Cohocton Wind Watch
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.

READ about the FIRST WIND Connection to the Obama Administration

Industrial Wind and the Wall Street Cap and Trade Fraud


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Maine DEP asks First Wind to prove financial capacity

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is asking First Wind, Maine’s largest wind power developer, to prove that it has enough money to build four major projects that are in different stages of construction and permitting.

The request follows a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling last month that the state’s Public Utilities Commission erred when it approved a joint venture between First Wind and Emera Inc. of Nova Scotia, the energy company that owns two utilities in northern and eastern Maine. The projects that the DEP is scrutinizing had millions of dollars in financing from Emera, money that First Wind now can’t use.

The PUC is holding meetings to decide how to comply with the court’s ruling.

The DEP’s request affects four wind-energy projects: Oakfield Wind in Aroostook County, Hancock Wind in Hancock County, Bingham Wind in Somerset County, and Bowers Wind in Penobscot and Washington counties. Taken together, the projects could cost about $1 billion to build.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bill Gates-backed startup to install energy storage battery at wind power project in Hawaii

A Massachusetts-based startup backed by Microsoft’s Bill Gates plans to install its energy storage battery at First Wind’s wind power projects in Oahu, Hawaii.
First Wind said they are still determining which project will receive the technology. Upon the decision, Ambri and First Wind will formalize an agreement.  
Ambri, is one of 15 startups to receive funding from Energy Excelerator.
The solutions is a liquid metal battery that can store electricity for under $500 per kilowatt hour. According to Biz Journals, that is less than a third of what conventional battery storage costs.
Ambri’s energy storage battery will also be installed at a Massachusetts military base.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

First Wind Marks Five Years of Commercial Operations at Cohocton Wind

What do you expect from the mainstream press!
 — First Wind, an independent U.S.-based renewable energy company, today recognized the fifth anniversary of successful commercial operations at its 125 megawatt (MW) Cohocton Wind project in Steuben County, New York. Construction of the 50 turbine project began in the fall of 2007, and Cohocton Wind began commercial operations in January of 2009. The project produces enough clean, cost-competitive energy to power over 35,000 homes each year.
“As our largest operating wind project in the Northeast, and our second project to achieve commercial operations in New York, Cohocton Wind has been an integral part of our generation portfolio and we are very proud to recognize this milestone today,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. “In the five years since the project went online, as well as in the development and construction periods, we are thrilled to see how this project has not only delivered renewable, cost-competitive energy to ratepayers, but has also served as a significant source to further local economic development for the Town of Cohocton and surrounding Steuben County communities while supporting New York’s ambitious clean energy goals.”
Since 2009, the Cohocton Wind project has provided significant local revenue and benefits by generating more than 200 jobs during construction, providing for 10 permanent operational positions, and helping to stimulate the local business economy. Cohocton Wind also provides substantial tax revenue for the Town of Cohocton, generating a total of at least $14 million in tax payments over a period of 20 years, with almost $4 million paid in the first five years. It also serves as a source of tax revenue for local schools, Town of Cohocton Special Districts, and Steuben County government, thereby reducing pressure on property taxes while helping to improve schools and strengthen local services.
To date, the town of Cohocton has been able to reduce property taxes by 60 percent, purchase all new highway equipment, pay off all debts, improve the local community park, start a new paid ambulance service, rebuild aging infrastructure, and generally improve services. Below is a summary of some of the notable milestones achieved during the five years of successful commercial operations of the Cohocton Wind project.
Project Benefits and Highlights
  • The renewable power generated has been supplying clean, renewable electricity to approximately 35,000 New York homes annually since the project went online.
  • The Cohocton Wind project provides significant local revenue, including over $14 million in tax payments to the Town of Cohocton over the course of 20 years. The property tax revenues fund county infrastructure, conservation, and economic development projects.
  • In addition to the payments to the Town, First Wind also makes annual lease payments to landowners.
  • Based on data recently published by the U.S. EPA’s Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database (E-GRID), generating an equivalent amount of electric energy from a traditional fossil fuel burning facility would have required about 2,213,000 barrels of oil or 637,400 tons of coal over the five year period, yet has none of the associated toxicity, health, or cost issues.
  • As an active member of the Cohocton community, First Wind has donated over $50,000 to local food pantries, the Cohocton Lego Robotics Club, the Cohocton Lions Club, the Cohocton Fire Department, the Cohocton Historical Society, the Sons of the American Legion Post 805, multiple Wayland Cohocton Central School programs, and others.
  • First Wind provided $150,000 toward the revitalization of The Larrowe House, which is a local historic landmark.
  • Each year First Wind has provided a $3,000 scholarship to a graduating senior from Wayland Cohocton Central School.
In addition to the 125 MW Cohocton Wind project, First Wind also operates the combined 35 MW Steel Winds I and II projects in Lackawanna and Hamburg Counties, New York, along the shores of Lake Erie.

Read more here:

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Let the wind subsidy blow away

In the early 1990s, with dreams of cheap and clean wind energy ascendant, Congress lavished a generous subsidy on power from the tall, twirling turbines. The wind industry responded, and since then has increased its installed generating capacity 30-fold.

