Cohocton Wind Watch: September 2010
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




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Thursday, September 30, 2010

First Wind refinances Cohocton

First Wind has refinanced $42 million in outstanding construction debt on its 125MW Cohocton I wind farm in New York State. The developer increased leverage on the asset, with Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank and Nord/LB participating in a new 7.5-year financing that closed earlier this month.

The original $95.5 million non-recourse term loan was provided by Nord/LB and HSH Nordbank in March 2009 with an interest rate of 4.26% (Libor plus 400bp) and..

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Layoffs Watch ‘10: DE Shaw Cans 150 Employees

And if you thought it was just secretaries bearing getting the boot, think again!
The cuts were “across the board,” including partners and portfolio managers. And they weren’t just something David came up with on a whim over lunch but part of “a strategic review undertaken by management as a result of large investor outflows this year.” So, there’s that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New York Power Authority mum on wind farm plans

Public officials in Irondequoit and Niagara County have added their voices to the growing call for more information about bids to the New York Power Authority regarding an offshore wind farm.

The Power Authority, an independent arm of state government, is considering five proposals from wind-energy developers to erect turbines in the near-shore waters of Lake Ontario or Lake Erie.

The agency has repeatedly refused to release any information about the proposals — including denying request from a state senator.

Most recently, authority general counsel Terryl Brown denied an appeal of a Democrat and Chronicle request for the proposals under the state Freedom of Information law. Brown said disclosing any information would impair the authority's ability to negotiate with the developers.

If information such as the proposed location of turbines was made public now, Brown said, "interested third parties" might try to "pressure the bidder to withdraw or reconsider" and the developers themselves might try to "manipulate the process."

The Westchester County-based Power Authority intends to keep all information confidential until its staff selects one or more proposals and its trustees vote on them, spokeswoman Connie Cullen said. That is expected to happen in early 2011, she said.

Meanwhile, at two more public meetings last week, officials complained they're being kept in the dark.

Irondequoit Town Supervisor Mary Joyce D'Aurizio complained about Power Authority secrecy at a meeting Tuesday and said her requests for information had been spurned. Town lawmakers questioned the offshore wind-farm concept at the meeting but deferred action on a resolution of opposition until October.

Their counterparts in Greece and Webster have already passed such resolutions, as have lawmakers in four other counties along the Lake Ontario shoreline. A Monroe County Legislature resolution opposing offshore wind drew 12 backers, three short of a majority.

The authority's unwillingness to share information was cited by the author of the Monroe resolution, Rick Antelli, R-Greece, and by Webster Supervisor Ronald Nesbitt.

Authority officials have asked local lawmakers to delay passing judgment on the offshore concept until one or more developers are selected and details of the proposal are made public.

The one county legislature that has endorsed the offshore idea, Niagara, has been reconsidering that endorsement. Lawmakers there met for several hours Tuesday evening, and a Power Authority official made a presentation.

But several lawmakers complained about poor information sharing, and the official declined to answer several questions, including whether any of the proposals call for turbines off the Niagara County shoreline, according to Alan Isselhard, a Wayne County opponent of the authority's offshore concept who attended the meeting.

"They simply don't wish to have people asking questions and try to avoid this as much as possible," said Isselhard, who also addressed Niagara lawmakers Tuesday and said he "made a big deal of their contempt for FOI."

The Democrat and Chronicle filed an FOI request shortly after the authority received the five offshore proposals on June 1. The media group received neither the required acknowledgement of its request nor a denial until after it had filed an appeal a month later. Authority officials said they had sent both responses in a timely manner, but the Democrat and Chronicle had no record of receiving them.

The FOI denial cited the exemption in the law for material whose public disclosure would impair a contract award.

The authority's response to the media group's appeal was received Sept. 10 — about two months past the legal deadline for responding.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York Committee on Open Government, said he thought the grounds for denying the appeal were "bogus" and said the authority should make public basic information about the proposals such as the names of the firms who submitted them and the locations where they would like to site turbines.

"I don't see how that in any way diminishes the ability of the Power Authority to negotiate a contract that protects the taxpayers," he said.

State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Niagara County, the chairman of the Senate energy committee, filed his own FOI request for the offshore wind proposals in mid-August. Maziarz and his staff insist they have not received an acknowledgement, which is supposed to be sent within five business days, or a denial letter.

Cullen said both had been sent in a timely fashion to Maziarz's office e-mail account, and said the Power Authority had received an automated reply in each case.

She supplied copies of the automated replies, a type of generic response that many political offices use.

When shown the auto-replies, Maziarz's communications director, Adam Tabelski, said he remained certain that neither FOI response had arrived.

"We check the inbox and the junk folder religiously, and carefully," he said.
"That we would miss one of these messages is unlikely. To miss both would be impossible."

SORR@DemocratandChronicle.com

Prattsburgh able to pay its legal bills

Prattsburgh, NY — With a legal showdown over two wind farm lawsuits set for Monday, the ability of the involved towns to pay their lawyers has come into question.

Supreme Court Justice John Ark recently allowed the town of Italy ’s law firm, Harter Secrest and Emery to step down because the town reportedly owes them more than $175,000. Ark ’s decision came despite assurances by Italy officials the town could pay the legal fees over time.

Italy and its neighbor, Prattsburgh, have been defending separate, but related, lawsuits filed by wind developer Ecogen for nearly a year.

Prattsburgh will pay its current wind farm-related legal bills by the end of the year and expects to continue its battle as long as needed, town Supervisor Al Wordingham said.

The Prattsburgh town board agreed Monday to pay attorneys from Bond Schoeneck and King $55,000 this year, in return for a reduction of the current legal costs pegged around $70,000, according to Wordingham.

The higher cost would have extended payments into 2011, he said.

Ark is expected to meet Monday with representatives from Italy , Prattsburgh and Ecogen to discuss their answers to a series of questions he posed recently. A decision is expected some time after the meeting.

Italy and Prattsburgh have been defending lawsuits brought by Ecogen, since November 2009 and January 2010, respectively.

Ecogen claims it should be allowed to proceed immediately with plans to set up 16 turbines in Prattsburgh, with a substation and 17 turbines planned for Italy.

While Ecogen alleges the town of Italy has no legal right to deny them building permits last fall, the situation in Prattsburgh is more complicated.

After two pro-wind Prattsburgh board members were defeated in their bid for re-election in November, Ecogen threatened it would sue the town if issues were not resolved before the new board was seated.

The lame-duck Prattsburgh board hurriedly approved a 3-2 agreement with Ecogen in December, giving the developer the ability to determine hauling routes and road use agreements without town approval.

When the new town board rescinded the agreement in January, Ecogen went to court.

Wordingham said he believes Ecogen’s main strategy always has been to outspend the towns, but added Prattsburgh’s budget will absorb the legal costs and could pay for an appeal, if needed.

“But I don’t know why we’re talking about an appeal,” Wordingham said. “I’m not planning on losing.”

Ark apparently believes any ruling will simply touch off an appeal by the losing side.

According to The Chronicle-Express , in Penn Yan, Ark told Italy officials “The likelihood is that this litigation is going to go on for a long time… We’re in uncharted territory.”

Wordingham said the majority of the town board is committed to fighting the developer since a larger issue is at stake.

“What would be irresponsible is giving in,” he said. “This is about home rule. The agreement in December basically gave the keys to the town to Ecogen. They could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted for the next 20 years. This would set precedent throughout the state.”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wind farm conflicts need addressing

State-required disclosure lists show a few dozen public officials in the region stand to gain thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of dollars from lease agreements with companies building wind turbines in their towns. There is so much wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to start.

New York state must go further than simply requiring disclosure and instead shift at least a portion of wind farm approvals to the county or state level. These projects are much too large for the “yes” or “no” decision to be left to small-town leaders when either these leaders or those close to them might stand to benefit financially.

The issue is parallel to that of the hydro-fracking controversy in the Southern Tier and Central New York. In each case, energy companies hope to utilize a natural resource in rural regions where jobs are scarce and incomes low. Some landowners stand to benefit mightily from lease agreements, while others may stew at not getting that opportunity. In either case, lack of an appropriate regulatory framework leads to risk of government officials acting in their own best interests instead of in the interests of their constituents.

That sentiment exists outside Lowville, where the mother of all wind farms in our region sits. Drive up Route 12 through and past Lowville along Route 177, and you will be staggered by the sheer number of turbines in the Maple Ridge — 195 of them in all. They’ve transformed the landscape in central Lewis County.

You’ll be equally staggered, however, by the windfall some officials in towns up that way are receiving. Fully 12 of them may earn a combined $7.5 million — or up to that amount — over the lifetime of the wind turbines. That’s an enormous amount of money, and not simply in the North Country.

It is impossible to believe that a leader in a small town full of residents with modest incomes isn’t going to be dazzled by an energy developer dangling the prospect of five-figure or six-figure checks. Human nature being what it is, we all dream of somehow hitting it rich. But once that lease offer is made, an official’s dreams of wealth could conflict with his neighbors’ hopes for their community.

In a small town, too, it’s not simply that the lease offer goes to a key official. It could go to the official’s brother, or nephew, or good friend. In any of these cases, a public official’s judgment is at risk of being compromised.

A larger question is that of public trust in government. In the town of Lowville, Gordon Yancey is upset that public officials, including his brother Edward Yancey, got lease agreements related to Maple Ridge. His view, that “they made their sweetheart, backdoor deals long before anything was made public,” can be cancerous in a community when large portions of the populace share it. If the governed have no faith in their leaders, or if they believe their leaders are in it only for themselves, then the very fabric of our democracy is damaged.

All of this is reason why approval of wind farm projects needs to be multi-layered, in hopes that county and state officials at more of a distance from the scene can show impartial judgment.

Transparency is fine, but the greater need is assurance to the public that projects were judged by individuals who do not have a vested interest in the outcome.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wind power discussions settle few questions

After hearing two versions of the wind farm story, some Niagara County legislators still aren’t sure they’re for or against one in Lake Ontario.

