Sunday, October 31, 2010

Judge questions Ecogen, 2009 Prattsburgh town accord

Rochester, NY — Recent court action could greatly affect the future of wind farms in the town of Prattsburgh.

State Supreme Court Justice John Ark recently ruled the lame-duck Prattsburgh town board must explain its unusually swift, 3-2 passage of an agreement last December allowing wind developer Ecogen to move ahead immediately without standard town agreements.

Ark’s decision gave the board 45 days to submit statements to him, and delays Ecogen’s motion to begin immediate construction of 16 turbines in the town based on the previous board’s action.

The December agreement was passed short weeks after two pro-Ecogen board members were defeated by wide margins in their bid for re-election in November. Within days of the defeats, Ecogen had threatened to sue the town if a settlement was not reached by the year’s end.

In early December, defeated board members Town Supervisor Harold McConnell and Councilwoman Sharon Quigley teamed with current board member Stacey Bottoni to approve the settlement, reportedly drawn up by Ecogen.

Board members Chuck Shick and Steve Kula protested the action and voted against the settlement.

In January, the new board rescinded the settlement 4-1, with Bottoni voting against the measure. Ecogen promptly sued the town, claiming the December settlement was binding.

But Prattsburgh’s attorney, Ed Hourihan, of Bond, Schoeneck and King, said Ark clearly wants a closer look at the reasons behind the previous board’s actions.

“He wants to ask the members and Ecogen what was behind this 11th hour settlement that was rammed through,” Hourihan said. “There was no debate. It was pushed through by people who had a particular interest in (the project). This decision was made by Ecogen and a couple board members in a back room. That’s not democracy. He just wants to shed some light on a backroom deal.”

The Ecogen project has been the source of long debate in the town, stretching back to 2002 when the developer announced plans to set up turbines in Prattsburgh, and in the neighboring town of Italy, in Yates County.

The projects were touted by Prattsburgh board members and many residents as a way to provide green energy, increase needed town revenues and provide income for landowners.

Other residents strenuously opposed the projects on the grounds the turbines could irreparably harm people in the area, the environment, and the landscape.

But in February 2008, reports of intolerable noise at the nearby First Wind wind farm in Cohocton alarmed residents and the board, which considered a moratorium.

Ecogen threatened to sue, saying the ban would hurt the project. The developer assured the board it would work to reduce problems and restrict sites, and the idea of a moratorium was dropped.

Kula and Shick, and a number of residents continued to lobby strenuously for greater setbacks to reduce the problem of noise. Noise has been key issue for residents, with medical studies reported could bring on short- and long-term illnesses. Ecogen refused to redraw its site plan, saying any changes would delay the project.

In November, candidates supporting a cautious view of the project were elected by overwhelming margins, changing the dynamics of the board and resulting in Ecogen’s third threat of a lawsuit in less than a year.

Hourihan said Ark is concerned because the election was a clear public referendum on the project.

“The people have spoken,” Hourihan said. “Ecogen doesn’t care.”

Wordingham said Ark is continuing his plan for both sides to find a way to agree without a court decision. Ark has warned any decision is likely to lead to costly appeals for both sides.

“He’s left a lot of work for us to do,” Wordingham said. “Don’t worry. It’ll get it done.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

First Wind IPO sputters suddenly

It doesn’t take an investment banker to know which way the wind blows.

Executives at First Wind Holdings Inc. pulled the plug on their initial public stock offering at the last moment yesterday when investor demand went slack. Shares that were supposed to start trading on the Nasdaq stock market yesterday are on the shelf now.

In an unusual series of events that took place Wednesday, the Boston-based wind farm developer signaled it was prepared to accept less — a lot less — than previously expected to get the IPO off the ground. First Wind said its expected price for the stock offering had been cut from a range of $24 to $26 per share, to $18 to $20.

First Wind made that known Wednesday morning. Bankers were supposed to negotiate a final price at the end of the day so the shares could begin trading yesterday.

Companies often lower their IPO expectations by agreeing to reduce the price or trim the number of shares for sale. But few cut their targets by 24 percent hours before a deal is scheduled to be priced. In the end, it’s clear First Wind’s bankers delivered an offer that was even less appealing than the revised price range suggested.

“While we received significant interest from potential investors during the marketing of our IPO, the terms that the IPO market was seeking at this time were not attractive to the company,’’ First Wind chief executive Paul Gaynor said in a statement yesterday.

All of a sudden, Boston is becoming a hub of stalled initial stock offerings. Liberty Mutual pulled a $1 billion-plus IPO for a unit that sells insurance through agents a month ago. That deal, which would have been the year’s biggest IPO to date, also ran into lukewarm interest and price pressure.

The First Wind stock offering was supposed to be big, too, though not quite on Liberty Mutual’s scale. The company wanted to raise more than $400 million when it first filed paperwork to go public in 2008. Expectations had become more modest — about $300 million — based on price estimates at the start of this week and First Wind still would have raised $216 million if it managed to sell shares for $18 apiece. But it could not.

Stock analysts say investors didn’t like the First Wind offering because the company had piled up a lot of debt and leaked cash. In fact, First Wind owes more than $500 million, loses money on a steady basis, and reports a negative cash flow.

That’s a hard sell in a picky market in which 54 IPOs have been postponed or withdrawn this year. Two other initial stock offerings priced Wednesday evening raised less money than they sought and one company cut its price by 44 percent.

Another important factor: a declining interest on Wall Street for alternative power generation. Relatively low fossil fuel prices and reduced demand are putting financial pressure on wind and other sources of green power. The possible elimination of federal investment tax credits for renewable energy poses another threat at the end of this year.

Alternative energy companies like First Wind, which has built seven utility-scale wind farms in five states, need steady access to lots of capital to grow. For now, the stock market doesn’t seem like the place to look for that money.

Bad News For Cohocton's Wind Company

No IPO For First Wind

IPO is a stock market term that stands for “initial public offering.” It’s when a company first sells their stock to the public. And Reuters is reporting that Cohocton’s wind farm company -- First Wind -- has canceled their IPO after cutting their stock’s expected price range by 24% and failing to price after the close of U.S. markets Wednesday.

Cohocton Wind Watch’s Jim Hall maintains that this is a problem for First Wind. "This clearly demonstrates that Wall Street has no confidence in First Wind," Hall told WLEA/WCKR News.

First Wind’s CEO says that while they received significant interests from potential investors during the marketing of their IPO, the terms that the IPO market was seeking was not attractive to the company, and that First Wind is well positioned to grow in it’s core market.

First Wind Shelves Plans For IPO

Wind farm developer First Wind Holdings has put its IPO on hold after cutting it’s price range by 24%, Reuters reported. Boston-based First Wind, which is funded by private equity firm Madison Dearborn and hedge fund operator D.E. Shaw, originally aimed to raise $300 million from the offering. The company faced skepticism from investors due to a heavy debt load, Reuters reported.

(Reuters) - Wind farm owner and operator First Wind Holdings Inc canceled its IPO after cutting its expected price range by 24 percent and facing investor skepticism about its balance sheet and wind industry financing.

The company’s struggle to come public is likely a sign of its own particular problems rather than an indication that the U.S. market for new issues has completely fallen off. Two other IPOs moved higher on their first day of dealings.

Shares of medical services provider ExamWorks Group Inc were trading up over 6 percent in their debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of SeaCube Container Leasing Ltd, which leases and sells refrigerated and dry containers and generator sets, are trading up 9 percent, also on the New York Stock Exchange.

“This is a company (First Wind) that certainly has real assets and certainly has been doing some big projects, but is challenged on the debt side,” said Greg Neichin, vice president of San Francisco-based research and advisory firm Cleantech Group LLC.

“If anything, it’s a sign that you should be really thoughtful about project finance and debt loads and trying to maintain a cleaner balance sheet,” Neichin said.

First Wind finances, develops and operates utility-scale wind energy projects in the Northeastern and Western United States and Hawaii. It is the first U.S. wind energy company to attempt an IPO, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The company, which had planned to raise $300 million in its IPO but cut that figure back to $228 million on Wednesday, has been posting losses and had outstanding debt of more than half a billion dollars as of Sept 30. It had hoped to list on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “WIND”.

Some U.S. government financing — of which First Wind has received hundreds of millions of dollars — could be suspended at the end of the year. Analysts have also warned that weak electricity prices could be too low to secure private financing.

New U.S. wind power installations were down 71 percent through the first six months of 2010, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

First Wind Chief Executive Officer Paul Gaynor said in a statement that the terms the company was able to get for the IPO were “not attractive” and the company was canceling its IPO.

Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank were lead underwriters on the First Wind IPO.

SEC Ownership Report filing for First Wind Holdings Inc. (0001434804)

First Wind Holdings Inc. (0001434804)
SIC: 4911 - Electric Services
State location: MA | State of Inc.: DE | Fiscal Year End: 1231
Business Address
Mailing Address

Ownership Reports from: (Click on owner name to see other issuer holdings for the owner, or CIK for owner filings.)