For 20-plus years the subsidy has been intermittent, although not as unreliable as the winds that drive the turbines. The most recent authorization, a 2013 extension tucked into the federal budget deal that avoided the so-called fiscal cliff, expired Dec. 31. Applause, please, for our do-little Congress: What's known as the wind production tax credit has long outlived any public policy usefulness. Lawmakers now being urged by industry lobbyists to renew the subsidy retroactively instead should let it blow away.

We say this with no animus toward the bucolic concept of wind energy, whose clean-and-green image is to electrical generation what puppies and kittens are to the animal kingdom. Our concern is the reality of subsidized wind energy at a time when natural gas is more plentiful, and cheaper, than Washington could envision in the 1990s. Today wind generation is a comparatively expensive proposition that, whenever its tax subsidy temporarily has vanished, has seen the new construction of wind farms all but vanish too. These welfare payments to the industry have incentivized private investors to sink money into wind projects that, without the federal freebie, they're eager (and probably smart) to avoid.

Like its cousins, the ethanol and solar industries, the wind lobby basks in political correctness and political favoritism: Big Wind, too, has grown comfortable in its dependence on federal and state governments that decide which energy industries will be winners or losers — discrimination enforced by squeezing taxpayers or rigging regulations.

News about eagles killed by turbines is an issue separate from government coddling, but one now emerging as a public relations debacle. In late November, Duke Energy agreed to pay $1 million in fines in the first criminal case brought against a wind company over the killings of federally protected birds, 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds slain at two wind projects in Wyoming. Robert G. Dreher, an acting assistant U.S. attorney general, explained the violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act: "In this plea agreement, Duke Energy Renewables acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths."

Duke said it is working with federal officials and field biologists to determine when it should shut down its turbines to limit bird deaths. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is investigating similar cases elsewhere — and has referred seven of them to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution.

Motor vehicle drivers, illegal hunters and deaths by poisoning kill more eagles than turbines do. But growing publicity about wind farms chewing up eagles undercuts the industry's promotion of itself as environmentally friendly. The National Audubon Society and other conservation groups are especially exercised about a new federal rule, announced in December, that lets wind farms obtain 30-year permits to lawfully kill bald and golden eagles. Many Americans who only have heard about neighbors of wind farms criticizing the turbines' thrumming noises will have a far easier time relating to criminal cases based on huge blades pulverizing wildlife.

All of which pins the Obama administration between its dueling political loyalists: environmentalists learning about the 30-year eagle kill permits, and fans of renewable energy sources that don't spew carbon dioxide.

Wind energy's peculiar problem is that, because wind blows erratically, companies that rely on it also need backup generating capacity — typically fossil-fueled — for days when customers want electricity but the air is still.

The obvious solution here is for Congress and the White House to stop manipulating the tax code as America's de facto energy policy: Thorough federal tax reform should sunset this arbitrary favoritism for wind energy and other politically favored industries.

Late in 2013, Big Wind fought fiercely to renew its expiring subsidy but failed. We hope that means many members of Congress see this as a mature industry that long ago outgrew its infancy and understand that the nation's new wealth of lower-cost natural gas has profoundly rewritten U.S. energy economics.

The wind lobbyists will be back in 2014, pleading for more handouts from American taxpayers. Tell your members of Congress that a government $17 trillion in debt — and still borrowing heavily — can't afford to keep protecting this industry from cheaper competition.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Maine environmental groups clash over wind power

Two environmental groups are going head to head over the impact on wildlife and the future benefits of wind energy development in Maine.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains challenged Maine Audubon on Thursday to retract a recent report that says wind energy is sometimes compatible with wildlife, and to acknowledge funding it receives from the wind power industry.

Maine Audubon defended its report, “Wind Power and Wildlife in Maine,” and questioned whether the leaders of Friends of Maine’s Mountains fully understand its parameters and recommendations.

Maine Audubon, a nonprofit based in Falmouth, released a report Dec. 4 saying that the state has 1.1 million acres that are windy enough for power generation, and that wind turbines could be developed on 84 percent of that area with minimal impact on some wildlife and habitat resources.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains questioned why Maine Audubon would endorse the installation of more “bird-killing machines” based on a study that – in its view – failed to throughly investigate the benefits of wind power and its effects on migratory birds and other wildlife.

“The Audubon brand is a strong environmental brand,” said Richard McDonald, a board member of Friends of Maine’s Mountains. “It’s like giving wind-energy development the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.”

Friends of Maine’s Mountains is a Weld-based nonprofit that has opposed wind-energy projects and advocates on behalf of natural resources, reliable energy and affordable power.

Michelle Smith, Maine Audubon’s spokeswoman, said she was surprised that Friends of Maine’s Mountains came out against the report, because it recommends that “any land-based wind development in the mountainous areas of northern and western Maine and along our coast be carefully studied.”

“We’re not advocating that wind turbines can be sited anywhere,” Smith said. “The goal of this report is to start a dialogue about where we can rightly site wind turbines in Maine that has the least impact on wildlife and its habitat.”

Smith noted that state officials have set a goal to have capacity to produce 3,000 megawatts of land-based wind energy by 2030, which would require adding 600 wind turbines to Maine’s landscape. The state now has 200 turbines.