Back-to-back presentations by Brad Jones, an opponent of corporate/industrial wind farming, and Sharon Laudisi, business development manager for New York Power Authority, seemed to raise more questions than they answered Tuesday about the effects of an offshore wind farm between Youngstown and Wilson.

Either presenter offered lots of opinion and speculation, but little hard data, to bolster their views of a wind farm helping or hurting the local economy.

Both billed as “experts” on the topic, Jones and Laudisi disagreed about virtually everything, from likely job creation to the likelihood of host community benefits for affected municipalities to the wisdom of wind power, generally.

Jones is supervisor of the Yates County town of Italy, which got sued by Ecogen LLC (now Pattern Energy) last year after it denied the company a permit to construct a 19-turbine wind farm. Since Jones took office this past January, his town board repealed zoning incentives for wind-farm developers and effectively outlawed wind farms throughout the town.

Laudisi speaks for NYPA, which last year put out a call for proposals to develop a 40- to 160-turbine wind farm in particular areas of either Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, the latter between Youngstown and Wilson. Five proposals are under review now, according to the agency.

The experts were invited to address the Legislature ahead of a special committee’s recommendation whether the body should be for or against a local, offshore wind farm. The Legislature previously went on the record encouraging the possibility, but this past summer, opposition erupted in the Youngstown area, especially.

Where supporters saw a wind farm generating jobs and economic development in the county, opponents see it hurting tourism and driving down lakeside property values. Legislators Clyde Burmaster of Ransomville, David Godfrey of Wilson and John Syracuse of Newfane now want the body to declare an offshore wind farm is not welcome here.

The special committee’s charge, basically, is to weigh the pros and cons of offshore wind-farming. To that end, it’s seeking answers to four broad questions: What are the effects of a wind farm on the economy, environment, electric customers and the lakeside communities that would be faced with the farm?

The cases for and against wind power

Based on his research of existing onshore wind projects, Brad Jones claims host

communities almost always lose more than they receive for tolerating the massive turbines. Local job creation and new business startup would be insignificant, he speculated. Turbine construction and maintenance would be boat-based and the employees “imported, because their skills are specialized,” he said; spin-off development seems unlikely, given that supply chains usually are proprietary and materials are imported.

There would be no host community “benefits” from an offshore developer — such as payments in lieu of property tax or power discounts — because Lake Ontario is not a taxing jurisdiction, Jones said.

Meanwhile, turbines would litter the lake horizon and, assuming a certain area around them is “protected,” would disrupt fishing and boating, he said. Studies of wind farms’’ effects on wildlife, including birds and bats, are “flawed” or nonexistent, he added.

Wind power is a politically correct — and economically disastrous — energy alternative, Jones claimed. Construction and maintenance are wildly expensive, less power is generated at a higher cost and it’s going forward only because of “extremely generous government incentives,” he said.

The more rational investment would be in upgrading existing power transmission infrastructure, which is known to be inefficient, and making a deal to land hydropower from Quebec, where hydro plants currently are shut down for a lack of demand, Jones said.

Laudisi spins a different story.

NYPA is pursuing wind power to help meet the state’s mandate for more power to come from renewable sources, she said; its approach is not to invest in only one type, such as hydropower, but “a little bit of everything.” Wind power will always be a secondary source, she added; it’s being developed to supplement, not replace, primary sources such as coal and gas. Canada and other states in the Great Lakes basin, including Ohio and Michigan, are already developing Great Lakes Offshore Wind , or GLOW, projects, meaning New York is behind.

Development of a GLOW farm in Western New York would generate about 500 construction jobs and 80 permanent jobs, Laudisi said — although she was careful not to promise jobs for residents of host communities. NYPA’s Request For Proposals “requests” local labor be used but does not require it, she said. The agency views the project as offering employment and specialty job training to recession-racked New York state residents, not just Western New Yorkers.

As construction and round-the-clock maintenance will be boat-based, Laudisi suggested there’s “a distinct possibility” boat captains, engineers and public relations specialists are among the skilled workers who’d be hired locally. Also, NYPA previously held a series of “Get Listed” events for businesses wanting more information about the industry’s needs; with some retooling, local manufacturers could get in the supply game, she said. In Europe, where commercial wind-farming has been in progress a few decades, turbine parts typically are manufactured near the farms, she added.

As for host community benefits for the municipalities affected by a GLOW farm — such as, perhaps, cheaper electricity for residents — Laudisi said that’s a possible topic for negotiation by the municipalities, the developer and NYPA. The agency will not require developers to enter host community agreements, but it will “encourage” them to make nice with affected communities, she said.

The GLOW proposal calls for use of underground cables, not new overhead lines, to transmit wind power from turbines to a substation on shore, according to Laudisi.

The cost-effectiveness of wind power compared with current sources is hard to predict, Laudisi said. The cost per kilowatt hour will depend on variables including distance between the farm and an onshore substation, as well as availability of Department of Energy subsidies, she said. Jones predicted a 24-cent increase in the cost of a kilowatt hour, while NYPA says current estimates range from 19 cents to 40 cents per wind-generated kwh.

Lawmakers leery of NYPA

To legislators’ questions about the impact higher-cost power would have on locals’ electric bills, Laudisi said NYPA’s view is the “average” impact would be negligible. If a kilowatt hour costs 3 cents here, 21 cents in Long Island and 26 cents in New York City, she said, the statewide average is 15 cents per kwh — making the 19-cent wind-generated kwh “not so bad.”

People are willing to pay a premium for green power, she asserted. The increased cost, spread among all NYPA customers, might be a dollar more per month per customer, she added.

Laudisi declined to say whether any of the five proposals being reviewed by NYPA now involves offshore Lake Ontario. Several times during her presentation, however, she seemed to drop hints that it won’t be preferred by developers because of physical issues. It’s a deeper lake than Erie, making turbines more costly to build. In Lake Ontario offshore Niagara County, the setback of a wind farm would be only 2 miles, not 3 to 4 as in Erie locations; Jones earlier noted the likelihood of turbine operation being audible onshore from 2 miles away but not 4. Also, Laudisi said, if there is not an existing substation between Youngstown and Wilson, the developer would have to build one.

Legislators came away from the talks with conflicting views. Some, like Tony Nemi, I-Lockport, and Vincent Sandonato, R-Niagara Falls, see GLOW’s potential to spark new local enterprise and say they’re not yet convinced the negatives would outweigh the benefits; Nemi said he’s thinking particularly about the host community benefits the county could wrest from the developer of a Lake Ontario project. “It’d be nice to make locally generated power work for us, instead of downstate, for a change,” he said.

Other lawmakers said Laudisi was too short on specifics about GLOW’s possible impacts on Niagara County. Her vagueness reminded them that Niagara ought to be leery of whatever NYPA’s selling.

“Based on the past relationships that this county has had with NYPA, I have a lot of reservations; a lot of information was not given that should be. ... It just doesn’t feel right,” said Dan Sklarski, D-Niagara. “More importantly, I think about the people who live (lakeside); they bought land and built out there for a reason, the view, and they’ve been willing to pay the price for it, in their home prices and their property taxes. Without question, the value of their homes would be affected (by a wind farm). They’re opposed and I agree with them.”

John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, said Laudisi’s emphasis on the statewide benefits of wind power raised a red flag for him. It’s another case of “downstate” exploiting Niagara, he suggested.

Paul Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, said Laudisi’s words made him think Niagara County/Lake Ontario was added to the GLOW map of potential sites as an afterthought only. NYPA is “trying to appear as though they’re treating us equally, but as (Laudisi) got more into her presentation, she made it pretty clear (Lake Ontario) isn’t an optimum site for developers.”

Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, said NYPA officials did not answer questions of impact well enough Tuesday but he’s giving the agency the benefit of the doubt, for now.

“There were a lot of good questions raised from the opposition; I’m not sure the NYPA representatives had time to answer them all (during a Legislature meeting). We will keep asking; and we will give the power authority the opportunity to answer,” he said. “I have some reservations, but I remain open-minded.”

Will UTC ride to the rescue of stalling Clipper Windpower?

Clipper Windpower, the US company behind plans to install the world's largest wind turbine off the British coast, has today confirmed it is in crisis talks with its largest shareholder United Technologies Corporation (UTC) as part of an urgent attempt to raise fresh capital.

Clipper, which is listed on London's AIM stock exchange, saw its share price fall 30 per cent this morning after it released a trading update confirming that the company "expects to face significant liquidity strain within the next year" .

It also confirmed that it expects to report later this month that revenue for the first half of the year slumped from $357.3m during the first half of 2009 to between $150m and $154m during the first six months of this year.

The poor sales performance will be only partially offset by news that net losses for the first half of the year are expected to have narrowed from $120m to between $26m and $30m.

The company said that its cash position has shrunk rapidly from $140m at the end of June to $86m by the end of August and, as a result, it is now actively exploring "numerous alternatives" for raising capital, including private and public equity issuances and working capital credit lines with a number of financial institutions, as well as talks with UTC.

UTC shelled out £126m last December to acquire a 49.5 per cent stake in Clipper, and the wind turbine manufacturer said that it is now in talks that could see the engineering and aerospace conglomerate fully acquire the firm.

"Discussions with UTC are ranging from providing credit support for a working capital line to equity purchases," Clipper said in a statement. "During these discussions, UTC submitted to Clipper a non-binding indication of interest to acquire all of the ordinary shares of the Group not currently owned by UTC. The indication of interest was conditional on completion of confirmatory due diligence and additional terms and conditions."

Clipper said that it was unlikely to finalise a financing deal ahead of the scheduled release of its first-half results on 30 September, warning that as a result it expected to confirm within the results that it faces a "material uncertainty that casts significant doubt on the Group's and the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern".