Owner Filings Transaction Date Type of Owner
Adams Kurt 0001503819 2010-10-27 officer: Exec. VP and Chief Dev Officer
Alvarez Michael 0001503806 2010-10-27 officer: President and CFO
EILERS PATRICK C 0001246237 2010-10-27 director
Erickson Lori 0001403503 2010-10-27 officer: Sr. VP, Human Resources
Gaynor Paul 0001503807 2010-10-27 director, officer: CEO and Director
Gish Peter 0001503808 2010-10-27 director
Grant Carol 0001503809 2010-10-27 officer: Sr. VP, External Affairs
Key Stephen 0001356216 2010-10-27 director
MADISON DEARBORN CAPITAL PARTNERS IV LP 0001122443 2010-10-27 10 percent owner
MADISON DEARBORN PARTNERS IV LP 0001249306 2010-10-27 10 percent owner
MOGG JIM W 0001237472 2010-10-27 director
Raino Matthew W 0001502260 2010-10-27 director
Ursitti Andrew 0001503810 2010-10-27 officer: VP and Chief Acct. Officer
Wilson Paul H. Jr. 0001503811 2010-10-27 officer: Exec VP, Gen Counsel and Sec.
Wood Patrick III 0001344507 2010-10-27 director

See Code Descriptions for an explanation of the codes used in this listing

Items 1 - 13 (Note: Second (grayed) row (except for Nature) is for derivative details.)
Date Reporting Owner Form Trans. Modes Shares Price Owned No. Owner CIK Security Name Deemed
Exercise Nature Derivative Underlying Exercised Underlying Expires Underlying
- - Wood Patrick III 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001344507 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - MOGG JIM W 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001237472 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Grant Carol 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001503809 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Key Stephen 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001356216 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Erickson Lori 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001403503 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Gish Peter 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001503808 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Wilson Paul H. Jr. 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001503811 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Ursitti Andrew 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001503810 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Adams Kurt 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001503819 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Alvarez Michael 3 - --D 2 0001503806 Class B Common Stock, $0.001 par value
[derivative] 0.0000 - - Class A Common Stock
- - Alvarez Michael 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001503806 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
- - Gaynor Paul 3 - --D 2 0001503807 Class B Common Stock, $0.001 par value
[derivative] 0.0000 - - Class A Common Stock
- - Gaynor Paul 3 - --D 0.0000 1 0001503807 Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Wind Puts Off Sale

First Wind, the developer and operator of wind energy projects backed by D.E. Shaw & Co., said in an e-mailed statement today it will “not move forward” with its IPO.

The company had reduced the price range for its sale of 12 million Class A shares to $18 to $20 each from $24 to $26.

Wind Farms

“While we received significant interest from potential investors during the marketing of our IPO, the terms that the IPO market was seeking at this time were not attractive to the company,” First Wind’s Gaynor said in the statement sent by spokesman John Lamontagne.

Credit Suisse, New York-based Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank were hired to arrange the IPO.

First Wind cuts forecast on proceeds from IPO

Facing a decidedly cool reception from investors, First Wind Holdings Inc., a Boston developer of big wind farms, yesterday elected to sharply reduce the amount of money it expects to raise from its initial public offering, scheduled for today.

First Wind earlier predicted it would get $24 to $26 a share. Now it expects to sell 12 million shares in the range of $18 to $20 each.

A share price in the middle of that range would reduce First Wind’s IPO proceeds by $72 million to $228 million.

First Wind’s newly public shares were expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq market today. But last night the company and its investment bankers had not yet announced a set price for the shares.

First Wind operates seven utility-scale wind farms in Maine, New York, Utah, and Hawaii with a combined capacity to generate 504 megawatts of power. The company hopes to operate or begin construction on farms with another 1,000 megawatts of capacity by the end of next year.

First Wind originally filed documents to go public in 2008, in the midst of the presidential campaign and an enthusiastic national debate about alternative energy development. At the time, the company hoped to raise as much as $425 million.

But First Wind has also produced a lot of red ink. The company, created eight years ago, has lost $233 million and continues to lose money today. It has also piled up $582 million in debt building wind farms and will require more financing to expand in the future.

Those financial facts led to a tepid response from investors, analysts said.

“Given the financial tight rope First Wind is walking and its voracious need for financing to build its projects, we believe the risks outweigh the company’s upside,’’ Stephen Simko, Morningstar Inc. analyst, wrote in a report on the stock offering.

First Wind generated about $88 million in revenue through the first nine months of the year, about 50 percent more than it reported for the same period of 2009. But the company also posted an operating loss of $43 million for the first three quarters, about the same amount it lost over that period last year.

First Wind said it will use the proceeds from its stock sale to reduce debt and help finance ongoing development projects.

The company’s big financial backers, hedge fund operator D.E. Shaw and the private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, will continue to own a majority interest in First Wind.

First Wind pulls IPO

* First Wind canceling IPO

* First Wind CEO: IPO terms "not attractive"

By Clare Baldwin

NEW YORK, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Wind farm owner and operator First Wind Holdings Inc WIND.O canceled its IPO after cutting its expected price range by 24 percent and failing to price after the close of U.S. markets on Wednesday.

"The terms that the IPO market was seeking at this time were not attractive to the company," First Wind Chief Executive Officer Paul Gaynor said in a statement.

The shares of two other U.S. initial public offerings rose in their stock market debuts on Thursday after weak pricings -- proof that the U.S. market for new issues is challenging.

Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank are leading underwriters on the First Wind IPO. (Reporting by Clare Baldwin, additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos)

First Wind IPO pricing delayed - underwriter

NEW YORK Oct 28 (Reuters) - The pricing of wind farm operator First Wind Holdings Inc's initial public offering has been delayed, an underwriter said on Thursday.
The IPO was expected to price on Wednesday after the close of U.S. markets. Whether to move ahead with the IPO pricing is now being determined on a "day to day" basis, the underwriter said. No further information was available.

First Wind on Wednesday cut the price range of its IPO by 24 percent. It plans to list on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "WIND" WIND.O. [ID:nSGE69Q0KD] (Reporting by Clare Baldwin, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

Wind site plan criteria OK'd

CAPE VINCENT — The town Planning Board unanimously adopted the site plan criteria submitted by the St. Lawrence Wind Farm's developer, Acciona Wind Energy USA, Wednesday night in front of some 100 members of the public, a sheriff's deputy and a state trooper.

However, nobody in the audience actually heard the motion because anti-wind protesters were chanting "Andrew Cuomo, stop this board now" some 5 feet away from the board the whole time.

Councilman Brooks J. Bragdon, who was sitting at the table with the Planning Board, said he also could not hear anything and had only realized what happened when Planning Board Chairman Richard J. Edsall told him shortly after the meeting was adjourned.

"They did it right in front of us, behind our backs," said Hester M. Chase, founder of the St. Lawrence River Public Power Association and one of dozens of people who were demanding that the Planning Board take no action before setbacks were established.

(Click to read the entire article)

Cape Vincent Planning Board Meeting Goes Awry 10/27/10

Wind Power II: The Wind-farm Eruption

Those of us who drive in the Midwest or Southwest are often startled to see a plethora of wind turbines sprouting like overnight mushrooms in an area we remember as farms or grazing lands. But unlike the fragile mushrooms that we kicked over when walking to school on spring mornings, these mushrooms have 700-ton concrete bases, are nearly 30 stories tall, and cost upwards of $3,570,000 each. What caused all this to happen since our last trip to the area? Who is footing the bill? And why?

Will the Real Constructors Stand Up?
To find who is driving the construction of these massive fields of wind turbines, and who’s paying for them, it behooves us to know who is not behind them, such as electricity consumers.

In a Heartland Institute article,* Penny Rodriguez writes about attempts by city officials in Austin, Texas, to push city residents to buy “renewable” energy through Austin Energy, which is controlled by the city. Austin Energy contracts with wind farms and solar projects to supply energy, and Austin Energy tries to convince users to buy “green power.”
City residents have declined to sign up for higher rates under the city’s voluntary GreenChoice program.

Contracting with renewable power providers and offering the service to customers sounded like a good idea to city officials until the price tag came in at up to three times the cost of conventional power. City residents aren’t buying.

Fancy that.

Rodriguez continues, “In one of America’s most liberal cities and one that prides itself on its environmental awareness, the latest allotment of renewable power is 99 percent unsold after seven months on the market.” Did the city council see the errors of its ways and mend them accordingly? Hardly. It has now mandated that Austin Energy generate 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and has contracted to purchase $250 million of solar power from an array to be built near Webberville, Texas.

The citizens of Austin are paying for the wind farms — through higher utility rates — but they aren’t becoming stockholders. Just poorer. Perhaps electric consumers are secretly investing in “renewable” energy, but they are certainly not banding together to put up wind farms. It appears that they would just rather not be bothered about where energy comes from, just so long as it is there when they flip the switch.

Also not behind the wind farms are rank-and-file environmentalists. These folks, who travel in Priuses and not private jets, stare with us in disbelief at the mountain ridges where they battled furiously against walking trails — and which now host gawky football field-sized blades surrounded by denuded acres (trees would disrupt wind flow to the turbines), miles of roads big enough to bring in a 400-foot crane, miles of trenching for the underground cables necessary to bring the 25,000-volt outputs to a central transformer, and thence many more miles of high-voltage power lines to deliver the power to a power grid. They’re not smiling much anymore. Nor are Audubon Society members who were promised that the term “Avian Cuisinart,” used as a synonym with wind turbines, was just right-wing hyperbole, until someone thought to count the dead hawks, eagles, and other birds and bats without allowing time enough for ground scavengers to make off with the evidence. As this group learns the real scoop on wind energy, they are becoming very angry.

Some elitist environmentalists and the heads of environmental organizations do try to whip up grass-roots fervor for wind power, but they don’t put their money where their mouths are. A wind farm with 25 1.5 MW turbines costs upward of $100,000,000. Although the leaders of Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, or the ridiculously misnamed Union of Concerned Scientists are evermore touting “green, renewable energy,” a listing of the major players doesn’t provide any evidence that these groups are putting their money up for wind-farm construction. While our environmentalist neighbors pay lip service to “clean energy” and “free fuel,” they are seldom if ever involved in wind-farm projects.

The environmental movement is becoming increasingly fractionated by the wind energy controversy. The uber radicals at the top of the various “green” movements — and high in the Obama administration — are for wind energy precisely because it doesn’t work. (Think about it. None of the projects/techniques/schemes of providing energy supported by the government have any chance to produce industrial-grade power in significant quantities. All of those that have a chance — such as coal-to-liquid fuel conversion and community-sized, inherently safe reactors — are stifled by the environmental bureaucracy for various reasons, primarily global warming and nuclear waste. Both rationales are almost exclusively based on counterfactual claims, poor hypotheses, and hysteria rather than real danger. A reasonable person would have to say that it is too coincidental that radicals always land on the side of the argument for reducing the energy assets of the United States. I think it is important that we all realize this and assess all government programs in light of it.)