Last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior decided to extend the period in which wind power companies are permitted to kill or injure bald or golden eagles with wind turbines without penalty from five to 30 years.

The decision was immediately controversial. Although bald eagles are no longer listed as threatened or endangered, bald and golden eagles are still protected species.

“Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society.

On Thursday, Friends of Maine’s Mountains asked Maine Audubon, which is independent from the national group, to reconcile the recommendations in its wind energy report with its advocacy for wildlife.

“I’m not sure where (Friends of Maine’s Mountains) is going with that,” Smith responded. “We would never support the killing of eagles.”

The friends group also concluded that Maine Audubon’s report gives the wind power industry a “free pass” to develop projects without regard for their impact on wildlife. The group’s leaders urged Maine Audubon to re-evaluate its association with wind energy companies.

Among Maine Audubon’s top corporate donors is First Wind, a renewable-energy company that has developed and operates 16 wind power projects in Maine, New York, Vermont, Utah, Washington and Hawaii.

According to Maine Audubon’s website, the Boston-based company is an Eagle-level donor, along with L.L. Bean and Maine Magazine, each having contributed more than $10,000 this year.

Friends of Maine’s Mountains indicated that corporate donors that gave at lower levels also benefit from Maine Audubon’s support for wind power development, including Falcon-level ($5,000-plus) donor Reed & Reed general contractors and Osprey-level ($2,500-plus) donor Central Maine Power Co.

The friends group also said in a news release Thursday that Maine Audubon’s report is “deficient in necessary scientific rigor required to conclude that industrial wind turbines are not detrimental to Maine’s wildlife and their habitats.”

The group called on Rebecca Holberton, a professor of biology and ecology at the University of Maine who saw a lack of reliable field study data and collision-risk assessment in Maine Audubon’s report.

Holberton noted that the report is “replete with disclaimers” about the limits of its findings, and questioned whether it should have been presented as a valid guide for siting wind turbines.


Susan Gallo, the wildlife biologist at Maine Audubon who wrote the report, acknowledged that the study is based on existing data, such as wildlife habitat maps. She said the report doesn’t eliminate the need for site-by-site analysis of wind energy proposals, but it does balance Maine Audubon’s concern for wildlife preservation and bird migration patterns with a policy goal to stem climate change and end dependence on fossil fuels.

“We knew this was going to happen,” Gallo said. “This report wasn’t a comprehensive analysis of risks to wildlife. We didn’t address whether turbines are good or bad. We support wind in concept but not every wind development. And because of that, we often get attacked from both pro-wind and anti-wind.”
Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, defended Maine Audubon’s report.

“It’s shameful (that Friends of Maine’s Mountains) continually try and stand in the way of this clean, renewable power that is creating jobs, driving investment and increasing tax revenues for municipalities, counties and state government,” Payne said in a written statement.

Payne challenged the friends group to reveal its funding sources.

“We’re a volunteer organization with about 150 members and four board members who do most of the work,” said McDonald, who is a real estate agent in Kennebunk. “We rely on individual contributions. We have about $200 in the bank right now.”


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Answer, for Republicans on Tax Incentive, Isn't Always Blowing in the Wind

House Republicans hailing from the windiest of districts are coming out on different sides of the fight over the production tax credit, which the wind-power industry considers key to its growth—and which will expire at year's end unless Congress votes to renew it.
"I have supported it in the past, and there are efforts being worked on now to try to maybe change, ramp it down," said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., whose district is the sixth-windiest in the country, according to data compiled by the American Wind Energy Association. After a pause, Gardner added: "But, I would support it, yes."
Of the top 10 windiest congressional districts in the country, nine are represented by Republicans, according to AWEA's 2012 annual report.
House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., whose district ranks fifth on the list, said in a statement to National Journal Daily that he, too, supports an extension of the PTC. "While it is not completely clear in what form it would be extended, I believe it is important that we continue investing in this resource to help increase the production of all forms of American made energy," Lucas said.
Every year around this time, the pressure builds in Congress to pass a host of temporary tax policies—often called extenders—including the wind-energy tax credit, which has been on the books for 22 years with just a couple of short lapses. After expiring for two days in early January, Congress voted to extend the PTC for one year.
With another expiration date looming, wind-energy lobbyists privately say Congress is unlikely to extend the policy by year's end. This is for a couple reasons: 1) The most obvious legislative vehicle for the tax-extenders package—the budget—does not include them; and 2) Republican leadership in the House is reluctant to act on any individual tax policies before House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and his counterpart in the Senate, Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., make progress on comprehensive tax reform, which they've both pledged to pursue.
This effort is the key reason why House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., whose district is the fourth-windiest in the country, is not coming out in support of an extension this year.
"The Whip is supportive of the current efforts by Chairman Camp and the Ways and Means Committee to reform our tax code," a spokesman for McCarthy said in an email to National Journal Daily. That's a change in tone from last year. "I think we should do it," McCarthy said when asked at a National Journal event whether he supports extending it.
Texas, the biggest wind-producing state, includes three of the windiest districts, all represented by Republicans who support, to varying degrees, phasing out the tax credit.
"The wind industry has been a great success in Texas, and according to its own reports, it will soon be cost-competitive with cheaper forms of electricity," Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, who represents the windiest district in the country, said in a statement. "Because of this success, I believe it's time for a gradual phase-out of the Production Tax Credit."
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, whose district is the eighth-windiest, has shifted his position over the past couple of years. In 2011, he introduced a bill to extend the policy for 10 years, but a similar proposal he introduced in May called for a phase-out.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., whose district rounds out the top 10, also opposes extending the policy. "I have long supported an 'all-of-the-above' approach to America's energy needs, but I believe it is time for wind energy to learn to survive without the support of the production tax credit," Kinzinger said in a statement.
Kinzinger's district also includes a heavy presence from Exelon, the nation's largest generator of nuclear power, which has been lobbying to end the wind tax credit over the past year or more.
The House's biggest opponent of the wind tax credit—and most other temporary energy tax incentives—sees support growing for his cause. "I have noticed a difference," said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. "Even those folks who have been on the other side aren't as vocal. I think there is an increasing recognition that this kind of narrow carve-out doesn't make sense."
When asked about his colleagues who support extending the PTC, Pompeo responded: "We just have a disagreement."
Having a lot of wind in your district shouldn't be the only reason to support a tax incentive, Pompeo said. "We have a tremendous amount of wind energy in Kansas," he said. (The state is fifth in the country for wind generation, according to AWEA.) "One could make the case that for that reason alone I should support it," Pompeo said. "But it doesn't make sense for Kansas consumers."
To what extent, if at all, Congress tackles comprehensive tax reform next year will affect whether lawmakers vote to retroactively extend the wind tax credit sometime next year. Lobbyists say that the expiration of the PTC would start having a measurable negative impact by April.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