However, it added that the ongoing discussions with UTC and other institutional capital providers meant that the non-UTC directors on the board have a "reasonable expectation" that the company has "adequate resources and operating flexibilities to continue the business for the foreseeable future".

Clipper Windpower has specialised in the development of large-scale wind turbines, such as its 2.5MW Liberty turbine and its proposed 10MW Britannia Project turbine, the blades for which are expected to be built at a new facility in north-east England. As a result, the company has faced high development costs and, like other wind turbine manufacturers, has also seen orders fall short of expectations this year as a result of the global economic downturn.

However, Clipper maintains that it is well positioned for long-term growth, while UTC has signaled in the past that it is keen to bolster its position in the fast-expanding renewable energy market.

Clipper Windpower is struggling

Clipper Windpower is struggling with falling sales and a shrinking cash holding, and the wind turbine manufacturer is now looking for further investment into the company.

The wind turbine company maintains its forecast of delivering 140-180 wind turbines (350-450 MW) in 2010, but says it now expects deliveries to be in the lower end of the forecast.

Limited warranty

Clipper says one of the reasons for low sales is that Clipper Windpower has not been able to provide wind turbine warranty coverage that is perceived to be consistent with top tier wind turbine manufacturers. However, Clipper has since reached an agreement with United Technologies Corporation (UTC), which will provide warranty support.

The credit crunch

Another impacting factor has been the global economic and credit crisis, which has impacted financing for wind power projects in general. This has lead customers to reduce capital expenditures, delay wind power projects, and defer wind turbine deliveries under existing contracts.

In the USA, project developers and electric utilities have “dramatically reduced” new orders for wind turbines, and lower prices on oil, gas and coal have reduced prices for power purchase agreements, Clipper says.
Significant liquidity strain

Faced with these challenges, the group “expects to face significant liquidity strain within the next year due to lower receipts of deposits and progress payments from customers under new and existing orders, in comparison to the operation cash needed to complete these orders and fund operations.”

Clipper’s consolidated cash position has already dwindled nearly 40% to US$86m between the end of June and the end of August.

Nevertheless, Clipper Windpower says it is expects a net loss of US$26-30 million in the first half of 2010, compared to a net loss of US$120.2m in the same period in 2009.

Seeking capital

Clipper is now “actively seeking additional sources of capital” alongside aggressive marketing and sales reach to non-US markets.

The wind turbine company says it is also exploring numerous alternatives to raise capital, including talking to its largest shareholder, UTC.
UTC may take over Clipper

The discussions with UTC range from providing credit support for a working capital line to equity purchases. UTC has already submitted a non-binding indication of interest to acquire all of the ordinary shares of Clipper.

If financing discussions with UTC, or another partner, are successful, Clipper management has prepared operating plans and projections to ensure the company has enough resources and operating flexibilities.

The main sources of projected cash inflows are: Continued receipts from customers on existing wind turbine contracts; and sales of one or more development sites.

Clipper could fold

If no financing agreement has been reached by the end of September, Clipper says it “expects to disclose within the interim financial statements and opinion that the current business circumstances create a material uncertainty that casts significant doubt on the group’s and the company’s ability to continue as a going concern and, therefore, that it may be unable to realise its assets and discharge its liabilities in the normal course of business.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Real Problems With Wind Energy

Overstating CO2 Savings, Angry Neighbors and Low Natural Gas Prices Mean Tough Sledding for Wind Power

Last month, I published a piece in the Wall Street Journal that has caused some discomfort among various advocates of wind energy.[1]

Given that discomfort, it’s worth revisiting the thesis of my Journal piece. It was: several studies have concluded that “wind-generated electricity likely won’t result in any reduction in carbon emissions – or that they’ll be so small as to be almost meaningless.”

The subsidy-dependent wind industry has gone to great lengths to counter that thesis. Rather than respond to the fusillade of ad hominem attacks and misinformation that have been unleashed since my article was published, let’s look at what the industry’s own documents are saying about wind energy’s ability to cut carbon dioxide emissions. After that, I’ll discuss the real threats to the wind industry – threats that have nothing to do with opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal.

In its 2008 outlook, the Global Wind Energy Council put forward a “reference scenario” based on International Energy Agency projections, which estimated that global wind energy generation capacity will total 500 gigawatts by 2030. That’s a five-fold increase over 2007, when global capacity was about 94 GW.[2]

The amount of wind generation capacity that will be installed by 2030 will almost certainly exceed 500 GW. But if that projection comes true, then the wind sector will account for about 4% of global electricity production by 2030.[3] And, according to the Global Wind Energy Council, if that goal is achieved, it will reduce global annual carbon dioxide emissions by 731 million tons. That sounds significant. But look at how the GWEC typifies that amount of carbon dioxide : “Under this scenario, carbon dioxide savings under wind would be negligible, compared with the 18,708 million tons of carbon dioxide that the IEA expects the global power sector will emit every year by 2030.”[4] (Emphasis added.)

Thus, while wind promoters are claiming that carbon dioxide reductions are a key benefit of adding new wind power, their own projections reveal that even if the wind power sector continues growing rapidly, it will only reduce electricity-related carbon dioxide emissions by about 4% by 2030.[5] And given that the electric generation sector represents about 40% of total global carbon dioxide emissions, that 4% reduction from wind – if it occurs – will be almost insignificant, amounting to a reduction of about 1.5% of the total volume of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.

But let’s set aside the reference scenario and instead look at GWEC’s most aggressive scenario, and assume that wind energy capacity soars to 2,375 GW by 2030.[6] That would be a 25-fold increase over 2007 levels. It would also be nearly 2.5 times all of the installed electric capacity in the United States.[7] Let’s further accept GWEC’s claims that the result of all that capacity will be an annual emission reduction of 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide.[8] Even with that 25-fold expansion in capacity, the wind sector will only cut the electric sector’s overall carbon emissions by 17%.

What will that mean in the big picture? The IEA expects global CO2 emissions in 2030 to be 40.2 billion tons.[9] Thus, even with a gargantuan increase in wind generation capacity, the reduction in global CO2 emissions will be just 8% of expected total global emissions.

But can the wind industry even get close to that 25-fold increase? Given current circumstances, the chances are, as my father used to say, “slim and none, and Slim left town.” The problems facing the wind industry are many and varied. Among them: citizen opposition to wind energy is powerful and growing, low natural gas prices, and the high cost of offshore wind energy.

For evidence of the growing opposition to wind energy, consider this September 1 story from the Copenhagen Post, titled “Dong gives up on land-based turbines.” Here’s the lead sentence from the article: “State-owned energy firm Dong Energy has given up building more wind turbines on Danish land, following protests from residents complaining about the noise the turbines make.” The article goes on to quote the Danish wind giant’s CEO, Anders Eldrup, who said “It is very difficult to get the public’s acceptance if the turbines are built close to residential buildings, and therefore we are now looking at maritime options.”[10]

Remember that this story is coming from Denmark, the country that wind proponents continually hold up as being the paragon of “green” energy. The opposition to wind energy in Denmark is hardly unique. Europe now has about 400 anti-wind energy groups spread among 20 European countries. [11] Canada has more than two dozen groups.[12] The U.S. about 100 anti-wind groups.[13]

Achieving a 25-fold increase in global wind energy capacity would require carpeting vast areas of open space in the US, Europe, and Asia with turbines. That would mean more turbines located close to populated areas. And as the recent clip from the Copenhagen Post shows, locating turbines close to people is “very difficult.” Huge increases in wind energy capacity would also require huge increases in high-voltage transmission lines, and the fights over transmission lines are perhaps even more vicious than the fights over the siting of wind turbines.

The other key problem facing wind energy: low natural gas prices. Wind energy competes primarily with natural gas-fired generation.[14] And when gas prices are low, wind energy is at a big disadvantage in the marketplace, even with huge federal subsidies i.e., the $0.022 per kilowatt-hour federal production tax credit.

In 2008, T. Boone Pickens, one of the wind industry’s most reliable boosters, said that gas prices must be at least $9 per million Btu for wind energy to be competitive in the marketplace.[15] In March of this year, Pickens was once again talking up wind energy, and he declared that “The place where it works best is with natural gas at $7.”[16] That same month, a reporter from Dow Jones summarized Pickens’ position by writing “Wind power is profitable when natural gas prices are about $7 a million British thermal units, Pickens said.”

The bad news for the wind industry is that gas is now selling for about $4 on the spot market.[17] And Paul Sankey, an energy analyst at Deutsche Bank recently wrote that gas is in “fundamental oversupply” and will continue to be in oversupply through 2015.[18] That fundamental oversupply is due to several factors including a surge in natural gas liquefaction capacity in places like Qatar as well as the enormous increases in US gas supplies which are a direct result of the shale gas revolution. The ability of the gas industry to extract huge quantities of gas from shale beds could portend low domestic gas prices for years to come.

Those low gas prices make offshore wind appear even more uneconomic. The cost of building offshore wind projects is about $5,000 per kilowatt, or about the same as building a new nuclear plant. For comparison, a new gas-fired generation plant costs about $850 per kilowatt.[19] Those high costs are reflected in the prices that the developers of Cape Wind, the controversial offshore wind project near Cape Cod, are seeking for the electricity that could be generated by the turbines to be located in the waters of one of America’s most famous vacation spots. The likely cost for electricity from Cape Wind will be between $0.17 and $0.21 per kilowatt-hour. An offshore project off the coast of Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind, was recently rejected by that state’s public utility commission because the cost of electricity from the project was expected to be $0.244 per kilowatt-hour with annual increases of 3.5% per year.[20] For reference, the average retail price of electricity in the US is about $0.10.[21]

In short, the fulminations of the wind power promoters about my Wall Street Journal article are entirely misdirected. Wind boosters want to believe that an evil conspiracy has been created to short-circuit the push for “green” energy. The real conspiracy they are fighting is one of basic physics and basic math.

Robert Bryce’s latest book is Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future.

Notes.

