director with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, thought we were all crazy, too. But he finally made it to our homes and heard what we were talking about.

I don`t believe he has ever heard a 50+decibel day but he has heard close to that on more than one occasion and has made statements like these: "This is a problem," "We need to figure out what is going on with these things before we go putting anymore of them up," "I thought you were crazy at first but you are not crazy," "The quality of life behind the mountain is changed." Did he say these things just to appease us? I don`t believe so.

Possible Factors in Noise Complaints

Why do neighbors sometimes experience noise levels beyond what industry noise models presume will be created by their wind farms?

One reason is that predicted noise levels can be based on unrealistically optimized lab conditions and perfectly new machines; thus the predicted noise output is likely to be the lowest that could occur. In addition, the idealized "spherical spreading" model generally used does not take into account terrain, vegetation, or atmospheric effects, each of which can either increase or decrease sound propagation.

One useful approach to sound modeling is to assume a "worst case" ground cover (hard ground, which reflects, rather than absorbs, sound); such models often come closer to matching real, recorded sound levels than ones using "mixed cover" factors.

Topographical effects are very important to consider. Gently sloping terrain rising from a plain can sometimes cause sound levels to actually rise with increasing distance: Near the Vancouver Airport, hills rising from a flat plain caused sound levels to be 20dB higher at 5500m than at 4000m, because of the way the increasing ground angles caused sounds to combine, more than nullifying what, in a standard model, would be expected to be a 3dB decrease over that distance.

A different topographical effect is the one reported at Mars Hill, Maine, where noise from turbines atop a ridgeline is made "worse" by the fact that the ridge blocks the wind at homes along its foot, eliminating the masking effect that is often assumed to drown out the sound of turbines in high wind conditions.

Increasingly, though, researchers are discovering that atmospheric effects can cause the most troubling noise issues over larger areas than expected.

In the daytime, warming air rises, both carrying sound aloft and creating turbulence that scatters turbine noise; in addition, more ground- based ambient noise during the day masks turbine sounds. At night, however, when the air stabilizes it appears that noise from wind turbines can carry much farther than expected.

This effect can occur with light winds at turbine height and the ground, or with light winds at turbine height and very little or no wind at ground level. With light and steady breezes capable of spinning the turbines, but not stirring up much ambient noise, sound levels measured at homes 400m to nearly two km away are often 5-15dB higher than models would suggest.

The effect of inversion layers on sound levels has not been systematically studied, though many opportunistic reports suggest the obvious: when an inversion layer forms above the height of turbines, it can facilitate longer-range sound transmission by reflecting some of the sound back toward the ground, and forming a channel for sound propagation.

In many locations, this will be a relatively rare occurrence, but in areas with frequent inversion layer formation, it should be considered.

Possible solutions: It is hard to escape the implication that setback distances may need to be increased in places where the prevalence of such topographic or night time effects suggest sound will often remain at annoying levels for larger distances.

Certainly, noise modeling studies should include calculations based on night time stable atmospheres; G.P. van den Berg, whose 2006 Ph.D. thesis is a comprehensive study of these effects, concludes that "With current knowledge, the effects of stability on the wind profile over flat ground can be modeled satisfactorily." (his measurements indicate that more sophisticated sound models were accurate to within 1.5dB, while simpler models missed the mark by up to 15dB) He goes on to note: "In mountainous areas terrain induced changes on the wind profile influence the stability-related changes and the outcome is less easily predicted: such terrain can weaken as well as amplify the effect of atmospheric stability."

There are certainly many suitable sites for wind farms that are remote enough to avoid even the possibility of noise issues in people`s homes. At this crucial stage in the development of the wind power industry, it would be sadly short-sighted to insist on placement of turbines in the "grey area" between what noise models suggest is enough (perhaps 1500 feet) and the zone in which complaints have cropped up (up to a mile or so).

Taking a big-picture view, the power generating potential in areas that are marginally close to people`s homes is a very small proportion of the nation`s wind power capacity. Let`s start where we know turbines will not disturb neighbors, rather than risk a generation of vocal complaints that may impede future development as turbines become quieter.

Current Approaches to Regulating Wind Farm Noise

While the United States does not have national noise standards, many European countries do. These countries, and many state or county regulations in the US, typically set an absolute sound level that any industrial facility must meet.

Commonly, 45dB is used as the night-time limit, and 55dB as the daytime limit; higher thresholds are sometimes allowed, but rarely does the night-time limit drop below 40dB. The problem comes in rural areas, where night-time ambient noise (wind, distant traffic, etc.) is often 35dB, and sometimes as low as 25dB. Given that 10dB is perceived as twice as loud, the problem is obvious.

It should be noted that the majority of wind farms do not trigger noise complaints. These are likely sited far enough away to work well for nearby residents. A 2007 report from the UK found that roughly 20% of wind farms (27 of 133) had received complaints about noise.

While noise modeling (predicting the noise levels around wind turbines) tends to indicate that noise impacts should be insignificant beyond several hundred meters, the French National Academy of Medicine has called for a halt of all large-scale wind development within 1.5 kilometers (roughly 1 mile) of any residence, and the U.K. Noise Association recommends a 1km separation distance.