First Wind CEO to Address the Future of Wind Energy


The Energy Sustainability Center and the Center for a Sustainable WPI will present Paul J. Gaynor, chief executive officer of First Wind, who will give a talk titled, “Wind Energy: Will the Growth Continue?”


Paul Gaynor graduated from WPI in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He also holds a master of business administration from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Gaynor is responsible for the strategic direction and overall management of First Wind Corp. of Boston. He has more than 20 years of experience in the energy field, with leadership and finance roles in the energy, power and pipeline sectors. In addition, he has been engaged in several landmark energy and power financings around the globe.


Tuesday, Dec. 10, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served at 4 o'clock, with the presentation to begin at 4:30.


Salisbury Labs Room 104, WPI campus, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, Mass.


From 2002 to 2012, total installed wind energy capacity in the U.S. grew from 4.7 to 60 gigawatts, a significant fraction of the approximately 1,000 gigawatts of total U.S. electric generation capacity. First Wind Corp. has played a major role in that expansion, with wind farms from Hawaii to Maine. Gaynor will summarize the current status of wind generation and describe prospects for continued growth. He will explain the process followed by First Wind to bring major wind generation facilities online and will offer advice on preparation for careers in the renewable energy field.

More Information

First Wind is a Boston-based independent wind energy company focused on the operation of utility-scale wind projects around the country. It is the owner-operator of wind projects in Vermont, Maine, and five other states.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Eagle Killer

Friday, December 06, 2013

Feds give wind farms the OK to kill eagles for 30 years

The Obama administration has just given wind turbine operators the license to kill birds and eagles for 30 years, a move welcomed by the wind industry but derided by environmentalists and Republicans.
The Interior Department changed a rule that now enables the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend the amount of time renewable energy companies can kill migratory birds and eagles in a bid to boost green energy development. Wind operators can now get a permit to kill birds for 30 years, up from five years.
“Eagles symbolize America’s national heritage and deserve more protection, not less. This rule change will make it harder to protect the remaining eagles that San Diegans love,” said Donna Tisdale, secretary of the environmental group Protect Our Communities Foundation.
The permitting extension would allow renewable energy companies to kill a specified number of birds and eagles at their facilities for 30 years, but only if those bird deaths were unintentional and if companies made efforts to minimize avian deaths.
The Obama administration has been repeatedly criticized by the environmentalists and Republicans for allowing wind turbine sites to kill hundreds of thousands of birds annually with no legal punishment. In particularly, while oil, gas and electrical companies were being heavily fined for killing birds.
“Permits to kill eagles just seems unpatriotic, and 30 years is a long time for some of these projects to accrue a high death rate,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “The Administration’s has repeatedly prosecuted oil, gas, and other businesses for taking birds, but looks the other way when wind farms or other renewable energy companies do the exact same thing.”
In November, the Obama administration finally prosecuted an energy company for bird deaths at wind farms. A subsidiary of Duke Energy agreed to pay $1 million in fines for the killing of 160 birds at two wind farms in Wyoming.
The wind industry welcomed the administration’s decision to extend permitting times for wind farms, saying it will protect birds and help the industry grow.
“In summary, this permit duration change will facilitate much needed, long-term eagle conservation efforts, while allowing wind companies to continue to increase the amount of clean, renewable, affordable energy they supply to American consumers,” the American Wind Energy Association said in a statement.
“If you increase the length of eagle take permits from five years to 30 years, common sense says there are going to be some effects on eagles,” said Kelly Fuller, consultant to The Protect Our Communities Foundation and former campaigner at the American Bird Conservancy.
“According to the [Fish and Wildlife Service’s] own Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance, there are no proven measures that will reduce the numbers of eagles killed once the wind turbines are installed,” she added. “This rule change is a disaster.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that 440,000 birds are killed by wind turbines every year in the U.S. However, that number is said to be a low-ball estimate by independent researchers. Each year 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats are killed by wind turbines in the U.S., according a study by K. Shawn Smallwood that was published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

First Wind Purchases Wind Iris LIDAR System

Avent Lidar Technology, a joint venture between Renewable NRG Systems and Leosphere, reports that Boston-based developer First Wind has purchased a Wind Iris LIDAR to optimize the performance of its wind turbines.