[1] http://online.wsj.com/article/

[2] Global Wind Energy Council, “Global Wind Energy Outlook 2008,” 15, http://www.gwec.net/index.php?id=92

[3] GWEC, 39.

[4] GWEC, 46

[5] The math is straightforward: 731/18,708 = 3.9%.

[6] GWEC, 38.

[7] US installed electric capacity is about 1,000 GW.

[8] GWEC’s projections are also available in this document: “Wind Power Works,” undated, 2, http://www.gwec.net/fileadmin/

[9] IEA, World Energy Outlook 2009, executive summary, 6 , http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/docs/weo2009/WEO2009_es_english.pdf
[10] http://www.cphpost.dk/

[11] See: http://www.wind-watch.org/affiliates.php

[12] Wind Concerns Ontario, http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com/member-pages/

[13] Industrial Wind Action Group, http://www.windaction.org/orglist

[14] A 2008 report by the Department of Energy estimated that an aggressive effort to have wind energy provide one-fifth of US electricity needs by 2030 would “displace 50% of electricity generated from natural gas and 18% of that generated from coal.” DOE Study on 20% Wind, 2008, 16, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/pdfs/41869.pdf
[15] Steve Hargreaves, “Pickens’ wind plan hits a snag,” CNNMoney.com, November 12, 2008. Available: http://money.cnn.com/2008/11/12/news/economy/pickens/index.htm

[16] http://www.boonepickens.com/media_summary/030510.pdf

[17] http://www.bloomberg.com/markets/commodities/energy-prices/

[18] http://blogs.barrons.com/stockstowatchtoday/

[19] Rebecca Smith, “The New Nukes,” Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2009, 3. Available: http://online.wsj.com/. Wind figure is for Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm in the UK. Estimated cost is 1 billion British Pounds. In mid-September 2009, that was equal to about $1.7 billion. See: “Onshore construction begins for Sheringham Shoal wind farm,” NewEnergyFocus.com, September 7, 2009. Available: http://www.newenergyfocus.com/

[20] http://www.boston.com/

[21] http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_3.html

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Clipper in talks with UTC about takeover

The announcement came alongside Clipper’s interim financial statement for the six months preceding 30 June where the company reported a 65% fall in turbine sales compared to the previous period in 2009.

Clipper also said it consolidated cash had fallen from $140million at the end of June to $86million at the end of August.

As a result of Clipper’s aim to raise capital, shareholder UTC has tabled an indication of interest to acquire the company outright. Any deal is dependent on due diligence being carried out.

UTC took a 49.5% stake for $206.5million in Clipper at the end of last year.

If Clipper is unable to secure the additional financing by September 30, the company said there was "significant doubt of the company’s ability to continue as a going concern".

In July, Clipper reached an agreement with its shareholder UTC for the company to guarantee the turbine manufacturer's warranties.

Windfall in New York

A few years back, a column I wrote recounting a successful effort by an alliance of citizens to beat back wind-turbine interests in Andes, N.Y., provoked a massively negative response. I was accused (a) of elevating the views I enjoyed from the windows of my second home above the interests of the society in encouraging green energy, (b) of displaying the usual latecomer’s indifference to the needs of the locals who had been living in Andes forever and (c) of not knowing what I was talking about when I described the construction (massively disruptive), effects (awful on land, animals and people), contribution to the grid (minimal) and financing (tax credits and accelerated depreciation rates) of the 400-foot-high towers with a 52-foot circumference base and blades 130 feet wide whooshing through the air at 178 m.p.h.

At the time of that earlier column, Meredith, another small town in Delaware County, seemed to be going in the other direction; the prediction was that the wind companies would succeed there.

But it didn’t turn out that way, and a new film by Laura Israel that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 10 tells the story of what happened. The film is called “Windfall,” a pun on the fate of the wind project (it fell) and on the initial hope of some of Meredith’s residents that unanticipated revenue had fallen into their laps along with the opportunity to do the right environmental thing.

As the film opens, opponents of the turbines are recalling their early enthusiasm: “I saw one and it was beautiful.” “We felt we were helping the world.” But when a farmer signed an agreement and a test tower was erected on his land, a neighbor looked out the window and said to himself, “What’s that?”

Alarmed, he began to do research and spread what he took to be the bad news. One couple had gotten on board almost immediately, but then the wife went to look at a turbine and was horrified by the sounds it made. “Not that they were so loud; it was the idea that it was forever, for 25 or 28 years, for the rest of my life.” They got out of the contract, wrote a letter to their neighbors and became warriors in the wind wars.

The battle was fought politically in response to the tactics the wind energy companies always employ. First a few large landowners, usually farmers who have been in the area forever, are approached about signing up. At the same time, town supervisors and members of the town planning board, who are often landowners themselves, are targeted. Those who are approached are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement that prevents them from telling their neighbors what is going on. The result is that when the news does get out, an aura of inevitability has already been established; the feeling is “this is so big and so far advanced that there’s nothing we can do.”

Another result is the splitting of the town into two factions; the long-time “locals” and the “downstaters” or “outsiders” or “latecomers” (you’re a latecomer of you’ve lived there 20 years) who more often than not have the numbers but are weak politically because they are registered to vote in another state.

Wind turbines like these, out West, are at issue in upstate New York.Former friends and once-friendly neighbors no longer talk to each other. Nasty signs and even nastier words pop up everywhere.

That’s just what the wind-energy forces planned. They look for relatively poor areas that display the desired population demographic — farmers with large landholdings and newcomers with large incomes — and then they pit the two constituencies against each other. You get more than a hint of the strategy in a presentation made at at least one meeting sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The attendees were alerted to the nature of the enemy by an overhead depicting an armored man on a horse rushing forward with his lance pointed at a windmill. The caption read “When Don Quixote Attacks.”

The identification of the wind-turbine opponents with Cervantes’s unhinged hero made the point that they are (a) crazy), (b) delusional and (c) doomed to fail. The next overhead was more analytic; it characterized the deranged tilters-at-windmills as “often affluent” and “politically sophisticated.” The message is clear: Do you want those uppity types from the city telling you what you can do with land that has been in your family for generations?

So the wind interests inflict a triple injury — on the landscape, on the quality of life and on the social fabric of the community — and then, after a while, they depart, leaving behind what one resident of a turbine-infested town called a “giant junk yard.” (Yes, I know about decommissioning promises and bonds, but if you think the developers won’t devise several escape hatches when the time comes, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.)

All of this was avoided in Meredith when the “uppity types” organized, campaigned, had meetings, held rallies and turned the town officers out by a substantial margin. Happy ending, at least from the perspective of those who feared they would have to leave the rural paradise they prized so much. Of course not everyone is mobile enough to be able to leave; and had the wind hucksters succeeded, many would have been in the position of the residents of another New York region, Tug Hill, where an initial proposal of 50 turbines ballooned into 200.

“Windfall” devotes 20 chilling minutes to Tug Hill. Filmmaker Laura Israel took her cameras there thinking that perhaps the reality would not bear out the Meredith naysayers’ fears. But, she reports, it did: “When you look out the window in the Flat Rock Inn, you see turbines; when you look in the rear view window of your car, you see turbines; when you look at a reflection in a puddle, you see turbines; when I closed my eyes to go to sleep I saw turbines spinning; they did start to take on the characteristics of the creatures from ‘War of the Worlds.’” A native of the town (“I’ve been here my whole life”) stands in front of his property and asks the camera, “Would you consider retiring in my home?”

This man’s plaintive plea gives a new meaning to the acronym NIMBY (not in my back yard). When innumerable posters hurled the phrase at me in response to my earlier column, they were using it metaphorically. But for this poor guy (and all his neighbors), the phrase is quite literal. These towering monsters are in their back yards, and in their front yards, and in their lines of vision and hearing no matter where they happen to be.

So the question is, why should they say yes to the destruction of everything they value about their way of life? Why should they submit to being beaten over the head with a moral club — “you are just selfish elitists” —that has behind it almost nothing at all? There’s no benefit to the individual, who often ends up paying higher energy bills; little benefit to the town besides (sometimes) an initial cash payment; a questionable benefit to the grid, especially when you calculate the energy costs of installing these behemoths and the necessity of fallback energy when the wind doesn’t blow; but lots of benefits to the developers who are described by voices in the film as carpetbaggers, pod people and traveling salesman for whom the only green that counts is the color of money.

We all choose where to live (if we have the luxury of choice) for reasons that mean something to us. Are those reasons — rehearsed again and again by the citizens of Meredith and Tug Hill — negligible and dismissible? Do they count as nothing before the rhetoric of global warming (a real danger, but not one that’s going to be kept at bay by ruining small towns in Delaware County) and the naked greed of the large companies that put these things up? For the residents of the town of Cape Vincent, N.Y., these questions may be moot; just last week members of their town board and planning board — several of whom had lease agreements with the wind companies — gave the go-ahead to a turbine project despite considerable opposition (the estimate I’ve heard is by a ratio of 4-1) from property owners. The state attorney general’s office is investigating the possibility of a conflict of interest (do you think?) and so the battle may not be over.

Meanwhile, another battle, even larger, is being waged around the practice of “fracking,” the extraction of natural gas by the high-pressure pumping of chemical-laden fluids into rock formations. Rather than going up, as turbines do, fracking goes down, so the blight is, at least apparently, less visible. But the environmental worries are even greater, for there is evidence — especially in Pennsylvania where a well-blowout (sound familiar?) has led to the suspension by the state of the drilling projects of one company — that there is significant danger of water contamination and seismic activity. The industry of course denies these dangers and argues that a link between fracking and the pollution of ground water in Pennsylvania and Colorado is unproven. (Tobacco scientists, anyone?) Incidentally, the gas drillers decline to reveal the specific contents of the fluids used in the process. Not a confidence-inducer.