Radical environmentalists know as well as we do that nuclear power is the safest, most reliable, and cleanest source of electricity. They know a single nuclear plant delivers the same power over a year as does a 300-square-mile wind farm with 2,200 30-story wind turbines, the difference being that the nuclear plant delivers energy when needed, not just when the wind is blowing. If you want to de-industrialize the Western world, you champion energy sources that will lead us back to the days of human and animal power, and those are wind and solar power.

For those environmentalists who want the smallest environmental impact by humans on the planet, without the goal of de-industrializing our economy and culture, the battle is on with their leaders.

In the case of utility companies, they and grid operators, who must provide “dispatchable” electricity, are more than just a little disenchanted with wind power, except in the case of politically motivated or subsidy-chasing individuals. As we have noted in the cover story article “An Ill Wind Blowing?” (page 10), grid operators have no trouble with wind turbines — as long as their output is zero. This is true because electricity must be used at the moment it is generated, and these “frequency chasers” (so named because they must keep the grid frequency at 60.0 Hz) balance electricity generation with fluctuating power demand. When the power supply is also fluctuating, as it does when winds increase or decrease in speed, balancing loads on the power grid is much more difficult. When the wind component of a power grid reaches five percent, serious instabilities begin to occur. (Of the highly touted 20-percent wind generation in Denmark, only a few percent is used by Danish users, who pay the highest electric rates of any industrialized country. The vast bulk of Danish wind energy is sold at a loss to the much larger German-controlled and Norwegian grids that can accommodate the volatility of Danish wind generation.)

So while some utility executives are leftists and support “renewable energy” as an article of faith, with others pandering to vocal green factions and politically liberal regulatory agencies, most, we suspect, would love to be free of the political and economic distractions to concentrate on the important work that must be done in providing us electricity — a life-giving and life-enhancing commodity.

Even professional lobbyists and lobbying organizations on behalf of wind power don’t fund wind power, though they do convince politicians to spend plenty of taxpayer money (our money) on wind farms. The largest wind lobby, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), is a strong supporter of centralized government control. If you want one-sided propaganda about the benefits of wind energy, and how to get in cahoots with the manufacturers, this organization is your one-stop shopping mall. It represents itself as a scientifically based organization, but always avoids the real question regarding wind energy: Can electricity be delivered when it is needed?

The AWEA is, for example, in the forefront of pressuring the Senate to pass a “National Renewable Electricity Standard” during the coming lame-duck session of Congress. This would mandate a national requirement for all electricity producers to obtain a certain percentage of their energy generation from “renewable” sources, with wind being the primary alternative — especially given the dreadful performance of solar plants, which average only 16 percent of their stated capacity (as opposed to 20-35 percent for wind). This would be a huge subsidy for wind proponents as the full power of the government would require electricity users to buy “green” power no matter what its cost.

When politicians offer a subsidy on a commodity or service, several actions occur almost instantaneously: Entrepreneurs will begin tooling up to create the subsidized item, the subsidized industry will hire new workers, and then it will employ the best lobbyists it can find. The product being created doesn’t affect the pattern. If the product is curb-feelers, then you can bet the curb-feeler industry will be hiring, form an association of curb-feeler manufacturers, and hire lobbyists to convince Congress that curb-feelers are necessary for our children’s safety, will stimulate our economy, and, moreover, without them our national security will be threatened. Substitute wind power for curb feelers, and you’ve got the message. But do we see AWEA comrades coming up with big bucks for $100 million wind farms? I don’t think so.

Finally, there’s the mainstream media and liberal politicians. Though these individuals and corporate cronies are promoters of wind power and are happy to cause money to be spent on wind farms, they’re not known for investing their own dollars.

The Driving Force
There are many wind-power worshippers, but we haven’t located the individuals or groups with the deep pockets and clout to set in motion all of the wind-turbine construction that we’ve seen disfiguring the U.S. landscape.

You have probably never heard of the largest wind-energy producer in the United States: NextEra Energy, formerly the FPL group — which you have likely never heard of either. You will have heard of other big investors, however: BP, Shell, GE, and Goldman-Sachs, for example.

Why are these large corporations and investment firms the main financiers of wind energy, not the utility companies that already have electricity-generating infrastructure and have been providing us with power for decades? The common denominator here is lots and lots of money — and lots and lots of tax liabilities.

These companies are not so much interested in creating power, but in siphoning government subsidies and taking advantage of “renewable” energy tax breaks. Let us use an example by Glenn Schleede, who was Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget under Ronald Reagan and is a well-known critic of industrial wind energy, in a memorandum to Governor Bob McDonnell asking him to “consider objectively the true costs and benefits of electricity from wind” to the citizens of Virginia. He first cites the “Five-Year Double Declining Balance Accelerated Depreciation” (often referred to as “5-year 200% DB”) that is allowed for calculating the share of “wind farm” capital cost that can be deducted from taxes by “wind farm” owners and their “tax partners.”

As the table shows, in six years the tax liability on the owner of a $100 million “wind farm” and his “tax partner” has been reduced by $41 million, a schedule not allowed for traditional generating facilities that have longer and slower depreciation periods, typically 20 years.
Clearly such a write-off is an investment for companies such as Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Iberdrola, and other players with large profits and tax liabilities.

When a wind farm is online and generating, it receives a $0.021 “Federal Production Tax Credit” for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated for its first 10 years of operation. A 100-million-dollar project would have a rated capacity of about 40 megawatts (MW) and, with a capacity factor of 30 percent, would generate 105.4 million kWh per year, providing a subsidy of $2.2 million per year or $22 million dollars over 10 years.

But since our Congress thought it cruel for wind-farm owners to be required to wait for their money, or perhaps the wind farmers weren’t generating as much power as had been anticipated, our wind farmers and their tax partners are offered the option of an Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30 percent of capital costs, in our case $30 million. But wait. What if the owners didn’t need the tax credit? Thankfully the “stimulus” legislation made wind-farm developers (and their tax partners) eligible to receive an equivalent cash grant from the U.S. Treasury in lieu of the ITC.

Then, too, some states offer their own ITC. For Arizona it’s 10 percent, so off comes another $10 million.

There’s more. In fact, we’re just getting started. Not only are taxpayers gouged, but the ratepayers are forced to take a hit also. Here’s how this scam works. Legislators, the self-anointed energy experts and protectors of the environment, decree that electric utilities must obtain such-and-such percentage of their energy from “renewable” sources. This is called a Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS. The utilities, being required to supply “green” energy, must find a source for it. Enter from stage left the aspiring wind farmer and his tax partner with their sales pitch: “We know you’ll be needing some ‘green’ electricity, so we’re here to offer you our help. Now if you’ll just sign this 20-year contract promising you’ll use our electricity first, and that you’ll pay a small premium for this electricity because of our greenness, then we’ll give you these Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to show to the state so they won’t fine or imprison you for not meeting their RPS.”

Now how does this work? “Our” government mandates the utilities to buy expensive, unreliable energy from wind farms, and the utilities then pass these higher costs through to the ratepayers. We then blame the utilities for raising our rates. Tricky, no?

It’s not unrealistic for a utility to pay an extra three cents per kWh above the market rate for electricity. (Nuclear electricity costs $0.0203 per kWh, including all the maintenance, insurance, and decommissioning costs.) Using the same MW and capacity factor as in federal calculations, the wind-farm owners now add to their take a contract worth $3,942,000 per year or $78.8 million over the 20-year contract period — not for electricity, but for the subsidy caused by the “need” for “green power,” caused by the mandate brought about by politicians, most of whom don’t know a kilowatt from a kumquat.

Not bad. Tax savings for the wind farmer and his “tax partner” of $41 million plus an ITC from the federal government of $30 million, another ITC from the state for $10 million, and a contract for $78.8 million — all of this without generating a single kilowatt-hour of electrical energy. Again, there’s more, such as zero sales tax on equipment, no property taxes, and low rates for equipment assessments, not to mention a variety of subsidies, grants, and other unpublicized deals to attract support for a commodity (wind-generated electricity) that otherwise would not exist.

It is virtually impossible for anyone not intimately involved in a wind-farm project to have knowledge of all the subsidies and benefits, but we can see how this actually shakes out in a real-world example, in this case NextEra Energy (formerly FPL group).

Among other assets, NextEra owns Florida Power and Light with total revenues of $15.6 billion and a net income of $1.62 billion. At the corporate tax rate of 35 percent, their federal tax liability would be $567 million in 2009 alone.

BusinessWeek magazine reported in April 2009 that the FPL Group (now NextEra Energy) had an annual tax rate of 1.3 percent on more than $7 billion in earnings over the last four years. This amounted to a total of $88 million in taxes. Analysts in BusinessWeek explained this low rate was possible given tax breaks for having invested in alternative energy. The article added, “To ensure those tax rules reach into the future, FPL employs a cadre of well-placed Washington lobbyists. In 2008, the company paid well over $500,000 to five top-drawer firms to make its tax case to Congress, the White House and the U.S. Treasury.” Makes one wonder how much over $500,000 they spent and which legislators and other officials were benefactors of this largesse.

While it’s a fact that wind-powered ships discovered the New World and opened up exciting frontiers, and wind power was used to pump water to keep Holland from sinking into the sea and to water cattle on U.S. prairies, no matter what the advocates of wind power say, and regardless of the subsidies paid, wind is not a substitute for fossil fuel, hydroelectric, or nuclear generating plants. As Glenn Schleede summarized in his memorandum to Governor McDonnell:

• Electricity from wind is very high in true cost and very low in true value.