According to Avent, the decision resulted from a successful field trial that used data from the nacelle-mounted LIDAR to correct yaw error and increase total energy production. First Wind wanted to improve the yaw alignment of an underperforming wind turbine and decided to test a Wind Iris on the machine, Avent adds.

The Wind Iris collected wind speed and direction data ahead of the turbine for 30 days. Analysis showed an average yaw error of seven degrees, and a correction factor was then applied to the yaw measurement.

“By detecting and accurately quantifying the yaw misalignment, we were able to correct the error and gain significant [annual energy production] improvement,” explains Cegeon Chan, wind resource manager at First Wind. “Based on this evaluation, we decided to purchase a Wind Iris to optimize more turbines in our fleet.”


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Power struggle: Green energy versus a grid that's not ready

In a sprawling complex of laboratories and futuristic gadgets in Golden, Colo., a supercomputer named Peregrine does a quadrillion calculations per second to help scientists figure out how to keep the lights on.
Peregrine was turned on this year by the U.S. Energy Department. It has the world's largest "petascale" computing capability. It is the size of a Mack truck.
Its job is to figure out how to cope with a risk from something the public generally thinks of as benign — renewable energy.
Energy officials worry a lot these days about the stability of the massive patchwork of wires, substations and algorithms that keeps electricity flowing. They rattle off several scenarios that could lead to a collapse of the power grid — a well-executed cyberattack, a freak storm, sabotage.
But as states, led by California, race to bring more wind, solar and geothermal power online, those and other forms of alternative energy have become a new source of anxiety. The problem is that renewable energy adds unprecedented levels of stress to a grid designed for the previous century.
Green energy is the least predictable kind. Nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine. A field of solar panels might be cranking out huge amounts of energy one minute and a tiny amount the next if a thick cloud arrives. In many cases, renewable resources exist where transmission lines don't.
"The grid was not built for renewables," said Trieu Mai, senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The frailty imperils lofty goals for greenhouse gas reductions. Concerned state and federal officials are spending billions of dollars in ratepayer and taxpayer money in an effort to hasten the technological breakthroughs needed for the grid to keep up with the demands of clean energy.
Making a green energy future work will be "one of the greatest technological challenges industrialized societies have undertaken," a group of scholars at Caltech said in a recent report. The report notes that by 2030, about $1 trillion is expected to be spent nationwide in bringing the grid up to date.
The role of the grid is to keep the supply of power steady and predictable. Engineers carefully calibrate how much juice to feed into the system as everything from porch lights to factory machines are switched on and off. The balancing requires painstaking precision. A momentary overload can crash the system.
California has taken some of the earliest steps to address the problems. The California Public Utilities Commission last month ordered large power companies to invest heavily in efforts to develop storage technologies that could bottle up wind and solar power, allowing the energy to be distributed more evenly over time.
Whether those technologies will ever be economically viable on a large scale is hotly debated. The commission mandate nonetheless requires companies to produce enough storage by 2024 to power about 1 million homes.
"Energy storage has the potential to be a game changer for our electric grid," Commissioner Mark Ferron said.
Some utility officials warn, however, that the only guarantee is that ratepayers will be spending a lot. The commission's goals, while laudable, "could cost up to $3 billion with uncertain net benefits for customers," Southern California Edison declared in a filing.
But regulators are desperate to move past the status quo. Already, power grid operators in some states have had to dump energy produced by wind turbines on blustery days because regional power systems had no room for it. Officials at the California Independent System Operator, which manages the grid in California, say renewable energy producers are making the juggling act increasingly complex.
"We are getting to the point where we will have to pay people not to produce power," said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, a system operator board member.
A bigger fear is that the grid is becoming more vulnerable to collapse, leaving the public exposed to the kind of blackouts that hit San Diego, parts of Arizona and a chunk of Baja California on a blistering hot September day in 2011.
Rush-hour traffic jammed as streetlights went dark. Flights were grounded. Pumping stations came to a halt, causing sewage to flow onto beaches. People were trapped in office elevators and on rides at Sea World.
An employee's misstep at a substation near Yuma, Ariz., caused that blackout, but energy experts see it as a harbinger of the sorts of problems that could become frequent if the nation fails to refashion its outmoded power grid.
Foster has been working with other regulators and power company executives to redesign the system. The work involves ideas for mapping and building vast networks of electrical lines, industrial-scale solar- and wind-power plants and backup natural gas plants that can keep the lights on when shifts in weather cause renewable sources to falter. That's the tangible stuff they can easily explain.
But the grid is also built on an antiquated tangle of market rules, operational formulas and business models. It makes for a formidable riddle.
Planners are struggling to plot where and when to deploy solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells without knowing whether regulators will approve the transmission lines to support them.
"One of the biggest challenges is you can't create a market for these resources without solving the demands of moving electricity from one physical place to another," said Neil Fromer, executive director of Caltech's Resnick Sustainability Institute. "But you can't solve that problem until you understand what the market structure looks like."
Back in Colorado, Peregrine is furiously working to map out grid scenarios involving wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. Sharing space with Peregrine at the Energy Systems Integration Facility is a "visualization room" with a 16-foot screen that creates 3-D images of how different wind patterns interact with turbines, or how molecules interact inside a solar cell.
Federal regulators see an expanded role for themselves as the best hope for powering the nation with as much as 80% renewable energy within the next 35 or so years. Maintaining stability will hinge increasingly on interstate cooperation, they say.
But state regulators are reluctant to cede authority. That's particularly true in California, where bitterness over the energy crisis of more than a decade ago remains intense and makes officials reluctant to cede an inch of jurisdiction to Washington.
Regardless of who wins that power struggle, some of those involved in the day-to-day business of keeping the lights on in California say the limitations of the grid will undermine efforts by activists to move more quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
At the Independent Energy Producers Assn. in Sacramento, which represents owners of renewable and gas power plants, Executive Director Jan Smutny-Jones says proposals by academics and others to move California to as much as 80% renewable energy within the next two decades are bumping up against the challenges of avoiding another San Diego-type blackout.
"Some day that may be the way the world is going to work," he said. "But in the next five or six years, it is not."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Could this be the end of wind subsidies?