Like the turbine salesmen, the frackers work by stealth and turn communities into opposing camps engaged in class warfare, and they are now out in force in Delaware County, even as the turbine wars recede into history. On Sept. 8 in Delhi, the county seat, just down the road from Meredith, 340 people — a large number in these parts — rallied in the rain, carried signs and spoke against “multinational companies willing to poison us for profit” and against the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, which, they say, voted in favor of the gas industry without giving the other side a hearing. A seven-minute video captured their protest and an award-winning documentary, “Gasland,” provides the details (such as tap water ignited by a match) of what is happening nationally in a narrative the industry vigorously rebuts.

Maybe the next step will be a Hollywood treatment in the tradition of “Erin Brockovich,” “A Civil Affair” and “The Insider.” Unfortunately, however, these movies are stories of heroes who bring dangers to light after they have materialized. The damage has already been done and many people end up living with it.

There is a David and Goliath aspect to these battles between heavily funded corporate interests and citizen activists who come out and stand in the rain with home-made signs. Will the NIMBY’s — a designation one should wear with pride — really be able to do something, as they did in Meredith, or will the forces of darkness masking as environmental crusaders prevail? Tune in.

Iberdrola lists wind conflicts

While several past and current government officials are receiving lease payments — some in excess of $1 million — from the Maple Ridge Wind Farm, the most recent disclosure by Iberdrola Renewables Inc. indicates that only one of its ongoing north country wind projects — Stone Church in Hammond — includes a direct potential conflict.

According to a disclosure filed by the wind company last month, Hammond Town Councilman James C. Pitcher has a lease agreement that could be worth $60,000 to $100,000. He has recused himself from recent wind votes.

Susan Dunham, the sister of Hammond Town Councilman James Langtry, also has a lease agreement that could be worth $20,000 to $60,000.

Another official listed is former Hammond Town Clerk John Mitchell.

The disclosure fulfills the requirements of the Wind Industry Ethics Code, which was introduced by state Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo in 2008.

Iberdrola has two other north country projects: Roaring Brook in Martinsburg and the dormant Horse Creek project in Clayton and Orleans.

According to the filings, past Lewis County Legislator Gary P. Rosiczkowski has a transmission line agreement on the Roaring Brook project, and Boonville Village Trustee William Daskiewich has a lease agreement, both of which are to be worth $5,000 to $20,000. Neither would have voting influence on the project.

Nicholas Thisse, the brother of Martinsburg Town Supervisor Terry J. Thisse, also holds a lease agreement with a listed worth of $5,000 to $20,000.

For the Horse Creek project, the only officials listed are Michael Pavlot from the Clayton town Board of Assessment Review and Leslie and Gretchen Daye, both past assistant fire chiefs from Depauville.

Eleven current or past officials are listed as benefiting from the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm, which was built primarily in 2005 in the towns of Martinsburg, Harrisburg and Lowville. Of those, six may have had voting influence on the project. They include:

■ Stephen N. Bernat, who has served as Harrisburg town supervisor from 1990 to 2003 and from 2008 to the present, has an agreement worth $1 million or more.

■ William J. Burke, a long-time member of the Lowville Zoning Board of Appeals and Lowville Academy and Central School District Board and Lewis County legislator since 2008, has agreements worth $1 million or more. Mr. Burke and some of his family members are also employed by Iberdrola Renewables, and he has in recent years abstained or recused himself from voting on wind matters.

■ Paul Widrick, who was on the Harrisburg Zoning Board of Appeals in 2004 and 2009, has an agreement worth $1 million or more.

■ Edward Yancey, who was on the Harrisburg Zoning Board of Appeals from 2004 through 2008, has a financial interest through the Yancey Family Trust of $1 million or more.

■ Robert Delaplain, who was on the Harrisburg Planning Board from 2001 through 2005, has a financial interest of $1 million or more.

■ Loren D. Lyndaker, who was on the Harrisburg Planning Board from 2002 through 2006 and a member of the Town Council since 2007, has a neighbor agreement worth $20,000 to $60,000.

The methodology used in Iberdrola's calculations for Maple Ridge — including length of leases and whether extension options were figured in — was not immediately available Monday afternoon, according to a company spokesman.

Unlike more recent wind projects, Maple Ridge evoked little public opposition or questions about potential conflicts during its development.

A spokesman from the attorney general's office couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

ON THE NET

Iberdrola Renewables Inc. disclosure: www.iberdrolarenewables.us/nydisclosure

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clipper Windpower seeks UTC takeover

• Shares in wind turbine maker close 30% lower at 31.5p
• Cash-strapped group seeks rescue from largest shareholder


Clipper Windpower, which is building a wind turbine factory in the north-east, is in crisis talks that could see it taken over by its largest shareholder.

Clipper has been burning through cash and by the end of August its reserves had dwindled to $86m (£55m) from $140m on 30 June. The company said it faces "significant liquidity strain" within the next year.

It has now opened its books to United Technologies Corporation (UTC), the maker of Sikorsky helicopters, which has indicated it wants to take full control of the ailing business. The shares plummeted 30% to 31.5p.

UTC rode to Clipper's rescue in December when it spent £126m buying a 49.5% stake in the loss-making company, which is listed on London's junior Aim market but generates most of its sales in the US.

Last year Clipper won a grant from the government to build a factory in north-east that will make what it claims will be the world's largest turbines. The factory, near Newcastle upon Tyne, is due to be finished by the end of the year and development of the new Britannia turbines will take another couple of years. Each turbine can generate up to 10MW of electricity, enough to supply 10,000 homes.

The global slump has hit the wind turbine market hard as many customers scaled back investment, but "conditions now appear to be stabilising at reduced levels from recent years", Clipper said.

Danish firm Vestas closed its turbine plant on the Isle of Wight last year, citing a slowdown in orders worldwide.

UTC could increase its stake to 55% after invoking a clause in the deal signed in January, which limited it to a 49.9% stake until January 2012. Clipper is looking at a number of options, including seeking credit lines from its banks and negotiating with UTC on additional credit support, but a takeover by UTC is its main hope.

Clipper said that in light of the discussions with potential lenders, it had adequate resources to continue the business "for the foreseeable future". It cautioned, however, that a financing deal was unlikely to be in place by the time it reports its first-half results on 30 September.

Clipper expects first-half revenues to crash to $150m-$154m from $357.3m a year ago after selling 43 turbines in the six months to June – in the US and Mexico – against 127 in the same period last year. However, its net loss is expected to shrink to $26m-$30m from $120m from lower remediation and warranty-related costs. This year, it hopes to deliver about 140 turbines to customers. The company said it had made a major breakthrough by getting UTC to provide warranty support.

Clipper Windpower seeks bailout amid cash flow crunch

Clipper said that it is “exploring numerous alternatives to raise capital including private and public equity issuances and working capital credit lines with certain financial institutions as well as its largest shareholder, UTC (United Technologies Corporation).

Clipper’s end June cash position of $140m had decreased to approximately $86m as of the end of August 2010 “due to continued cash requirements¿.including increased purchases of components for the manufacture of turbines scheduled for deliver in the current year.”

In January 2010, UTC invested $207m in Clipper, after the turbine manufacturer faced an earlier cash squeeze. Clipper says that the agreement contains provisions that generally limit UTC’s shareholding to a 49% stake until January 2012. However, it says that in the case of certain events it can increase its stake to 55%. UTC informed Clipper in mid September that based on cumulative cash outflows, which they say have exceeded the level permitted in the two companies’ agreement that it is allowed to increase it and its affiliates’ shareholding to the 55% level.

Clipper says that it “will continue engaging in negotiations with UTC to determine whether a financing transaction or acquisition proposal can be arranged on acceptable terms.” It warns, however, that “there is no assurance that these discussions will result in a proposal that the Non-UTC Directors believe is appropriate to recommend to the Group’s shareholders.”

Clipper also warns that without an agreement on a substantive new financing transaction by 30 September 2010, it expects to disclose within its interim financial statements an opinion that “the current business circumstances create a material uncertainty that casts significant doubt on the Group’s and the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Clipper says that revenue for the six months that ended 30 June is expected to be in the range of $150-154m, primarily form the sale of 43 turbines, compared to revenues of $357.3m for the period a year earlier, when the company sold 127 turbines. Clipper says it expects to sell between 140-180 turbines in the whole of 2010.

It says that its sales have been affected negatively in the past by its inability to provide customers with a top level turbine warranty coverage. It says that it has made a “major breakthrough” in this regard with a recently finalized agreement by which UTC will provide warranty support. It has also formed a relationship with UTC’s Pratt & Whiney Power Systems (PWPS) to enable Clipper “to leverage the PWPS global distribution network to sell and service the Liberty turbine and to provide integrated turnkey project capabilities to turbine purchasers.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Records show area officials profit from leases with turbine firms

Twelve public officials who sat on county and town boards in Lewis County stand to make a combined $7.5 million from the region’s largest wind-turbine project, government disclosure forms show.

And numerous other officials in Herkimer County stand to profit as well from new projects there, although not to the same extent, records show.

The lease arrangements have raised questions among local residents and good-government experts about potential conflicts of interest as wind-turbine farms are approved.

One person who feels that way is Gordon Yancey of the town of Lowville, who used to have a clear view of the Adirondacks stretching as far as the eye could see from his property on the edge of the Tug Hill plateau.

But in 2006, the sprawling Lewis County landscape became home to the Maple Ridge wind farm – a group of 195 wind turbines towering 400 feet high over the once undeveloped landscape in Lowville, Martinsburg and Harrisburg. Those communities are located along state Route 12 about one hour north of Utica.

Now, Yancey said all he sees are the massive white towers obstructing his view. He blames lease agreements between wind developers and public officials, one of whom is his brother, Edward Yancey, who sat on the Harrisburg Zoning Board of Appeals.

Edward Yancey stands to benefit to the tune of up to $1 million over the lifetime of the agreement, according to disclosure forms filed with the state by Iberdrola Renewables and Horizon Wind Energy, which co-own the project.