• The wind industry and other wind energy advocates greatly overstate its benefits and understate its adverse environmental, economic, energy, scenic and property value impacts.

• Claims of job and economic benefits from “wind farms” are greatly exaggerated.

• “Wind farms” are being built primarily for lucrative tax benefits and subsidies for their owners — not because of their environmental or energy benefits.

It is not like we don’t have a map of our future if we continue down this road of subsidizing wind and solar energy. In Europe, particularly Denmark, Germany, and Spain where the wind-generation subsidies have been as lavish or more so than ours, there has been a strong reaction — revolt is probably a better word — against the transfer of taxpayer and ratepayer wealth to the purveyors of “renewable” energy. In those countries electric rates have risen dramatically, with Denmark having a rate three times the average in America. As reported by Andrew Gilligan in the September 12, 2010 New York Times:

Unfortunately, Danish electricity bills have been almost as dramatically affected as the Danish landscape. Thanks in part to the windfarm subsidy, Danes pay some of Europe’s highest energy tariffs — on average, more than twice those in Britain. Under public pressure, Denmark’s ruling Left Party is curbing the handouts to the wind industry.

Americans must educate their legislators and the public to the pitfalls of wind subsidies before we find ourselves with not only high energy costs, but with decreased productivity from squandering our capital on wasteful piddle-power projects.

First Wind Holdings cuts proposed price range for upcoming IPO

First Wind Holdings, a D.E. Shaw/Madison Dearborn-backed developer and owner of U.S. wind farms, lowered the proposed price range for its upcoming IPO on Wednesday. The Newton, MA-based company now plans to raise $228 million by offering 12 million shares at a price range of $18-$20. The company had previously filed to offer the same number of shares at a range of $24-$26. At the mid-point of the revised range, First Wind will raise -24% fewer proceeds than previously anticipated. First Wind, which was founded in 2002 and booked $75 million in sales last year, plans to list on the NASDAQ under the symbol WIND. Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Goldman, Sachs & Co. are the lead underwriters on the deal, which is expected to price this week.

View IPO Profile: WIND
Related Links: Upcoming IPOs

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A new slant on wind farms

Jerusalem, N.Y. — John Grabski, representing the Jerusalem Preservation Association, brought a seldom explored topic to the subject of wind farms at the Oct. 20 Jerusalem Town Council meeting - economic devaluation.

Public discussions on wind farms usually include noise, flicker, dead birds and discontented cows. Grabski pointed to those briefly, but his main point was to suggest measures to protect against personal property value loss.
Instead of looking at the big picture of how much money wind turbines could bring to the town and landowners, he pointed out in a detailed approach how money could be lost long term.

“According to expert organizations such as professional Certified Real Estate Appraisers, industrial wind development adversely impacts land values within the immediate wind-zone and a peripheral area of approximately two miles,” according to Grabski.

He based his data on research conducted by the Certified Real Estate Appraisers in various states for property within two miles of wind turbines. He then applied this formula to the 346 homes and land affected by wind development, as defined by the Town of Jerusalem as a possible site. He then narrowed it down to 180 parcels located in the immediate vicinity or High Impact Area.

According to the findings, the property value of the 180 parcels is $18,674,000 which generates $356,000 in school and property taxes annually.

Based on CREA studies, property value declines from 20 to 43 percent can be expected in parcels within two miles of turbine sites. Assuming an average of this estimate, the taxable loss would be $5,602,200 for the 180 homes.

Over the term of a 20 year wind project, the tax revenue loss could be $2,780,571 to $5,561,014, according to calculations, based on the formula.

Grabski said a bondposated by the wind developer would help with lost tax revenue, and added, “People would start to sell and others would ask for lower assessments. It’s happening all over the country.”

“If what developers say is true, and there is no desire on the part of landowners to exit the development area, and that newcomers will continue to seek and purchase property in the wind zone, then there should be no negative impact on property values. If this is true, wind developers should be both willing and able to provide a property value guaranty to landowners with no economic risk on their part. Conversely, if property values indeed decline, then neither the wind company nor the town at large should profit at the expense of the home and land owners,” said Grabski in his address to the board.

The Jerusalem Preservation Association recommends putting a Property Value Bond requirement into the Wind Ordinance to protect both the citizens of Jerusalem from personal loss and the Town from citizens seeking remedy or remuneration for damage or economic loss from wind farm development.

The organization also presented the board with three pages of other recommendations for the wind turbine law dealing with setbacks, noise, health and other issues.

The Jerusalem Preservation Association was formed in the summer of 2009, when some residents learned areas near their properties were being proposed as possible wind farm sites. The group is also discussing the risks of Marcellus Shale drilling.

The Jerusalem Town Board has been exploring the possibility of wind turbines in the town for a few years. A committee was formed and several public meetings have been held, but there has been no action.
Councilman Neil Simmons, who was active in the public meetings, thanked Grabski for bringing to light a different approach that the town hadn’t looked at before.

Councilman Ray Stewart asked people in the audience of about 40, how many were there in regard to this topic. About 30 raised their hands. Grabski said the association could have filled the parking lot, “But the topic is too important to make a circus of it.”

Is Wind the Next Ethanol?

Repeating past mistakes seems to be a recurring theme in federal policy, and nowhere more so than on energy issues. Much of the Obama administration’s “clean energy economy” and “energy independence” agenda is a virtual repeat of the follies of the 1970s. Back then, failed attempts by Washington to pick winners and losers among alternative energy sources and energy-using technologies led to taxes, regulations, and subsidies that exacerbated the very concerns they were supposed to address.

Indeed, one of the Reagan administration’s greater—though lesser-remembered—economic successes was the repeal of much of this government meddling beginning in 1981. Reagan’s turn away from energy central planning and toward free markets brought down energy costs and helped launch a long period of economic growth.

This decades-old lesson may be lost on younger politicians, bureaucrats, and activists who may be unaware that their energy policy ideas are proven failures from the age of disco. But the same cannot be said of efforts to enact a federal renewable electricity standard (RES), which would be a near-exact repeat of a blunder that was launched just a few short years ago—the renewable fuels mandate. The requirement that ethanol be added to the nation’s gasoline supply has quickly proven to be an economic and environmental failure. Congressional proposals mandating wind and other renewable sources of electricity show all the signs of becoming a similar flop, but with far more serious implications.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First Wind IPO Amendment October 25, 2010

Click to read the latest amendment to the S1 IPO application.

First Wind IPO will go ahead this week

First Wind Holdings has this week filed a registration statement with the US Securities and Complaints Commission (SEC) in preparation for an initial public offering (IPO) on Nasdaq that is expected to be realised this week.

‘I’m afraid we can’t confirm, other than to say we’ve recently filed documents with the SEC. We will make a determination this week,’ said John Lamontagne, director of corporate communications at First Wind.

First Wind would look to make up to $300m from the listing of 12 million shares at between $24 and $26 each, reports indicate.

But the filing may be in jeopardy due to the company’s outstanding debt, which amounted to $582.2m in September. Having never reached profitability, the company’s losses stood at $233m at the end of the latest financial quarter.

According to documents filed with the SEC, First Wind’s assets increased to more than $6.8m at the end of fiscal year 2009 from $2.3m at the end of the previous year.

The company was awarded a $117m loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy in July for its Oahu-based Kahuku Wind project, but the company’s current overhanging debt raises questions as to whether all the funding will be provided.

Cape Planning Board should reject site plan

It would be a great courtesy, at the very least, to the community of Cape Vincent and beyond if the Planning Board chairman would clarify some comments from the Oct. 13 meeting at the special meeting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the recreation hall in Cape Vincent.

The meeting is to prepare to accept the Site Plan Review Application from Acciona for their wind project. Once the permit is submitted the Planing Board must be finished with site plan review within 124 days.

The Planning Board said on Oct. 13 that:

There will be two public hearings to site 51 turbines and miles of access roads and transmission lines.

The only people allowed to speak will be people living within 1/2 mile of the project.

A person from Tibbetts Point Lighthouse area would not be allowed to comment.

Setbacks can be based on 11/2 times the height of the turbine.

Noise complaint policy will be the only method of protecting the community from unexpected noise.

A committee will be formed (no naysayers allowed) to decide on setbacks and a noise complaint policy.

The process will be guaranteed done in six months.

Cape Vincent has no agreement of any kind on setbacks, no agreed-on ambient background sound levels and no discussion of noise complaint policy in place of a scientifically established ambient sound level. The Planning Board has refused to read the Economic Wind Report commissioned by the supervisor dealing with property values. It is reckless and irresponsible to enter Site Plan Review, a legally timed process, without first coming to some consensus on setbacks and ambient sound levels.

Cape Vincent needs to have an ambient sound study done by Cavenaugh and Tocci as voted for by the Planning Board and unconflicted members of the town board. A committee of all different sides needs to use that study to come up with setbacks based on science. The committee's recommendations should go to a public vote.

It is not democratically nor morally correct to go into Site Plan Review at this time. I hope that you will use the meeting on the 27th to clarify what the Site Plan Review process is, why public comment will be censored, what the responsibilities and character of the proposed committee are, what sort of setbacks the board is already considering.

I also trust you will not accept the application from Acciona.

Hester Chase

Cape Vincent

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kessel:a controversial keynote speaker

New York Power Authority President Richard Kessel’s scheduled appearance this evening as keynote speaker at a dinner in Rochester has raised the hackles of people who oppose the project Kessel will here to promote - offshore wind turbines in Lake Ontario or Lake Erie.

The Center for Environmental Information, which invited Kessel to speak at its annual “Community Salute to the Environment” dinner, has received some complaints, executive director George Thomas said on Friday. That may be a first for the environmental group, which doesn’t make a habit of inviting lightning-rod speakers to its dinners. This time, though, it wasn’t a surprise, Thomas said: CEI officials knew full well Kessel was persona non grata to offshore wind opponents.