Could Congress actually end lucrative tax credits for wind energy production? Former Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles is optimistic that lawmakers will not extend tax credits for wind energy as pressure mounts to reform the tax code and cut spending.

“I think there is a good chance it won’t be extended,” Nickles told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I think a lot of members are really focused on it. Members realize if you do it, it will cost billions more.”

“I think they realized the sentiment has turned, the economics have turned — big time,” said Nickles, who served as Oklahoma’s Republican Senator from 1981 to 2005 and was around when wind was first subsidized in the early 1990s.

Congressional Republicans have ramped up their campaign against the Wind Production Tax Credit, or Wind PTC, arguing that the tax credit should be cut as part comprehensive tax reform talks taken up in the House and Senate.

“As the House Ways and Means Committee takes on the commendable, but difficult, task of enacting revenue-neutral tax reform legislation, the PTC should be excluded from there or in any tax extenders legislation that the committee may consider,” reads a letter from 52 lawmakers to committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, who is heading up tax reform talks with Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus.

The wind industry and allied lawmakers have opposed ending the tax credit, arguing that it would be a huge setback for the wind industry and harm economic growth in wind-heavy states like Iowa.

Our nation has some of the best wind resources in the world, but the lack of stable policy hinders the nation’s ability to develop them fully,” reads a letter from 11 state governors to House and Senate leadership. “The nation’s wind industry developers do not need this tax credit forever, but they do need policy certainty in the near term to bring their costs to a fully competitive level.”

The Wind PTC was first enacted in 1992 and gave wind producers 1.5 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated in the first ten years of operation. The subsidy has ballooned to 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour this year and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that extending the tax credit for another year would cost $6 billion.

“I remember when it passed in ‘92 and we were assured it was temporary,” Nickles told TheDCNF. “Since then it’s been extended seven times.”

Nickles and his fellow Republicans argue that wind energy is not reliable enough to provide baseload power, so it requires fossil fuels to back it up — eliminating the touted environmental benefits of the renewable energy source.

“Wind doesn’t blow all the time,” Nickles said. “For reliability, utilities usually have to purchase a gas-fired generator as a back-up. It blows at night when grids need the power least, it’s generating most of its power off-peak and crowding out more economical power in the process.”

Furthermore, wind producer could be facing increased legal trouble as the Obama administration has finally started to prosecute wind farms for the killing of federally protected birds and eagles.

A subsidiary of Duke Energy agreed to pay $1 million in fines for the killing of 160 birds at two wind farms in Wyoming — marking the first time the Obama administration has prosecuted wind farm operators for killing federally protected birds.

“This case represents the first criminal conviction under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for unlawful avian takings at wind projects,” said Robert Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s environment division.

“No form of energy generation, or human activity for that matter, is completely free of impacts and wind energy is no exception,” the American Wind Energy Association said in a statement.

“When coupled with the fact that experts globally see climate change as the single greatest threat to wildlife and their habitats, wind energy – which is produced without creating air or water pollution, greenhouse gases, use water, require mining, or drilling for or transportation of fuel, or generate hazardous waste requiring permanent storage – is a key to both meeting our nation’s energy needs and protecting wildlife in the U.S. and abroad,” the statement continued.

Wind turbines kill 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats each year in the U.S., according to an independent study published earlier this year.

“As wind energy continues to expand, there is urgent need to improve fatality monitoring methods, especially in the implementation of detection trials, which should be more realistically incorporated into routine monitoring,” writes K. Shawn Smallwood, the study’s author.


First Wind Company Criminally Convicted for Bird Deaths

 In the first criminal conviction of a wind company for killing birds, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they settled with Duke Energy for $1 million.