“They made their sweetheart, backdoor deals long before anything was made public,” Gordon Yancey said. “Of course, the boards pushed everything through.”

Edward Yancey could not be reached.

Disclose or face fine

A 2008 mandate from the state Attorney General’s Office requires wind companies to disclose the nature and scope of any municipal officer’s financial interest in a wind project or risk facing fines of as much as $100,000.

No companies have been penalized to date, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

“In order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, we publically disclose any relationship with a municipal officer or their relative,” Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman said.

Lise Bang-Jensen, senior policy analyst for the Empire Center for New York State Policy, said any move towards increased government transparency is admirable, but making sense of conflicts is more complex than writing them down.

“If you have a role on both sides of a project, that’s a clear conflict of interest,” Bang-Jensen said. “Putting it on a piece of paper and disclosing it, doesn’t make it legal.”

Many of the officials listed on the disclosure forms – including Harrisburg Town Supervisor Stephen Bernet, who stands to make $1 million – did not return calls last week.

One of those listed on the disclosure forms is Roger Grace, a Planning Board member in Pinckney. Maple Ridge wind farm spreads across Lowville, Harrisburg and Martinsburg, but Grace, who stands to make as much as $20,000 from the project, still is required to disclose his role in a neighboring town.

He said his role isn’t a concern, and he believes those involved have acted appropriately.

“I think everyone’s done a phenomenal job,” Grace said. “It’s always a battle, though. People that got money love them, and people that didn’t get money hate them. That’s all.”

‘Not acting objectively’

The issue of lease agreements between public officials and wind developers is burgeoning in Herkimer County, where the Hardscrabble wind farm is slowly rising.

The Herkimer County towns of Fairfield and Norway will soon be home to 37 turbines – seven of which are already standing.

In that project, five officials stand to make as much as $85,000 from the turbines that are expected to be up and running by the end of the year.

“For any municipal officers or their relatives with whom we have a relationship, we specifically request that the officers recuse themselves from a decision or vote that would in any way affect the development of a project or affect how the municipality treats wind power,” said Copleman, the Iberdrola spokesman.

Yet six years ago, when the Hardscrabble project was nothing more than a vague concept, questions arose as to why Fairfield Planning Board member Harold Robinson was voting on wind issues while he had an agreement with the wind company aiming to come to town, according to O-D archives.

“The Town Board is not acting objectively,” Fairfield Planning Board Chairman Peter Fishbein complained in 2004. “The board needs to acknowledge there are people who are worried about this and at least hear their concerns.”

Robinson, who stands to make as much as $20,000 from a lease agreement, did not return calls last week.

‘Won’t like the looks of things’

Other wind projects are brewing across the Mohawk Valley, including a plan from NorthWind and Power to build a farm of eight to 12 turbines on Dry Hill in Litchfield.

In that development, some residents have questioned the role played in the process by Litchfield Supervisor Wayne Casler, He is a regional controller at Barrett Paving Materials, which owns more than 100 acres of land on the southern end of Dry Hill.

Wind developers have said the paving company’s land won’t be considered, but the company could be chosen to supply materials for the project if it's approved.

From time to time in Lowville, Gordon Yancey hears rumblings of other wind farm in the works – like the one in Litchfield.

Each time, he said, he thinks back to the days before his business was surrounded by turbines. Oftentimes, the curious come knocking on his door to ask what his experience was like years before.

“What I tell people is ‘Educate yourselves because you can’t trust where anywhere else is coming from,’” Yancey said. “Ask every question you can. And when you do, you won’t like the looks of things either.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

First Wind Opens Office In Washington, D.C.

Boston-based First Wind has opened an office in Washington, D.C., to support the company's government-relations efforts. The office is located at 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Julia Bovey, the former director of external affairs at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will head First Wind's office in Washington, D.C. She is a veteran of the clean energy movement in Washington and also previously served as the national media director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Italy seizes $1.9 billion of assets as Mafia goes green

ROME (Reuters) – Italy Tuesday seized Mafia-linked assets worth $1.9 billion -- the biggest mob haul ever -- in an operation revealing that the crime group was trying to "go green" by laundering money through alternative energy companies.

Investigators said the assets included more than 40 companies, hundreds of parcels of land, buildings, factories, bank accounts, stocks, fast cars and luxury yachts.

Most of the seized assets were located in Sicily, home of the Cosa Nostra, and in southern Calabria, home of its sister crime organization, the 'Ndrangheta.

At the center of the investigation was Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, 54, a man known as the "Lord of the Wind" because of his vast holdings in alternative energy concerns, mostly wind farms.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni called the operation "the largest seizure ever made" against the Mafia.

General Antonio Girone, head of the national anti-Mafia agency DIA, said Nicastri was linked to Matteo Messina Denaro, believed to be Mafia's current "boss of bosses."

Investigators said Nicastri's companies ran numerous wind farms as well as factories that produced solar energy panels.

"It's no surprise that the Sicilian Mafia was infiltrating profitable areas like wind and solar energy," Palermo magistrate Francesco Messineo told a news conference.

Officials said the operation was based on a 2,400-page investigative report and followed the arrest of Nicastri last year.

Senator Costantino Garraffa, a member of the parliamentary anti-Mafia committee, said the Mafia was trying to break into the "new economy," of alternative energy as it sought out virgin ventures to launder money from drugs and other rackets.

In the past few years, Italian authorities have cracked down hard on the crime group that once terrified the country.

The cupola, or hierarchy, of the Sicilian Mafia has been in freefall since the mid-1990s, when police began arresting its most enigmatic and charismatic bosses.

Salvatore "The Beast" Riina, who had declared war on the state and ordered a string of killings, bombings and kidnappings, was arrested in 1993 after nearly a quarter of a century on the run.

His successor, Bernardo Provenzano, was captured in 2006 after 43 years on the run. Both Riina and Provenzano hailed from Corleone, the hill town near Palermo made famous by the Godfather movies.

Provenzano was succeeded by Salvatore "The Baron" Lo Piccolo, who was in turn arrested a year later in 2007.

Police say the circle is now closing in on Messina Denaro, who hails from the grim western Sicilian town of Castelvetrano and is known as the "Playboy Boss" because he likes fast cars, women and gold watches. He has been on the run since 1993.

BIGGEST-EVER MAFIA SEIZURE FROM MAN 'CLOSE TO NO.1'

(ANSA) - Trapani, September 14 - Italian anti-Mafia police on Tuesday seized assets worth some 1.5 billion euros ($1.92 billion) from a Sicilian businessman believed to have ties witht Cosa Nostra boss of bosses Matteo Messina Denaro.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni hailed what he called "the biggest ever" seizure of Mafia assets.

"Today the largest-ever Mafia seizure operation was made from an entrepreneur in the Trapani area believed close to Messina Denaro," Maroni told a morning TV talk show.

Vito Nicastri, 54, an alternative-energy entrepreneur with several wind farms in Sicily, is said to be one of the last remaining fundraisers for Messina Denaro, around whom police are waging a "scorched-earth" policy.

Investigators said that, as well as having links with Messina Denaro's Cosa Nostra, businessman Vito Nicastri also worked with 'Ndrangheta, Italy's richest mafia, across the Messina Straits in Calabria.

More than 40 companies were sequestered, some of them with stakes abroad, predominantly in the windfarm and solar-panel sector, as well as hundreds of acres of land around Trapani, Palermo and Reggio Calabria; plus about one hundred pieces of real estate, luxury villas and warehouses; deluxe cars and a 14-meter catamaran; and 60 bank accounts, insurance policies and bonds.

Messina Danaro, 48, became supreme boss when Bernardo Provenzano, 77, was arrested in 2006 after 43 years on the run.

Several top bosses were caught in the wake of his arrest, leaving Messina Danaro increasingly isolated, police say.

Anti-Mafia prosecutors believe they are closing in on the young boss of bosses.

In July police said they had been able to reconstruct his DNA in a further step towards arresting him.

The genetic profile of the so-called 'Godfather of Trapani' was identified through tests on biological evidence, including hair, obtained from Messina Denaro's brothers without their knowing.

Identifying the DNA of the Cosa Nostra No.1 is considered a major breakthrough because he has never been arrested.

Copies of his fingerprints taken when he was drafted for military service have long since been destroyed.

Messina Denaro, who has been on the run since 1993, built up his power base in his native Trapani, in western Sicily, before beating Palermo chieftains to become Mob kingpin after Provenzano was caught in April 2006.

His position at the top of Cosa Nostra was assured with the November 2007 arrest of Palermo boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo, a veteran mafia chieftain who had appeared to be vying with the younger mobster for control of the crime syndicate and had the apparent support of the 'old guard'.

Messina Denaro is currently believed to be expanding his criminal empire abroad and police have found evidence of trips to Austria, Greece, Spain and Tunisia.

Nicknamed 'Diabolik' after a cult Italian comic strip criminal, Messina Denaro sealed a reputation for brutality by murdering a rival Trapani boss and strangling his three-months pregnant girlfriend.

He is reportedly idolised by Cosa Nostra younger troops because of his ruthlessness and playboy-like charisma.

For almost two years year police have been following a new strategy to try and flush Messina Denaro out, arresting scores of his underlings and seizing million of euros in assets.

"The circle is closing around the No.1 fugitive," Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said earlier this year.

Palermo Chief Prosecutor Francesco Messineo added at the time that their aim of their strategy against Messina Denaro was to "dry up the water he swims in". photo: new identikit of Messina Danaro

Offshore wind-farm developer Deepwater Wind moves headquarters to Providence

PROVIDENCE — Deepwater Wind, the developer planning two wind farms off the Rhode Island coast, has moved its corporate headquarters here from New Jersey.

The company announced Monday that it is now based out of what was a satellite office at 56 Exchange Terrace in downtown Providence. The office, which opened in April 2009 with only one full-time employee, has been expanded to accommodate staff from Hoboken, N.J., and several new hires, including, most recently, a lawyer who once served as chief of staff to Governor Carcieri.