In the US, there is no overall recommendation; setback decisions are made locally, and often are based on a 45dB night- time noise limit, so that turbines are sited no closer than 350m (roughly 1100 feet); 350-700m is often considered a reasonable setback in the US, based on simple sound propagation modeling. Though it is not uncommon for larger setbacks to be used, 1000m (1km) or 1500m (1 mile) setbacks are rarely required.

The International Standards Organization (which sets recommendations for all manner of human impacts) and the World Health Organization both recommend noise levels markedly lower than those used in most places, especially at night.

WHO recommends a night-time average noise level of no more than 30dB inside bedrooms, and the ISO sets its limit even lower in rural areas, down to 25dB from 11pm-7am.

Local Regulatory Challenges

Small town governing bodies are generally ill equipped to address the questions before them when wind energy companies apply for local permits. In many cases, the proposed wind farm is the first outside industrial facility to be proposed in the town; it is almost always the first 24/7 noise source to appear in the local rural landscape and soundscape.

Energy company experts attend town council or selectmen meetings, often submitting comprehensive documentation that is rarely fully comprehensible to the lay members of the town's governing body.

While these documents don't generally promise anything quieter than 45dB, the outside experts too often assure local officials that the wind farms will be inaudible--relying on flawed assumptions that high winds will always create enough increase in ambient noise to drown out the turbines.

The use of comparisons, such as "a kitchen refrigerator" or "traffic 100 yards away" is likewise a common way of reassuring locals--one such expert went so far as to assure a council that the 45dB drone of turbine noise was "comparable to" bird song on a summer afternoon!

"There are no rules and regulations on windmills," Paul Cheverie, chairman of the Eastern Kings Community Council (Prince Edward Island, Canada) says. "The more we get into it, the more we realize we jumped the gun."

Wisconsin towns and counties have been especially proactive in implementing wind farm ordinances. Calumet County limits turbine noise to be no more than 5dB louder than the background ambient levels at the quietest time of night, and Trempealeau County adopted a one-mile setback requirement. See some Wisconsin wind ordinances at http://betterplan.squarespace.com/wind-ordinances-wisconsin-stat

The statistical measures used by acousticians can read like Greek to most laymen (dBA90 anyone?). See the brief note on page 3, and be sure to seek out a good primer on these terms before agreeing to any ordinance language.

Detailed Documents Of Note

This AEI Fact Sheet draws on several detailed reports by others. Those wishing to learn more, or to inform themselves so as to discuss these issues in depth with regulatory authorities, company representatives, acousticians, or neighbors, will benefit from reading the source material below.

The full AEI Special Report on Wind Turbine Noise Impacts includes comprehensive resource lists, including links to download the following papers and many others, along with links to websites of wind industry organizations, government regulators, wind advocates, landowner support groups, and organizations concerned with wind turbine noise. See AcousticEcology.org/srwind.html

· G.P. van der Berg's 200-page Ph.D. thesis, published as The sounds of high winds: the effect of atmospheric stability on wind turbine sound and microphone noise, is a treasure-trove of detailed acoustic analysis and clear lay summaries, regarding both atmospheric stability issues and the challenges of recording effectively in high-wind conditions (i.e., avoiding wind noise on mics so as to more accurately capture ambient noise levels). http://tinyurl.com/78baby

· Soysal and Soysal, Wind Farm Noise and Regulations in the Eastern United States. Paper presented at the Second International Meeting on Wind Turbine Noise, Lyon, France, September 2007. A well-done and concise (12p) summary of wind farm noise sources, sound levels measured at one typical wind farm in Pennsylvania, and noise regulation challenges.

· Kamperman and James, How To Guide to Wind Turbine Siting, August 2008. Two acousticians who have become roaming expert witnesses for rural towns addressing wind development submitted these proposed limits at the July 2008 national Noise Control conference. In brief, they suggest limiting turbine noise to 5dB above night-time ambient noise levels at any neighboring property boundary, or a maximum of 35dB within 30 meters of any occupied building.

· Nina Pierpont, M.D. Wind Turbine Syndrome. Book to be released in 2009. Pierpont's short book-length summation of research into the health effects of low-frequency noise, and more specifically of audible as well as low-frequency noise emitted by wind turbines, is garnering impressive praise from fellow physicians. windturbinesyndrome.com

· Champaign County, Ohio, Wind Turbine Study Group Report - Pages 21-33 cover noise issues, including lots of back and forth (point/rebuttal) comments from study group members

The Acoustic Ecology Institute works to increase personal and social awareness of our sound environment, through education programs in schools, regional events, and our internationally recognized website, AcousticEcology.org, a comprehensive clearinghouse for information on sound- related environmental issues and scientific research. Our over-arching goal is to help find pragmatic ways to bridge the gaps between extreme positions voiced by advocacy-oriented organizations, and so to contribute toward the development of ethical public policies regarding sound.

AcousticEcology.org is an unparalleled resource for issue updates and reliable background information. The site features a News Digest, science summaries, Special Reports, and extensive lists of research labs and advocacy organizations on all sides of sound-related environmental issues, including ocean noise, motorized recreation in wildlands, oil and gas development, wind turbines, and more.
Contact Jim Cummings at 505-466-1879 or AcousticEcology.org

 I affirm that these comments are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Jarret Treu

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