Duke Energy Renewables pleaded guilty in the US District Court in Wyoming to violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act for  the deaths of endangered birds. This is the first-ever criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for a wind farm.

Between 2009-2013, 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds - including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows - were killed at two Wyoming wind farms owned by Duke Energy. The Campbell Hill and Top of the World wind farms have 176 turbines and are sited on private agricultural land.

Eagle Golden

Until now, even though every death of a protected bird violates federal law, no wind company has been held liable. Wind companies can apply for a federal permit (which is opposed by the conservation community) but not a single company has done so. 

Under the settlement, Duke will pay fines and restitution of $1 million and is placed on probation for five years, during which it must implement an environmental compliance plan to prevent bird deaths at its four Wyoming wind plants - expected to cost $600,000 a year. Duke must also apply for an Eagle Take Permit which, if granted, will provide a framework for how to minimize and mitigate golden eagle deaths at the wind farms, states DOJ.

"This is a welcome action by DOJ and one that we have long anticipated," says Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy (ABC), a long-time advocate for stronger federal management of the wind industry. "We are pro-wind, but development needs to be Bird Smart. The unfortunate reality is that the flagrant violations of the law seen in this case are widespread."

In early 2012, the Fish & Wildlife Service published voluntary operating and siting guidelines for the wind industry, and this year, they released Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance. ABC believes these guidelines would be much more effective at preventing bird deaths if they were mandatory, with project permits used to cover costs.

Because guidelines are voluntary, "companies have been able to pay lip service to bird protection laws and then largely do what they want. Poorly sited wind projects exist or are being planned that clearly ignore the advice of federal and state biologists who have few, if any, means of preventing them from going ahead," says Dr. Michael Hutchins, who coordinates the National Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign for ABC. 

"In this plea agreement, Duke Energy Renewables acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths. To its credit, once the projects came on line and began causing avian deaths, Duke took steps to minimize the hazard, and with this plea agreement has committed to an extensive compliance plan to minimize bird deaths at its Wyoming facilities and to devote resources to eagle preservation and rehabilitation efforts," says Robert Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. 

"We deeply regret the impacts of golden eagles at two of our wind facilities," says Greg Wolf, president of Duke Energy Renewables. "Our goal is to provide the benefits of wind energy in the most environmentally responsible way possible."

How the $1 million fine will be disbursed:
  • $400,000 for the federally-administered North American Wetlands Conservation Fund
  • $100,000 for the State of Wyoming
  • $160,000 for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, designated for golden eagle conservation projects and research on how they interact with wind turbines
  • $340,000 to a conservation fund to buy golden eagle habitat in Wyoming  
"All wind projects will kill some birds. It is sadly unavoidable, but some areas are worse than others, and we can predict where many of these will be," says Hutchins of ABC. "Wind farms are being built without adequate plans to mitigate and compensate for bird impacts."

Several tools are available to help wind developers choose the best sites based on wind and environmental concerns, including one developed by National Renewable Energy Lab and another by ABC.

ABC estimates that as the wind industry has grown in the US, bird deaths have risen from 440,000 in 2009 to 600,000 in 2012.

How many birds will die as the wind industry continues to grow? Clearly, strong siting and operational regulations are needed, says Hutchins. "We believe it's necessary to enforce development restrictions on wind, such as avoiding bird migration corridors and places where protected species and sensitive habitats are present."

Enacted way back in 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act implements US commitments with Great Britain (for Canada), Mexico, Japan and Russia. The Act protects over 1,000 species of birds.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

First Wind grows by aiming low

AURORA, Maine — The truck wound along the logging road in the deep woods of this northern Maine community, snaking up a bump in the landscape called Bull Hill. Only as the truck neared the base of a 95-meter-tall wind turbine did the silvery-white blades become visible among the trees.

The 19-turbine wind farm at Bull Hill operates hundreds of feet lower than other industrial-scale wind farms, which typically spread along mountain ridges that are visible for miles. It is one of the latest developments of First Wind Holdings Inc. and an example of how the fast-growing Boston firm has become a dominant player in the Northeast.

First Wind, just over a decade old, has prospered by following an unconventional strategy that often avoids towering ridgelines, instead building at lower elevations and taking advantage of technological advances that allow turbines to generate electricity at lower wind speeds. Even so, the company’s projects have still attracted controversy, provoking outrage from some residents of rural and remote areas who say the peace, quiet, and beauty of natural landscapes is marred by the industrial developments.

First Wind today owns and operates 12 wind farms in six states, its portfolio comprising more than 500 turbines with a combined generating capacity of roughly 1,000 megawatts, or enough to power about 285,000 homes. Its revenues have soared to about $250 million a year from just $7.1 million in 2006, according to the company and financial filings, as it has targeted states such as New York, Maine, and Hawaii where high energy costs and friendly renewable energy policies make wind power competitive.

“We’re focused on places where it makes economic sense,” said chief executive Paul J. Gaynor.

Originally known as UPC Wind, the firm was founded in 2002 by Brian Caffyn, a Massachusetts native who spent years working in the wind industry in Italy. Gaynor, a former executive at a division of General Electric, was the company’s fifth employee. He has led the firm since 2004.