“That was a consideration when we decided we want to ask him to come, but this is such an important topic that we wanted to give him a chance to describe NYPA’s perspective on it,” Thomas said.

One of the folks who registered a stern complaint with Thomas, Greece shoreline resident Suzanne Albright, said she was displeased that CEI was giving Kessel a platform.

“I believe that Mr. Kessel will take advantage of any opportunity to portray himself in a positive light here in Monroe County,” she said. “Why would he not do that? He’s trying to sell us a bill of goods. Anybody who invites him to come and talk - especially an agency that’s there to protect the environment - he’s going to take advantage of that and hope that that portays him as someone who’s environmentally friendly.”

Indeed, Kessel surely will portray offshore wind as an environmentally friendly way to generate renewal, non-polluting energy. He likely will push the economic benefits of hosting what backers see as a major new industry.

Opponents, naturally, don’t agree with any of this, and can tick off any number of ways they believe offshore turbines can damage the environment and are a financial loser.

At least one opponent asked for equal time at tonight’s dinner, but Thomas said no. “They’re welcome to come and ask questions, but we weren’t going to set up a debate. We’re just asking him to make a presentation on his perspective on it.”

Albright said she asked other opponents if they wanted to join her on a picket line outside the George Eastman House, where the dinner’s being held. As of Friday, she’d had no takers.

Wind Energy: The Truth Blows

Wind energy is the environmentalists’ great energy hope, but two inconvenient truths seem to come between fantasy and reality.

1. Study after study shows that wherever wind development was put in place, natural gas demand went up and the environmental benefits were the opposite of what the advocates expected.

“Cycling” coal plants to accommodate wind generation makes the plants operate inefficiently, which drives up emissions. Moreover, when they are not operated consistently at their designed temperatures, the variability causes problems with the way they interact with their associated emission control technologies, frequently causing erratic emission behavior that can last for several hours before control is regained. Ironically, using wind to a degree that forces utilities to temporarily reduce their coal generation results in greater SO2, NOX and CO2 than would have occurred if less wind energy was generated and coal generation was not impacted.”

2. There is a huge disparity between installed capacity and actual output into the system. In many cases the actual output in the system is less than 20% and in some cases even far less.

There are other unsavory facts that are included in these graphics such as the area required by a wind farm compared to, e.g., nuclear power plant. The Roscoe wind farm in Texas occupies 100,000 acres for a bit less than 800 MW of installed capacity; the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona occupies 4,050 acres (4 percent of the Texas wind farm) but has a 500 percent larger power capacity (almost 4,000 MW.)

Even more obscene are the government subsidies that go into wind power. For an energy source that barely exceeds one percent of energy output, wind subsidies are $23 per megawatt hour, about 60 times of the $0.44 per megawatt hour that go to the mainstay of US electrical power output, coal and 100 times the $0.25 per megawatt hour that go to natural gas, the two sources that account for over 70 percent of US power supply. Way to go for social engineering.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wind cases blowing forward

Separate cases involving a wind turbine project in two Finger Lakes communities are moving ahead.

Monroe County Supreme Court Justice John J. Ark on Wednesday denied the Town of Italy’s request to dismiss an Article 78 petition filed by Ecogen Wind LLC and Ecogen Transmission Corp. of West Seneca, Erie County. Ecogen is seeking review of the town’s denial of a special-use permit, required in order to build its proposed 17-wind turbine project in Yates County.

Judge Ark’s brief order also ordered the town to answer Ecogen’s petition and submit town records to the court within 45 days.

Ecogen has proposed construction of 17 wind turbines in Italy and 16 in the adjacent Town of Prattsburgh, Steuben County, as part of the Ecogen Prattsburgh-Italy Wind Farm.

In September, Harter Secrest & Emery LLP halted its representation of the town following a dispute over unpaid bills. Town Attorney Edward J. Brockman was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Opposition has surfaced in both towns.

“We’re certainly dismayed that the judge has not recognized the power of towns to control their own land use,” said Gary A. Abraham, a Cattaraugus County attorney representing the Finger Lakes Preservation Association, an intervenor respondent.

Abraham said Ecogen’s application “was denied based on regulations the town had adopted. Ecogen twice sued the town and drove the town’s budget into the ground, and continued to threaten to sue the town because the town had banned wind farms.”

In an effort to avoid further litigation, Italy adopted an incentive Wind Zone Law in February 2009. The new zone previously was classified as scenic overlay, visible from both Canandaigua and Keuka lakes.

“That was a major concession, but the town never guaranteed what the outcome would be,” Abraham said. “In the end, the town was convinced noise and other aesthetic impacts were too dramatic, and too much of a burden, and would not be offset by the financial incentives Ecogen offered.”

In a July 2009 letter to the town, Ecogen proffered $1.6 million in cash, equipment, building improvements and other amenities.

Abraham said Ecogen never offered to change the size or number of turbines in its plans, and that no incentives other than cash were offered.

“The town determined the impacts were so dramatic, there would have to be some change … to avoid some of those impacts,” Abraham said. “Rural areas derive much more income from tourism than they do from industry.”

Abraham said the association has never been against the construction of wind farms. The site where Ecogen wants to build is located less than 1,000 feet from homes in the two towns, which Abraham says is too close.

“Wind farm developers have a problem in New York because New York’s rural areas are so densely populated,” Abraham said. “As long as wind farm developers continue to push for siting their projects closer than that, there are going to be complaints.”

Ecogen is represented by the Rochester law firm of Nixon Peabody LLP.

“This project is important to the renewable energy goals of the state because of the highly unique wind resource on that ridge,” said Nixon Peabody partner Robert W. Burgdorf. “Ecogen looks forward to getting to the merits of the lawsuit now that the preliminary motions are resolved.”

Italy Town Supervisor Brad Jones, who took office Jan. 1, declined to comment for this report.

Meanwhile, in Prattsburgh

In a separate order, Judge Ark granted the Town of Prattsburgh limited, expedited discovery to be completed by Nov. 24, allowing the town board to review records leading up to the previous town board’s mid-December acceptance of a settlement agreement with Ecogen to grant the company “vested rights” for the project. Judge Ark’s order stays Ecogen’s request to enforce the settlement.

Voters ousted two of the five town board members in the November 2009 election, including Supervisor Harold McConnell, who was defeated by Albert Wordingham. Councilwoman Sharon Quigley lost to Anneke Radin-Snaith while Charles Shick was re-elected, joining the new board members who took office Jan. 1. Shick is named in the suit, along with board members Steven Kula and Stacey Bottoni, whose four-year terms expire at the end of 2011. The newly seated board rescinded the agreement Jan. 7.

“The settlement agreement that was approved by the outgoing board last year was procured by fraud,” said Edward P. Hourihan Jr., an attorney with Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC’s Pittsford office, who represents Prattsburgh. “The conduct of the outgoing board to attempt to push through a fraudulent settlement at the 11th hour is offensive, and Judge Ark’s ruling will allow a much closer look … at the motivation and conduct of the outgoing board members and their attorney.”

Former Town Attorney John Leyden resigned at the end of last year. Hourihan said his discovery centers on possible collusion between Ecogen and town board members who stand to benefit economically, attempts by Ecogen to improperly lobby town board members and potential conflicts of interest on behalf of the former town attorney and former town supervisor.

“The new town supervisor and town board will have an opportunity to revisit all of these issues,” Hourihan said. “The law is plain and clear that a lame duck legislative body may not bind an incoming legislative body, as was done here.

“Equally offensive is the fact that Ecogen wrote the enabling resolution this lame duck colluding board voted on. The judge’s ruling allows us to shine a light on the activities by Ecogen and the outgoing board that resulted in this fabricated settlement.”

Burgdorf said the Town of Prattsburgh negotiated and entered into an agreement with Ecogen that is binding on both parties.

“The new town board doesn’t like what the previous town board did and is looking to change the deal,” he said.

Howard Wind Project Might Actually Happen

Town Board Member Hatch Says Everpower Is Working To Get Financing

It looks like the Howard wind project might happen after all. After some question about whether the project was going to move forward, Howard Town Board member William Hatch tells WLEA/WCKR News that wind company Everpower is working on financing, and that they hope to get that done by the end of the month.

Hatch also says that there are no dates yet for when the construction will begin.

First Wind IPO next week

Wind farm developer First Wind Holdings Inc. is expected to announce an initial public offering of up to $312 million next week, according to IPO tracker Renaissance Capital.

The Boston-based company is expected to price the 12 million shares in the offering in the range of $24 to $26, Renaissance Capital reported.

The company would join the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol “WIND.” Lead underwriters are Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Goldman, Sachs & Co.

First Wind said in a regulatory filing that it intends to use approximately $78 million of the IPO proceeds to pay off a loan that comes with a 17 percent annual interest rate and matures in March 2013. The company plans to pay off the loan next March. Remaining proceeds would be used for project development and construction costs and general corporate purposes, the company said.

First Wind has waited more than two years for the right time to hold its IPO. The company first filed its IPO intentions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in July 2008.

First Wind’s operating revenue came in at $40.7 million for the first six months of 2010, compared with $20.9 million a year earlier, the company has reported in an SEC filing.

The company’s operating loss also doubled on a year-over-year basis during the first half of the year, to $42.6 million from $21.4 million, the company reported.

First Wind has developed wind projects that are operational in Maine, New York, Hawaii and Utah.

Friday, October 22, 2010

IPO VIEW-First Wind IPO could face turbulent debut

* First Wind IPO set to raise about $300 mln next week

* Loss-making First Wind had $582 mln of debt on Sept 30

* Says may default on outstanding debt, sell collateral

* Some U.S. government subsidies may end at year-end

* Electricity prices stabilizing, demand seen rising

By Clare Baldwin and Scott Malone

NEW YORK/BOSTON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Wind farm owner and operator First Wind Holdings Inc WIND.O, which is planning a $300 million IPO for next week, may be a risky bet in the current energy climate.