Jeffrey Grybowski, who was chief of staff to Carcieri from 2003 to 2007, has been named Deepwater’s chief administrative officer and senior vice president for strategy and external affairs, according to the announcement. After leaving state government, Grybowski became a partner at the law firm Hinckley, Allen & Snyder, where, starting in May 2008, Deepwater was one of his clients.

Grybowski was a frequent presence at the State House over the past two years, advocating on Deepwater’s behalf. In his new job, he will coordinate Deepwater’s development efforts in the Northeast and will lead the company’s public-policy strategies.

Grybowski will work in the Providence office as part of the current nine-member team that includes CEO William M. Moore, who helped develop land-based wind farms in upstate New York; chief development officer Paul Rich, who has been based in Providence since the office opened; Chris van Beek, managing director and chief of technology, projects and operations; and Aileen Kenney, director of permitting. The company also has a one-person office on Block Island.

“The talent we have added to our development team enhances our ability to build the nation’s first offshore wind farms serving our core markets, including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey,” Moore said in a statement. “The establishment of our corporate headquarters in Providence also furthers our commitment to establishing an East Coast wind-energy hub.”

Governor Carcieri applauded the move, referring to Deepwater’s plan to create an assembly facility, which would eventually employ up to 800 people, at Quonset Point in North Kingstown.

“This is much more than an energy project,” Carcieri said in a statement. “This is about creating a new industry in Rhode Island, an industry that puts Rhode Island at the epicenter of the emerging alternative-energy market. Deepwater Wind will help bring new economic activity, jobs and opportunity to Rhode Island. From construction through operation, Deepwater Wind projects will provide high-quality green-collar jobs.”

The move comes as Deepwater steps up efforts to build an eight-turbine wind farm in state waters off Block Island that would serve as a test project before the company’s 100-turbine proposal in federal waters farther off the Rhode Island coast.

The Block Island project, which aims to be the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., cleared a major hurdle last month when the state Public Utilities Commission approved a long-term agreement for the sale of the power it would generate to National Grid, Rhode Island’s main utility.

The approval, however, came in controversial fashion. The General Assembly approved a law designed for Deepwater’s benefit after the PUC rejected its first power-purchase agreement with National Grid.

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, the Conservation Law Foundation and two manufacturing companies have appealed the PUC approval to the state Supreme Court. The PUC submitted the written record of its case to the court on Monday, a move that will allow a docket to be opened and a schedule of proceedings to be set. But a ruling from the court is not expected for months.

Despite the appeals, Deepwater is moving ahead with the Block Island wind farm. It must order components this calendar year to qualify for federal investment tax credits that are equal to 30 percent of the $200-million project cost. To qualify, the company must pay 5 percent of the total cost by Dec. 31.

Founded in 2005, Deepwater is backed by D.E. Shaw & Co., which had provided $21 billion in investments and committed capital as of July 1. D.E. Shaw is also a major investor in First Wind, a Boston company developing land-based wind farms in Hawaii, Maine, New York and elsewhere.

Deepwater will maintain its office in New Jersey, where the company is planning an offshore wind farm in federal waters through Garden State Offshore Energy, a partnership with energy company PSEG. The company has permission to install a weather-monitoring tower in the ocean in preparation for that project. Deepwater is also working on plans for a development in New York.

“We remain committed to our presence in New York and New Jersey, and are excited about the progress our projects there are showing,” Moore said.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vinalhaven wind turbine noise exceeds limit

VINALHAVEN, Maine — The three wind turbines that were designed to lower and stabilize the unpredictable electric bills of Vinalhaven and North Haven islands also have brought some sleepless nights to those who live closest to their giant blades and the noises they make.

The controversy over the noise levels between Fox Islands Wind officials and some islanders began soon after the turbines went on line last fall, but last week, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection received a letter from its wind turbine noise consultant that seems to back up the project’s unhappy neighbors.

“There exists a significant body of consistent meteorological and sound data indicating sound levels greater than applicable limits,” Warren L. Brown, who also serves as the University of Maine’s radiation safety officer, wrote Wednesday in a detailed letter. “Substantial changes are recommended for FIW nighttime operations.”

Brown reached his conclusions after reviewing a noise complaint submitted by Fox Islands Wind Neighbors, a loose association of those who are negatively affected by the turbines, and also after reviewing sound and other data from the Fox Islands Wind project.

For Cheryl Lindgren, who lives less than half a mile from the turbines, Brown’s words came as welcome news, though the department has yet to make a decision based on them.

“It’s gratifying, it’s hopeful. It’s also been a lot of work having to do all this to get people to acknowledge that we have a problem,” she said Sunday in a telephone interview. “We’re hoping we can work together now to get some kind of compromise — that we can get some dialogue going, and that they will respond to the needs of the people who are suffering with this.”

But George Baker, the CEO of the Fox Island Wind electric company and vice president for wind at the Island Institute, said Brown’s findings might not be conclusive.

“He’s looked at a bunch of data that our sound consultant has put together. Our sound consultant analyzed exactly the same data and found us to be in compliance,” Baker said Sunday in a telephone interview. “There’s something going on here, and we don’t know exactly what it is, between the experts, and how they are analyzing and interpreting exactly the same data.”

According to Baker, the differences might stem from the way the experts treat ambient sound from various sources, especially the wind in the trees. State sound regulations “have a hard time” dealing with wind turbines, he said.

“If we were an industrial facility, you would turn on the facility on a still, calm day [and measure its noises],” he said. “Unfortunately, our little community wind farm doesn’t operate on still, calm days. It operates on windy days. ... When the wind is blowing in the woods, it makes a lot of sound.”

Lindgren, however, says this argument is full of hot air.

“[Baker] keeps talking about the ambient sound. It’s a little disheartening,” she said. “Anybody with a set of ears can come sit on my porch. You can clearly tell the difference between wind in the trees and the sound of the turbines. They don’t cancel each other out.”

Baker said the turbines are turned down by 2 decibels at night in order to meet the state sound requirements.

“If, when experts get through sorting out this question of compliance, and it’s determined that we are out of compliance, we’ll just turn them down a little more at night,” he said. “We’re absolutely committed to compliance.”

But that solution might not sit well with some islanders, he suggested, who have benefited from a 15 to 20 percent reduction in their electricity costs since the turbines starting moving.

A survey completed a month ago by Fox Islands Electric Coop members showed that the majority of respondents were in favor of slowing down the turbines in order to reduce sound no more than state regulations require.

“The project remains very, very widely supported on the islands,” he said.

Lindgren, however, pointed out that electricity costs dipped nationwide last fall, not just on Vinalhaven and North Haven islands. And, after nearly a year of being woken up by the noisy turbines, she’s both frustrated and disappointed.

“We believed in ‘green energy’ as being all good. That’s not always true,” she said. “When corporations get involved, it’s not always from the heart. ... I think the whole population could turn off a couple of light bulbs and we’d be in the same place.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

­Ruling nears in windfarm disputes

Prattsburgh, NY — A decision on two separate wind farm lawsuits in the area could be made within weeks.

Prattsburgh and Italy town officials said Thursday they will meet with their attorneys to answer a series of questions posed by state Supreme Court Justice John Ark.

Some of Ark’s questions also appear directed at wind developer Ecogen, LLC which filed separate lawsuits against the two towns, town officials said.

The questions are supposed to be answered before Ark meets Sept. 27 with attorneys from all sides.

“We’ve been waiting all these months, and now we get this crunch date,” Prattsburgh Town Supervisor Al Wordingham said. “To tell you the truth I’m not sure what to think.”

At issue is Ecogen’s claim it has a right to proceed immediately with its plans to build 16 turbines in Prattsburgh and 17 turbines in Italy, in neighboring Yates County.

Although Ecogen has claimed in the past the two projects are not the same project, it has conceded Italy is the lynchpin for both.

Until recently, Italy also has been the bigger problem for Ecogen, with many townspeople questioning the project since it was first proposed in 2002.

After a number of moratoriums and a successfully defended lawsuit, last October the Italy board denied Ecogen the applications it needed to set up the 415-foot tall turbines. The developer promptly filed a lawsuit against the town, charging there was no basis for the denials.

Ecogen fared better in Prattsburgh with a friendly town board, at first, despite strong opposition. But in February 2009, reports of intolerable noise at an operating wind farm in nearby Cohocton concerned the entire board and energized the project’s opponents.

When two pro-wind council members were defeated in their re-election bids, Ecogen threatened to sue the town if agreements were not reached. The lame-duck board quickly passed the agreements with Ecogen by 3-2 votes in December.

However, the new board rescinded the December agreements, 4-1, and Ecogen filed a lawsuit against Prattsburgh.

Wordingham said many of the questions Ark now has seem to be repeats of points the parties have made in the past.

The list makes sense to Italy Town Supervisor Brad Jones.

“I think he’s trying to get the parties to simplify the issues,” Jones said. “All the legal language and hundreds of pages, it’s been so convoluted for so long. I think he wants us to define the issues we’re arguing.”

After years of contention, and surprises, neither supervisor wants to guess what Ark’s decision will finally be.

“We’ll just have to answer the man’s questions and see what happens,” Wordingham said.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wind turbine noise, an independent assessment

Stephen Ambrose and Robert Rand are members of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering. In 2009, they became concerned about the negative comments from residents living near wind turbine sites and, the apparent lack of regulatory action to address the potential for adverse health impacts from wind turbine generator noise in Mars Hill. They launched their own evaluation, and came to the following conclusions in a series of guest columns.