Wind power was barely a speck on the energy landscape then, with oil prices as low as $33 a barrel.

Installations were few and far between, with about one-tenth of today’s generating capacity.

“God, it was uncharted waters,” Gaynor recalled recently at his company’s headquarters near South Station in Boston. “When I showed up, we had no money, no megawatts, virtually no people.”

First Wind built its first project in 2006 on the Hawaiian island of Maui, a 30-megawatt wind farm along a ridge on the West Maui Mountains, which tested another key component of its strategy: winning the support of environmentalists. The ridge is home to three endangered bird species and a type of endangered bat.

Before building, First Wind worked with experts on plans to protect those animals and committed a minimum of $1 million to make them happen.

“You have to find a way to coexist. You can’t look at a wind farm and say they have no environmental impacts,” Gaynor said. “That’s the ethic we took from there — I took from there — to every other project.”

First Wind has followed that ethic in New England, said Ted Koffman, executive director of Maine Audubon, a nonprofit wildlife conservation group that has monitored large wind developments for more than a decade. First Wind, he said, has proved its willingness to work with environmental organizations and communities to protect rare and sensitive habitats.

The company sends out analysts to study bird populations, talking to hikers who frequent the location where they plan to build, and sometimes helping to build wildlife sanctuaries.

“First Wind is not always going to agree with us because we want the Cadillac of all best-management practices, and to go above and beyond what the law requires,” Koffman said, but “they’re often very willing.”

While building its Bull Hill wind farm, First Wind worked to accommodate outdoor enthusiasts, improving some access roads, leaving the surrounding area open to snowmobiles and ATVs, and adding picnic tables for visitors to use. First Wind also limits the construction footprint of its projects, said Sean Mahoney, executive vice president for the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation in Maine, which has supported several of First Wind’s projects.

The company often uses existing logging roads, as it did at Bull Hill, to transport equipment and parts, and does something else worth noting, said Mahoney. It clusters projects around existing transmission to avoid the need build new lines, which might have to cross sensitive natural areas.

Percy L. Brown Jr., a commissioner of Hancock County, where the wind farm is located, said he was initially wary of First Wind’s impact. But the project has brought benefits to the community, including an agreement by the company to pay the county $200,000 a year for the next two decades.

“We can utilize these funds for public purposes,” Brown said, “property tax reduction, economic development, [or] tourism and promotion, reduction of energy costs.”

But First Wind has also attracted fierce critics, who argue its industrial installations are out of place in remote, natural areas, destroying landscapes and property values. Some blame the rotating turbine blades for headaches and dizzy spells.

In Maine, community groups such as Friends of Maine’s Mountains have repeatedly opposed more wind development in favor of hydropower, which generates about quarter of Maine’s electricity. Christopher O’Neil, a spokesman for Friends of Maine’s Mountains, said the relatively small amount of power generated by wind energy, an intermittent source, is not worth the environmental damage.

In Hawaii, First Wind has come under scrutiny following several battery fires at a wind farm on Oahu Island, including one that shut the site for a year. On Maui, some critics say First Wind’s turbines have marred the view of the ridge, visible as planes descend onto the island. Still others say the wind projects have failed to lower electricity prices in Hawaii, the highest in the nation.

“If you heard the message as, ‘Your bill is going to drop,’ those people feel a sense of disappointment,” said Doug McLeod, Maui County’s energy commissioner.

First Wind said it has no control over electric rates set by the state, but knows that the energy its produces is cheaper than other sources of power in Hawaii. Gaynor added that he’s not surprised by criticism there and elsewhere.

“You are always going to have someone opposed to anything new,” he said, “whether it’s a shopping mall, or a house, or a telephone pole.”

In First Wind’s Boston headquarters, Gaynor strode past a room where employees watched a bank of screens, monitoring 17,000 data points, from energy production to weather conditions, coming in each second from the company’ turbines.

Gaynor said he sees more expansion ahead. The company, which employs more than 200, including 70 in Massachusetts, recently launched a solar power division. In addition, First Wind’s systems are built to monitor up to 3,000 megawatts of energy projects — triple today’s capacity.

“That’s why we have empty desks,” Gaynor said, pointing to vacant cubicles around the office. “We hope to continue to grow.”


Where First Wind is setting up shop

Click on link to submit your SEC complaint on the
First Wind Holdings Inc. IPO public offering

TEN Reasons
Why the SEC should not allow First Wind to be listed on NASDAQ

First Wind Holdings Inc. 12/22/09 SEC S1/A IPO Filing

First Wind Holdings Inc. 7/31/08 SEC S1 IPO Filing

May 14, 2010 addition to the First Wind Holdings Inc. SEC S1A IPO Filing

August 18, 2010 amendment 7 to the First Wind Holdings Inc. SEC S1A IPO Filing

October 13, 2010 Filing update to the First Wind Holdings Inc. SEC S1A IPO Filing

New October 25, 2010 Filing update to the First Wind Holdings Inc. SEC S1A IPO Filing

after Wall Street no confidence in company

Send email request to join - RIWT Facebook Groupsplus

RIWT is open to the public

Risks of Industrial Wind Turbines is a group of citizens and organizations dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life of residents and future generations.