First Wind finances, develops and operates utility-scale wind energy projects in the Northeastern and Western United States and Hawaii. Seven projects now operating had the capacity to generate 504 megawatts of electricity as of Sept. 30. It expects to have capacity for another 268 megawatts in operation or under construction by year-end.

The Boston-based company, mostly owned by private equity firm Madison Dearborn and hedge fund operator D.E. Shaw foresees rapid growth. By 2014, First Wind plans to have 1900 megawatts in operation or under construction. One megawatt produces enough power to meet the electricity needs of 800 typical American homes.

But wind energy is expensive and financing is complicated. As of Sept. 30, First Wind had accumulated losses of $233 million and outstanding debt of $582.2 million. It does not have enough cash or liquid short-term investments to pay the debt and acknowledged in a filing that default was a risk.

Some U.S. government financing may also be suspended at the end of the year and market prices for electricity may be too low to spur growth. First Wind has never been profitable.


"It's all about a bet on an uncertain future. Who knows if this company will actually be able to build the infrastructure that it promises?" said Josef Schuster, founder of Chicago-based IPO research firm IPOX Schuster LLC.

"It deserves attention but I don't see it as a big winner," he said.

One of the company's main turbine suppliers is Clipper Windpower Plc (CWPR.L), which diversified U.S. manufacturer United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) agreed to buy on Oct. 20 after the Carpinteria, California-based company ran into money trouble in the face of a slowdown in U.S. wind investment.

New U.S. wind installations were down 71 percent through the first six months of 2010, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

First Wind has received hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. government support. It received a $117 million Department of Energy loan guarantee in July and has netted $254 million worth of grants from the U.S. Treasury since September 2009.

But some U.S. government subsidies could end. Cash grants to cover a portion of the costs of project construction, paid out under the Obama administration's stimulus bill, will only apply to projects that break ground by the end of 2010.

Furthermore, low electricity prices make it more difficult to get contracts that are needed to secure private financing to build wind farms. First Wind's average price per megawatt hour has fallen each of the past three years and is on course to do so again in 2010.

"What we've been hearing from most of the utilities that have been reporting is that we have seen stabilization in pricing but we haven't seen any significant increases," said John Hardy, an analyst at Gleacher & Co.

Private financing for wind projects often comes in the form of power purchase agreements, or PPAs, which last between five and 20 years and whose value is calculated based in part on electricity prices.

"The PPA environment is still pretty challenging as it relates to where we were 18 or 24 months ago. That environment will improve with power utilization rates over the next 12 months or so," Hardy said.

First Wind's PPA partners include Harvard University, Southern California Public Power Authority, and the cities of Los Angeles, Burbank and Pasadena. It has PPAs or hedges on all seven of its operating projects, and, as of Sept. 30, had hedged about 90 percent of its estimated revenue through 2011.

One factor driving utilities to sign PPAs with developers of wind farms and solar installations has been the adoption of standards by some U.S. states requiring their electricity suppliers to generate a certain percentage of their energy from renewable resources.

Massachusetts, where First Wind is based, for example, will require utilities to get 25 percent of their power from renewables by 2020. That has prompted local utility National Grid (NG.L) to sign PPAs with wind farm developers including Cape Wind, which has proposed a controversial offshore installation off the Cape Cod resort area.

The IPO is expected to sell 12 million shares for $24 to $26 each.

First Wind did not return a request for comment. (Reporting by Clare Baldwin in New York and Scott Malone in Boston, additional reporting by Matt Daily in New York; Editing by Gary Hill)

State of Oregon announces Wind Turbine Syndrome study

Oregon Public Health office decides it’s time to study health effects of wind turbines —Scott Learn, The Oregonian (10/22/10)

Oregon has boosted wind energy projects with a vengeance in recent years, adopting a renewable power standard and tax breaks that have helped spread wind farms across the state’s northern reaches and into eastern Oregon.

Now comes the Oregon Public Health office, which announced Thursday that it’s embarking on a public health assessment of wind farms, kicking off with three “listening sessions” next month in LaGrande, Pendleton and Arlington to hear residents’ health concerns tied to the spinning blades.

The health issues are part of a broader backlash in Oregon and nationwide from critics who complain of negative impacts on scenery, property values, wildlife and tourism.

The growing number of wind farms has led to more complaints about their health effects, said Sujata Joshi, an epidemiologist in the environmental public health office. Health concerns raised to date focus on noise and vibration generated by the huge turbines.

The assessment will start with the listening sessions, but also include a review of health studies and talks with a steering committee that will include wind farm developers, community members, the state Department of Energy and Oregon’s energy facility siting council, which oversees new wind farm locations.

“With any development, you start learning more about potential concerns as more people start experiencing it,” Joshi said. “Our goal now is to hear what people have to say, and see if we can find solutions that work for communities and for the state’s goals.”

Wind farm critics cite work done by New York physician Nina Pierpont who coined the term “wind turbine syndrome” to describe effects—such as headaches, dizziness and memory loss—of living near the machines. Industry representatives say they haven’t seen solid research linking wind turbines and negative health effects.

In May, Morrow County’s planning commission voted to give owners of the 72-megawatt Willow Creek farm six months to comply with state noise regulations. In November, Union County voters will vote thumbs up or down on the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind farm, though the vote is only advisory to the county commission. Supporters say the projects bring jobs, healthy lease payments to land owners who host the turbines and carbon-free electricity.

Oregon’s renewable power standard requires Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp to obtain 25 percent of their energy from new renewable sources by 2025. A more aggressive standard in California has also driven fast-paced wind farm development in Oregon.

Joshi said she’s not sure yet when the health office will complete its work. Updates will be posted at “Health Impacts of Wind Energy Facilities,” which also includes details of the sessions on Nov.3 and 4.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Map: Stimulus grants given to wind farms built before funding program started

About $706 million in federal stimulus money went to wind farms that were completed before President Obama was inaugurated, according to a new story by The Investigative Reporting Workshop. A total of $1.3 billion went to 19 farms finished before the first dime of stimulus grant money for renewable energy was ever handed out. Above: the 19 projects in question, click on the dots to reveal information about each wind farm, or zoom in and switch to "satellite" mode to view the wind farms from above; below: a sortable chart of the details of each farm, including the date Federal Aviation Administration records indicate the final tower on each project was built.

Click on a column header to sort the table; click a second time to reverse the sort order.

Name Owner (Country) Stimulus amount Capacity (MW) Complete date (FAA) Grant date
Canandaigua Power Partners, LLC II First Wind (United States) $18,606,240 37.5 05/13/08 09/21/09
Canandaigua Power Partners, LLC I First Wind (United States) $43,230,600 87.5 05/20/08 09/01/09
Stetson Wind First Wind (United States) $40,441,471 57 07/16/08 09/21/09
Barton Chapel Wind, LLC Iberdrola Renewables (Spain) $72,573,627 120 08/13/08 09/01/09
Dry Lake Wind Power LLC Iberdrola Renewables (Spain) $31,345,799 63 10/24/08 11/20/09
Bull Creek Wind LLC Eurus (Japan) $91,390,497 180 11/07/08 09/01/09
Pebble Springs Wind LLC Iberdrola Renewables (Spain) $46,543,219 98.7 11/25/08 09/01/09
Barton Wind Iberdrola Renewables (Spain) $93,419,883 160 12/05/08 09/21/09
Pyron E.On Climate and Renewables (Germany) $121,903,306 249 12/11/08 09/01/09
Moraine II Iberdrola Renewables (Spain) $40,586,832 49.5 12/16/08 09/01/09
Locust Ridge II, LLC Iberdrola Renewables (Spain) $59,162,064 102 01/01/09 09/21/09
Penascal Wind Power LLC Iberdrola Renewables (Spain) $114,071,646 201.6 02/24/09 12/04/09
EcoGrove Wind LLC Acciona Energy (Spain) $67,868,807 100.5 03/18/09 11/20/09
Rail Splitter Wind Farm, LLC Horizon-EDPR (Portugal) $61,447,344 100.5 03/26/09 12/23/09
Farmers City Wind, LLC Iberdrola Renewables (Spain) $84,959,857 120 04/01/09 11/20/09
Sunray Wind LLC Valero (United States) $26,246,825 39 04/28/09 11/20/09
Gulf Wind Babcock & Brown (Australia) $178,004,264 283.2 05/20/09 11/20/09
Northern Colorado Wind Energy, LLC NextEra (United States) $99,900,326 173.2 08/14/09 09/01/09
Wheat Field Wind Power Project LLC Horizon-EDPR (Portugal) $47,717,155 96.6 11/10/2008 09/01/09

Sources: Federal Aviation Administration (7460-1 Obstruction Evaluation, Airport Airspace Analysis), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Electric Quarterly Reports), American Wind Energy Association (U.S. Wind Energy Projects)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Barbara Hollingsworth: Fannie Mae owns patent on residential 'cap and trade' exchange

When he wasn't busy helping create a $127 billion mess for taxpayers to clean up, former Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Franklin Raines, two of his top underlings and select individuals in the "green" movement were inventing a patented system to trade residential carbon credits.

Patent No. 6904336 was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office on Nov. 7, 2006 -- the day after Democrats took control of Congress. Former Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., criticized the award at the time, pointing out that it had "nothing to do with Fannie Mae's charter, nothing to do with making mortgages more affordable."

It wasn't about mortgages. It was about greenbacks. The patent, which Fannie Mae confirmed it still owns with Cantor Fitzgerald subsidiary, gives the mortgage giant a lock on the fledgling carbon trading market, thus also giving it a major financial stake in the success of cap-and-trade legislation.