Wind turbines larger than one megawatt of rated power have become an unexpected surprise for many nearby residents by being much louder than expected. The sounds produced by blades, gearing, and generator are significantly louder and more noticeable as wind turbine size increases. Long blades create a distinctive aerodynamic sound as air shears off the trailing edge and tip. The sound character varies from a “whoosh” at low wind speeds to "a jet plane that never lands" at moderate and higher wind speeds. Blade-induced air vortices spinning off the tip may produce an audible “thump” as each blade sweeps past the mast. Thumping can become more pronounced at distance, described as "sneakers in a dryer," when sounds from multiple turbines arrive at a listener's position simultaneously.

Wind turbines are not synchronized and so thumps may arrive together or separately, creating an unpredictable or chaotic acoustic pattern. The sounds of large industrial wind turbines have been documented as clearly audible for miles. They are intrusive sounds that are uncharacteristic of a natural soundscape.

Studies have shown that people respond to changes in sound level and sound character in a predictable manner. A noticeable change in sound level of 5 decibels (dB) may result in “no response” to “sporadic complaints." An increase of 10 dB may yield “widespread complaints,”; a 15 dB increase “threats of legal action."

The strongest negative community response occurs with an increase of 20 dB or more, resulting in “vigorous objections." Audible tones, variability in sound level, and an unnatural sound character can amplify the public response. For a distinctive or unpleasant sound, a small change in sound level, or the sound simply being audible, may provoke a strong community response. Community response can intensify further if sleep is disturbed and quality of life or property is degraded.

Weather conditions influence the sound level generated and how it travels to nearby homes. Sound waves expand outward from the wind turbine with the higher frequencies attenuating at a faster rate than low frequencies. Locations beyond a few thousand feet may be dominated by low frequency sounds generated by the wind turbines. Wind turbulence and icing, both common in New England due to topography and latitude, increase aerodynamic noise from intensified or chaotic dynamic stall conditions along the blade surfaces. Atmospheric conditions at night and downwind enhance sound propagation toward the ground by increasing levels over longer distances. Wind turbines are elevated hundreds of feet to receive stronger winds yet winds down on the ground or in nearby valleys may be non-existent with correspondingly low background sound levels, accentuating the impact of the intrusive sounds.

Other professionals have developed thresholds, or criteria, for sound level to protect public health that may be applied to planning for wind turbine permitting. Recommendations from Hayes McKenzie Partnership in 2006 limited maximum wind turbine sound levels at residences to 38 dBA and no more than 33 dBA when “beating noises" are audible when the turbines spin.

Dan Driscoll presented his analysis in 2009 (Environmental Stakeholder Roundtable on Wind Power, June 16, 2009) with a Composite Noise Rating analysis of 33 dBA to reduce rural community response to the level of "sporadic complaints."

Michael Nissenbaum issued his findings in 2010 from his medical study at Mars Hill, recommending a 7000-foot setback for public health. The World Health Organization published sound level thresholds of sleep disturbance and adverse health effects from peer-reviewed medical studies (Night Noise Guidelines for Europe, October 2009).

Our next column will compare our sound level versus distance data with these medical, health, and community response criteria and show what distances are necessary to protect public health.

Currently there is no effective, reliable noise mitigation for wind turbines of this size other than shutdown. Therefore, at this time it appears appropriate that proposed wind turbine sites should position wind turbines at least one mile away from residential properties and further for sites with more than one wind turbine. Smaller wind turbines (under one megawatt power rating) produce less noise than those currently being marketed and installed for grid power in Maine; these may be an option when distance is an issue.

Friday, September 10, 2010

‘Windfall’ Documentary Explores Perils of Wind Power

“Windfall,” a new documentary that premieres Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival, could take the sails out of wind power. The film observes the deeply divided residents of Meredith, New York — an Upstate farm community in decline — as they debate the pros and cons of allowing wind turbines on their land. Local proponents champion the promise of green energy and monetary compensation, while detractors question the efficiency of wind-generated energy and the drawbacks of living among 400-foot tall towers with gigantic rotating blades.

First-time director Laura Israel, who has a log cabin in Meredith, first became aware of the town’s wind energy debate when she read stories in the local newspaper about the potential dangers of turbines to the bird population (bats are also at risk). “I went through the same process myself as they did in the film,” says Israel. “First, I thought, maybe I’d like to get a wind turbine, but then I started going on the Internet and realized there was more to the story.”

Israel videotaped in Meredith for about a year, documenting contentious board meetings and interviewing residents, and also visiting other areas in New York, such as Lewis County, where wind turbines have already taken hold. The film offers few experts on either side of the debate; rather, it allows local townspeople to discuss their own research, experiences and fears, such as the wind turbine’s “flicker effect,” as the machines pass across the sun and cast immense shadows, as well as the dangers of their low frequency hum.

Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future,” and a frequent critic of the wind industry (in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal), says the “infrasound” issue is the most problematic for the wind industry. “They want to dismiss it out of hand, but the low frequency noise is very disturbing,” he explains. “I interviewed people all over, and they all complained with identical words and descriptions about the problems they were feeling from the noise.”

Because of wind energy’s massive expansion — the five-year average growth rate is up 39%, according to the American Wind Energy Association — Bryce suggests that the kinds of conflicts depicted in the film “are going to be much more common if it’s allowed to grow as fast as it could,” he says. “There’s a lot of pissed off people out there.”

Israel doesn’t want her film to be used as an advocacy prop for anti-wind advocates, however. She just wants people to be informed. “What I would want people to do is research it and look at it critically.” Invoking the words of Gordon Yancey, an outspoken wind critic from Tug Hill, NY who appears in the film, Israel advises, “Do your homework.”

Or as Bryce adds, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch and it’s the same with wind energy.”

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Henderson eyes total wind farm ban

HENDERSON — The Town Council made Henderson the first municipality in the north country that could enact a ban on commercial wind farms.

At its meeting Wednesday, the council voted 4-1 to allow the law firm Hancock & Estabrook LLP, Syracuse, to write a law that would ban all commercial wind development in the town.

Members of the council and the citizens wind committee met with lawyers who said the town already is effectively restricting wind turbine development on more than 90 percent of the land in the town, Supervisor Raymond A. Walker said.

"Based on what the citizens wind committee has already come up with, it's a good idea to not allow wind energy in the town," he said.

Councilman Frank W. Ross voted against the motion. He said he did not have enough time to read the two-page letter from the law firm that was distributed before the meeting.

Councilwoman Torre J. Parker-Lane pushed the issue with help from more than 30 community members, some of whom requested a board member read the letter out loud. She said the board needs to act on allowing the firm to draw up a law before summer residents leave and do not have an opportunity to attend the public hearing.

"If we're going to put off this discussion, then I would like us to set up a date for a special meeting," she said. "I really don't want to put this off any longer. If we did the law according to what we have, it could leave us open. They suggested we do a complete ban on wind towers."

Ms. Parker-Lane made the motion and she, Mr. Walker, Councilwoman Carol A. Hall and Councilman Steven C. Cote voted in favor.

During the meeting with the law firm, Mr. Walker said, the town also was asked whether it wanted to reserve the right to appeal the state Supreme Court's dismissal of the town's Article 78 proceeding.

In February, the town brought legal action against the town of Hounsfield, asking a judge to annul the Hounsfield Planning Board's site plan approval for the proposed Galloo Island Wind Farm. Henderson filed a state Supreme Court Article 78 proceeding against Hounsfield, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Upstate NY Power.

On Aug. 18, Judge Joseph D. McGuire denied Henderson's request, ruling in part that the town did not have standing to file an action.

The council voted 4-1, with Mr. Walker, Ms. Parker-Lane, Ms. Hall and Mr. Cote voting yes and Mr. Ross opposed, to reserve that right.

"We're not doing anything yet, just keeping the option open," Ms. Parker-Lane said.

The board is not moving forward with the formal appeal, but will have the option to do so several months down the road if it needs to, Mr. Walker said.

Lyme agrees to establish two wind committees

CHAUMONT — The Lyme Town Council is looking for a few good men — and women — to serve on two committees that will investigate wind issues.

The council agreed at its meeting Wednesday night to establish the committees. One will collect information on the economics related to wind power development and the other will gather information on health, safety and environmental issues.

"My idea is that we put an even number of people on those committees," Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine said. "We put an equal number of pro and anti and have them work together. One side will offer information and the other side can offer counter-side information."

The committee's information then would be available on the town website and possibly in the town office. Lyme residents could consult it before answering an upcoming wind survey, which will direct the council on how strictly to write a new wind zoning law.

"I don't think it's the committee's place to come up with opinions, but to come up with information and send it to the people. Let the people make up their own decisions," Councilman Donald R. Bourquin said.

The council agreed to advertise for the positions and accept applications through Oct. 12, the day before its next regular meeting.

The council also agreed to allow Mr. Bourquin to solicit proposals from acoustic engineering firms on writing a sound section to the law. He had asked the firm Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, Sudbury, Mass., about Lyme's law.

"I was told the sound portion of our law is unworkable," he said. "I don't know how much it would be. But they'd want to know what we're thinking before we get too far along."

Councilwoman Ann M. "Boo" Harris asked whether the committees could collect information on noise first.

"I don't feel comfortable writing anything with sound," she said.

Councilman Warren A. Johnson voted against the idea.

"We had a good law and it took us three and a half years coming to that point," he said. "They're in the business to make money."

Mr. Aubertine also asked whether zoning for personal turbines should be taken out of the commercial wind law and expedited.

"That's fine, except we've still got the noise levels in there," Mr. Bourquin said.

And the once-proposed law allowed personal turbine height to vary from a maximum of 100 feet based on manufacturer's recommendations.

"We need to start with a number," Mr. Johnson said. "They can get a variance if they need it."

In the end, he and Mrs. Harris agreed one of the wind committees should look at it.

"I think that's going to cause problems once we get down that road," Mr. Aubertine said.

To give the committee and council time to work on information collection and a survey for town taxpayers, the council set a time for a public hearing to extend a moratorium once again on wind power development. The hearing will be at 6:15 p.m. Oct. 13 at the town offices, before the regular meeting.

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