Besides Raines, the other "inventors" are:
* Former Fannie Vice President and Deputy General Counsel G. Scott Lesmes, who provided legal advice on Fannie Mae's debt and equity offerings;
* Former Fannie Vice President Robert Sahadi, who now runs GreenSpace Investment Financial Services out of his 5,002-square-foot Clarksburg home;
* 2008 Barack Obama fundraiser Kenneth Berlin, an environmental law partner at Skadden Arps;
* Michelle Desiderio, director of the National Green Building Certification program, which trains "green" monitors;
* Former Cantor Fitzgerald employee Elizabeth Arner Cavey, wife of Democratic donor Brian Cavey of the Stanton Park Group, which received $200,000 last year to lobby on climate change legislation; and
* Jane Bartels, widow of former CEO Carlton Bartels. Three weeks before Carlton Bartels was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, he filed for another patent on the software used in 2003 to set up the Chicago Climate Exchange.

The patent, which covers both the "cap" and "trade" parts of Obama's top domestic energy initiation, gives Fannie Mae proprietary control over an automated trading system that pools and sells credits for hard-to-quantify residential carbon reduction efforts (such as solar panels and high-efficiency appliances) to companies and utilities that don't meet emission reduction targets. Depending on where the Environmental Protection Agency sets arbitrary CO2 standards, that could be every company in America.

The patent summary describes how carbon "and other pollutants yet to be determined" would be "combined into a single emissions pool" and traded -- just as Fannie's toxic portfolio of subprime mortgages were.

"Fannie Mae earns no money on this patent," communications director Amy Bonitatibus told the Washington Examiner. "We can't conjecture as to the cap-and-trade legislation."

But passage of the legislation would create an artificial, government-mandated, trillion-dollar carbon trading market that would drive up the price of energy, indirectly making housing more expensive.

If the proprietary emissions trading system functions like other exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange, which makes most of its revenue on listing and trading fees, its owners could see extremely generous profits, especially with a patent that keeps out competition for two decades.

So Fannie Mae, a quasi-governmental entity whose congressionally mandated mission is to make housing more affordable, has been a behind-the-scenes participant in a carbon trading scheme that would do just the opposite.

In January, Europol announced that up to 90 percent of the volume in the European Union's own carbon-trading market was fraudulent, costing EU members $5 billion during the previous 18 months. That would be just the tip of the iceberg if the Congress were to make a similar mistake.

But if it does, thanks to Raines and his fellow "inventors," Fannie Mae will be laughing all the way to the (bailed-out) bank.

Wind power mirages

Would generating more electricity from wind really help poor families or the environment?

Pastor Jay Dennis

We Americans are often told we must end our “addiction” to oil and coal, because they harm the environment and Earth’s climate. “Ecologically friendly” wind energy, some say, will generate 20% of America’s energy in another decade, greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions and land use impacts from mining and drilling.

These claims are a driving force behind the cap-tax-and-trade and renewable energy bills that Congress may try to ram through during a “lame duck” session – as well as the Environmental Protection Agency’s economy-threatening regulations under its ruling that carbon dioxide “endangers human health and welfare.”

It is true that we are commanded to be good stewards of the Earth and resources God gave us. We should conserve energy, use it wisely, and minimize harmful impacts on lands and wildlife. But we also need to safeguard our health and that of our neighbors, preserve jobs, and help poor families build wealth and improve their standard of living. I want all children, not just mine, to have a better future.

Heaven knows I’m not an engineer. But Robert Bryce’s readable book, “Power Hungry,” has opened my eyes and helped me appreciate what it really means to be good stewards – and why we depend on hydrocarbons for 85% of the energy that keeps our homes, businesses and communities running smoothly.

Bryce points out that we are no more “addicted” to fossil fuels than we are to food, housing and clothing. It’s simply that fossil fuels give us more abundant, reliable and affordable energy, from less land, than any alternatives we have today. They enable us to have jobs, hospitals, cars, schools, factories, offices, stores – and living standards better than royalty enjoyed a mere century ago. As fossil fuel consumption increases, so does agriculture, commerce, mobility, comfort, convenience, health and prosperity.

Oil, natural gas, coal and gasoline also give us huge amounts of energy from small tracts of land. One oil well producing just ten barrels a day provides the energy equivalent of electricity from wind turbines on half of Delaware, according to Bryce.

Wind-based electricity is unreliable. It’s available only when the wind is blowing enough but not too hard. It can add to our electrical grid, but can’t be depended on to power a business or operating room. And no factory or city can get by just on wind power – not in my lifetime, anyway. Wind as a primary or dominant energy source is simply a mirage.

Wind turbines actually generate electricity only seven hours a day on average – and 2 hours a day on sweltering Texas summer days and frigid Minnesota winter nights. That means every watt of wind power must be backed up by gas-fired generators that kick in every time the turbine blades stop turning.

And that’s just the beginning.

Wind turbine farms need ten times more steel and concrete than a nuclear, coal or gas power plant for the same amount of electricity. You also need thousands of tons of raw materials for the backup generators and the thousands of miles of new transmission lines to get the electricity to cities hundreds of miles from the wind farms. All these materials have to be dug out of the ground someplace.

All that mining and manufacturing is powered by fossil fuels, which requires more mining and drilling. The backup power plants have to be running constantly – and then roar to full strength every time the wind dies down. That’s like having to stop your car repeatedly for red lights along miles of highway: idling and then gunning it to 55 mph over and over. That uses huge amounts of fuel and emits enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and pollutants. In the end, we barely reduce America’s CO2 emissions – and may actually increase them.

Finally, even with billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, wind-based electricity is far more expensive than power generated by coal, natural gas or nuclear plants. That hurts families, sends business costs skyrocketing, and means people lose their jobs.

I’m not opposed to wind or solar or biofuels. I just don’t like it when our politicians, news media, environmental groups and government officials aren’t honest with us about these tradeoffs. Companies get fined for deceptive advertising. Politicians, journalists, eco-activists and bureaucrats should be held to the same standards.

Telling the truth is a basic moral principle. So is being a good steward of the Earth and its resources, by considering all the facts, the environmental impacts, and the harm to jobs and families from needlessly unreliable and expensive energy.

America can’t afford to shut down the fossil fuels that make our jobs and living standards possible – or slap huge new climate change taxes on them – before we have a real alternative to replace them, not just mirages.

Bottled wind, or where are our electrons going to go?

The New York Independent System Operator, the company that regulates the flow of electricity around the state, has just issued a report called “Growing Wind — Final Report of the 2010 NYISO Wind Generation Study.” The 120-page report is packed full of statistics and science and math, making it less compelling than, say, a telephone book. But if you’re willing to wade through it, it offers some interesting insights into how New York state will deal with the growing production of wind energy.

While the study focuses on systemwide issues, the word Watertown appears a lot — more, actually, than any other single community. Why Watertown? Because a study of the state’s transmission facilities reveals that the Watertown electric infrastructure is one of those with the least unused capacity in the state. How convenient, considering the number of wind farm proposals on the table that may be looking to this infrastructure to get power from Hounsfield and Cape Vincent and Clayton and wherever else into the transmission system. The study concludes that infrastructure improvements in Jefferson, Lewis and northern Oneida counties would cost about $204 million to provide sufficient capacity to handle wind-generated production from the north country. That is serious money.

An e-mail from National Grid spokesman Alberto Bianchetti said "Currently, the regulatory policy is not in place that would enable National Grid to move forward with any of the recommendations of the NYISO Wind Study; however, National Grid believes it is a priority for such regulatory policy to be established."

Read entire article

Irondequoit latest town to oppose wind project

IRONDEQUOIT — The town on Tuesday night became the latest municipality to oppose a wind-turbine project in Lake Ontario, with unanimous Town Board support.

The board also unanimously passed a law that will, for the first time, regulate pawn shops in town.

The meeting at Town Hall drew a packed house, with most in attendance there to discuss the wind-turbine project. Those who spoke against the project far outnumbered those who supported it.

Many, including Town Board members, said the project would destroy the beauty of the lake, cause environmental damage and cause property values along the shoreline to plummet. Supervisor Mary Joyce D'Aurizio again chastised the New York Power Authority, which proposed the project, for being too secretive.

"They have not, in any form, reached out to the communities," she said.

Two other shoreline towns, Webster and Greece, already have passed such resolutions. Irondequoit board members added an amendment to its resolution, saying town leaders want to have input and a vote on whether the project goes forward.

Lack of information about the proposed wind farms has been a persistent criticism. The Power Authority has been promoting the project for two years and in June began reviewing five proposals from private-sector developers. But the Westchester-based authority won't release any information about the proposals, including possible turbine locations.

Bob Ross of Rock Beach Road said he could not comprehend how any group of people could imagine "decimating" Lake Ontario and its shoreline.

"We don't need another 'Triple F': Fast ferry fiasco," Ross said.

Susan Nielsen of Van Voorhis Avenue, one of the few speakers who did not oppose the project, said Irondequoit should wait and see what is proposed before any decision is made.

"This will be an example of fearful government operating without facts," she said.

NYPI pulls the plug on power project

ALBANY – After three years of trying to gain approval for their $2.1 billion electric transmission line project, New York Regional Interconnect is calling it quits.

Citing investor concerns over a recent Federal Regulatory Commission ruling, the group’s general counsel informed the administrative law judges assigned to oversee the project’s Article VII review process on Friday that they were pulling their application.

“The investors have decided that the financial risks of cost recovery are too great at this time and as a result they are withdrawing their Article VII application,” said general counsel Len Singer, addressing Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Stockholm during evidentiary hearing proceedings on Friday.

Stockholm asked Singer to file a letter with the secretary of the Public Service Commission formally withdrawing the case by Monday, April 6. He also directed Singer to circulate copies of the letter to the other active parties in the case. Once the parties have received NYRI’s letter, they will have one week to advise the PSC if they see a need for the case to remain open.

“Unless someone argues this case should be continued, we fully expect to close this case and will do so in a ruling or a secretary notice … a week from Monday,” Stockholm said.

The timing of NYRI’s announcement has come as something of a shock, even to the project’s staunchest critics.

“I’ve been more and more convinced that NYRI would withdraw at some point,” said Eve Ann Shwartz, co-chair of the grassroots opposition group Stop NYRI. “The writing has been on the wall.”

But even she wasn’t expecting it to occur so soon. “I’m shocked,” she said.

Discuss this story with other members on the Forum

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Offshore Wind: DOE’s Reality Challenge

[Editor’s note: The feasibility and desirability of aggressively pursuing offshore wind turbines has entered the national discussion. This post by Lisa Linowes, executive director of Industrial Wind Action Group, contributes to this debate.]

We were treated this week to the Department of Energy’s latest advocacy on wind energy: a new report proclaiming the benefits and feasibility of developing wind power along the coastal waters of the United States. The report adds little to the claims touted in DOE’s “20% Wind Power by 2020″ (2008), but this time the focus is on 54,000 megawatts of electrical wind capacity off our eastern seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. Water depths on the Pacific Coast, according to the DOE, still pose a “technology challenge”. [1]

Offshore Wind in the U.S. today

Currently, there are no operating offshore wind plants anywhere in the country. The controversial Cape Wind project (130 turbines) proposed nearly ten years ago is still under fire. Wealthy property owners on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard were joined by Wal-Mart, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and wind developer TransCanada among others in protesting the no-compete, high-priced power purchase agreement under review by the State of Massachusetts.

In Rhode Island, approval of Deepwater Wind’s pilot project is under appeal by the state’s Attorney General and others over alleged illegalities by the legislature in pushing the project through. Delaware’s Bluewater Wind project is in limbo due to poor economics and growing public opposition to expensive renewable energy. A fight sparked in Michigan over a 1000 megawatt wind facility in Lake Michigan packed hearing rooms with angry protests. And the same response came from communities along northern New York after NYPA sought bids to build turbines in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

None of these projects, in total, match the scale and cost of what DOE claims can be built. And frankly, we question the reality of 54,000 megawatts of offshore wind. This would mean 115 projects equivalent in size to Cape Wind’s 468 MW — 15,000 turbines — located within 10 miles of our coastlines and spanning 3,000 square miles of open water. The eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine is only 1,342 miles.

Technology and Cost Challenges

Obvious environmental and visual impacts are only a part of the issue. Problems with the technology and the economics of offshore wind are very real.

In 2005, all eighty of the Vestas V90 turbines at Denmark’s offshore Horns Rev facility had to be removed and repaired owing to the effect of salty water and air on the generators and gearboxes. The problem appeared after only two years of operation. A similar repair was reported on thirty Vestas turbines off the UK coast requiring a change of rotor bearings.

Turbine failures offshore are harder to repair and are often addressed on an aggregated basis. It’s not unusual to wait as long as three months before turbines are fixed, leading to lower equipment availability. While wind conditions, in theory, are better for energy generation, one report claims the tough environment could mean turbines are only able to transfer power for 160 days of the year.

Earlier this year, another issue was reported having to do with the underwater foundations holding the turbines in place. Hundreds of European offshore wind turbines were found to have a design fault that caused the towers to slide on their bases. The problem was universal and not specific to any one project or turbine manufacturer.

And then there’s the cost.

The Cape Wind project is expected to cost $2.5 billion for 468 megawatts — an enormous expense for any individual power plant, especially one expected to deliver only 39% of the time with no guarantees the generation will arrive when most needed. With high upfront costs and fewer hours to spread the cost over, offshore wind is not economically viable without significant public support, higher electricity rates, and severe constraints imposed on more reliable sources of generation.

The DOE admits its analyses are preliminary but it’s the assumptions that worry us. The report includes this paragraph:

“NREL’s Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) model shows offshore wind penetration of between 54 GW and 89 GW by 2030 when economic scenarios favoring offshore wind are applied. These cases used combinations of cost reductions (resulting from technology improvements and experience), rising natural gas prices (3% annually), heavy constraints on conventional power and new transmission development in congested coastal regions, and national incentive policies.” [emphasis added]

The authors insist that such an undertaking will revitalize our manufacturing sector and create more than 43,000 permanent, well-paid technical jobs, but DOE ignores the negative economic effects.

Earlier this year, Vermont’s Department of Public Service published a report on the economic consequences of setting mandatory prices for only 50 MW of renewable energy technologies.

While the State’s analysis found the feed in tariff program would increase Vermont capital investment and create jobs, it also found that other sectors would suffer long term net job losses. In essence, jobs would be created in one sector of the Vermont economy at the expense others.

The model also showed that above-market energy costs due to higher electricity prices would have the deleterious effects of “reshuffling consumer spending and increasing the cost of production for Vermont businesses” and that “increased costs for households and employers would reduce the positive employment impacts of renewable energy capital investment and the annual repair and maintenance activities”. This issue was also highlighted in testimony submitted on the Cape Wind and Deepwater Wind projects.

The DOE report does not bother to model the impact of higher energy costs on the overall economy.

As for obstacles to development cited by DOE, the authors demonstrate how little they’ve discussed their ideas with real people in this country.

On visual effects, the authors acknowledge that coastal dwellers might object to the turbines and recommend added study to understand coastal communities and their ability to accept changes to the seascape. Regarding property values, DOE relies on the poorly defined Hoen/Wiser study to claim no impact but admit more work is needed for coastal properties. On tourism, they concede that evidence is ambiguous but still claim, “actual effects appear to be minimal”. And finally, on marine safety they admit collisions may pose a potentially significant risk to the marine environment or to human safety but offer cold comfort that no incidents have occurred to date.

There have been recent cries for a national energy policy in the United States, but public policy requires credible analysis with an objective eye on reality. If the best DOE has to offer is an advocacy report steeped in wishful thinking, then perhaps for now our better approach would be no policy at all.


[1] About 950 wind turbines are now sited off the coasts of Europe and China. Half of these turbines were erected in 2009 and 2010.

Europe's Ill Wind

Panel: spread wind's rewards

CAPE VINCENT — The town's wind economics committee, finding risks and rewards of wind farm development, has offered bold recommendations to spread rewards around and compensate nonparticipating landowners for any losses they incur.

The committee, which released its report Oct. 7, saw risks to property values, school district aid and tourism. On the other hand, wind power projects would have payments for landowners and for taxing jurisdictions through payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements.

The report also briefly pointed to other financial risks, including the failure of the developer to pay agreed payments, the owner terminating operation and the owner not saving enough money for decommissioning costs. The town and residents could incur legal fees from disagreements or disputes.

To limit the possibility of economic harm, the committee recommended that the town:

Adopt a zoning law that considers all effects of wind power development.

■ Create a planned development district in the town for turbines.

■ Negotiate PILOT agreements that "fairly and fully compensate" the town.

■ Require compensation to individuals for effects that can't be mitigated.

■ Require property value protection assurance.

■ Require a buyout plan for properties negatively affected.

■ Require bonding to ensure compliance.

■ Establish a reserve fund to cover any town-incurred project costs.

■ Establish a decommissioning plan.

The committee was composed of Assessor Robert V.R. Barnard; Zoning Board of Appeals member Robert S. Brown; Rockne E. Burns, owner of Willow Shores Mobile Home Park and past Planning Board member, and Cyril C. Cullen, past chairman of the Planning Board. Joseph A. Menard, superintendent of Thousand Islands Central School District, advised the committee on school-related issues.

"During this study it has become apparent that the Town and School may well see a financial gain through PILOT payments," the report said. "In addition to the Town and School, participating lease holders, who comprise only 3.9% of the property owners, in the Town are the only citizens that will benefit directly."

The report described the town's land value and compared the participating and nonparticipating land areas.

The total assessed value in the town, including tax-exempt properties, is $310.7 million. Property owned by participating landowners comprises 13,679 acres totaling $9.2 million in assessments. Property owned by nonparticipating landowners comprises 22,267 acres with a value of $301 million. While the participating landowners' property covers 38 percent of the town's area, it includes only 2.9 percent of the assessed value.

Contrary to assertions by St. Lawrence Wind Farm's developer, Acciona Wind Energy USA, in the final environmental impact statement, the report said, "Indications are there will be an overall decrease in property values with the potential for significant negative impact on assessments and related factors such as tax rates and the ability to market property at a fair price."

For example, nonparticipating property owners in the project areas could lose 20 percent to 40 percent of their properties' value, while others within 1,000 feet of turbine sites could lose 15 percent to 25 percent of their value.

One of the effects for lower assessments is the town and school district could raise tax rates to collect the same amount in property taxes, the report said.

On revenue for those in the town, the report recognizes that participating property owners could see more than $4,000 per year per turbine. The town and school district also would receive revenue, but through a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement instead of full property taxes.

"Town income would be whatever the Town negotiates for a PILOT agreement," the report said. "The Town's share of the PILOT agreement could be as much as $8,000 to $8,300 per turbine annually."

The school district's share now is extra income, but that situation could change if the state decides to include it as income.

"Although, there have not been official discussions at the State level that this practice is going to change, it should be noted that school districts across New York State have seen reductions in State Aid and it is possible that at some point PILOT revenues may affect school districts' State Aid," the report said.

If property values decline, the district may see more state aid through the wealth ratio, the report said.

The report also finds that tourism likely would be hurt by wind turbines. Those who come to Cape Vincent to see turbines "may slow down when they first go past a wind turbine, but do not spend any significant amount of time looking at them," it said.

For visitors who come to spend time on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, turbines "will not help promote the benefits of Cape Vincent that have drawn so many people to our town for decades," the report said. "It is felt that the negative effect of this industrial complex can be moderated by careful placement of the individual turbines so as to minimize their impact on the positive aspects of the town."


Cape Vincent Wind Economic Impact Committee report: