Thursday, May 24, 2012

Welcome to the Renewable Energy Future: A Lesson From Germany

Germany's power grid is in trouble, and federal regulators are warning something must be done before the onset of winter's usual skyrocketing energy demands. They say the current grid is unable to support the forced transition from nuclear to government-mandated "renewable" energies and must be expanded quickly to avoid blackouts.

"The situation of the power grid in the Winter 2011/12 was very tense," recounted a press release announcing publication of the annual report from the Federal Network Agency (FNA), Germany's energy regulating bureau. But the tension didn't surprise regulators.

Last August they recommended precautionary measures in light of the nuclear power station shutdowns forced by Germany's nuclear energy exit bill. The legislation, passed in July in a knee-jerk reaction to Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, wiped out 40 percent of German nuclear capacity. This, along with the unpredictability of wind and solar power and February's unexpected gas supply shortage, forced the country to lean heavily on emergency reserves and imports from Austria.

"Reserve capacity in Germany and Austria was strained on multiple occasions," reads the FNA annual report. The agency recommends about 1,000 megawatts of reserve power to be on standby this coming winter. It also promises to implement "regulatory measures" to "ban the shutdown of conventional power plants" in an effort to meet demand.

Agency head Jochen Homann fears a repeat of last season's power interruptions since new renewable power facilities will not be able to deliver next winter based on the existing infrastructure. He told reporters a mere 100 kilometers of new transmission lines are now operating, though 1,834 kilometers are needed, Reuters reported. More nuclear power plants will be phased-out in coming months, and FNA estimates it will take two years for new plants to meet the 12 gigawatts GW of scheduled closures. Based on projected demand, the agency estimates an additional 15-16 GW of capacity should also be built.

Blogger P. Gosselin credits this transformation of "Germany's once impeccably stable world-class power grid" with its "reckless and uncontrolled rush to renewable energies, wind and sun, all spurred on by a blind environmental movement and hysteria with respect to nuclear power." He quotes Steffen Hentrick of the Liberal Institute:

This shows not only how the replacement of conventional energy capacity through renewable energy is an illusion, but also how expensive the forced energy transition to renewable will be for citizens. The transformation of the energy supply, as it is now being conducted, cannot be supported by the arguments of environmental protection, supply reliability and economics, even when the reports of state officials allow us to see that none of these targets sells by itself.

Indeed, government representatives who met last week to discuss Germany's energy issues determined that by 2020, when all nuclear power is scheduled to be phased out, the country's power gap will equal the output of 15 power stations, according to Russian Times. The report said government officials and industry executives are scheduled to meet again May 23 to search for solutions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Keep wind turbines out of Great Lakes

This letter is in response to Larry Beahan’s Another Voice. It is certain we need an alternative to burning fossil fuels, but while the Sierra Club is against fracking and polluting our freshwater, it also needs to be aware that the New York Power Authority plan includes building wind turbines in the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Erie. This will not only disturb the 40-year-old cap over the lake floor containing all the contaminants from the steel mills, it will disrupt the fishing and recreational industry we have worked so long and hard to protect. Ultimately, we may be making a deal with the devil, trading one natural resource, electricity, for another, water. Which one can we survive without?

While Great Lakes Offshore Wind met its demise last year with its 52 proposed wind turbines in Lake Erie, Lake Erie Alternative Power is poised to place more than twice as many 500-foot wind turbines our lake.

Wind power for electricity generates much discussion. Everyone agrees on its potential for future use, however, location will be a major factor in the total cost of the electricity delivered to the power grid.

On June 25, 2010, at a New York State Power Authority meeting at Woodlawn Beach Conference Center, the authority clearly stated the cost for electricity with the wind turbines would be around 19 cents per KWH. This is neither efficient nor economical, as we now pay around 5 cents per KWH. This high price results from the experimental placement of turbines in a freshwater lake. The plan will also require huge government subsidies. These will end about 10 years after the project begins.

Careful calculations must be made to ensure that we, the retail customer and the voter, are not paying for the exorbitant hidden costs. If the system is not affordable, we cannot build offshore wind turbines at the current level of technology.

Sharen Trembath
Lake Erie Coordinator

International Coastal Cleanup Great Lakes Beach Sweep

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wind Energy: The Next Green Black-Hole

The wind energy industry has been having a hard time. The taxpayer funding that has kept it alive for the last twenty years is coming to an end, and those promoting the industry are panicking.

Perhaps this current wave started when one of wind energy’s most noted supporters, T. Boone Pickens, “Mr. Wind,” in an April 12 interview on MSNBC said, “I’m in the wind business…I lost my ass in the business.”

The industry’s fortunes didn’t get any better when on May 4, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote an editorial titled, “Gouged by the wind,” in which they stated: “With natural gases not far from $2 per million BTU, the competitiveness of wind power is highly suspect.” Citing a study on renewable energy mandates, the WSJ says: “The states with mandates paid 31.9% more for electricity than states without them.”

Then, last week the Financial Times did a comprehensive story: “US Renewables boom could turn into a bust” in which they predict the “enthusiasm for renewables” … “could fizzle out.” The article says: “US industry is stalling and may be about to go into reverse. …Governments all over the world have been curbing support for renewable energy.”

Michael Liebreich of the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance says: “With a financially stressed electorate, it’s really hard to go to them and say: ‘Gas is cheap, but we’ve decided to build wind farms for no good reason that we can articulate.’” Christopher Blansett, who is a top analyst in the alternative-energy sector in the Best on the Street survey, says, “People want cheap energy. They don't necessarily want clean energy.”

It all boils down to a production tax credit (PTC) that is set to expire at the end 2012. Four attempts to get it extended have already been beaten back so far this year—and we are only in the fifth month. The Financial Times reports: “Time-limited subsidy programmes…face an uphill battle. The biggest to expire this year is the production tax credit for onshore wind power, the most important factor behind the fourfold expansion of US wind generation since 2006. Recent attempts in Congress to extend it have failed.”

According to the WSJ, “The industry is launching into a lobbying blitz.” The “2012 Strategy” from the American Wind Energy Association includes:

· “To maximize WindPAC’s in?uence, WindPAC will increase the number of fundraisers we hold for Members of Congress.”

· “Continue the Iowa caucus program to ensure the successful implanting of a pro-wind message into the Republican presidential primary campaign.”

· “Respond quickly to unfavorable articles by posting comments online, using the AWEA blog and twitter, and putting out press releases.”

· “Continue to advocate for long term extension of PTC and ITC option for offshore wind.”

· “AWEA requested a funding level of $144.2 million for FY 2012 for the Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Energy Program, an increase of $17.3 million above the President’s Congressional budget request.”

A wind turbine manufacturer quoted in the Financial Times article says, “If the PTC just disappears, then the industry will collapse.” Regarding United Technologies plans to sell its wind turbine business, chief financial officer Greg Hayes admitted: “We all make mistakes.”

Despite twenty years of taxpayer funding, according to the Financial Times, “Most of these technologies are unable to stand on their own commercially, particularly in competition with a resurgent natural gas industry that has created a supply glut and driven prices to 10-year lows.” The WSJ opines: “the tax subsidy has sustained the industry on a scale that wouldn’t have been possible if they had to follow the same rules as everyone else.” A level playing field would mean that wind developers would lose the exemptions from environmental and economic laws.

It is the fear of having to play by “the same rules as everyone else”—like the free market does— that must have propelled the anti-fossil fuel Checks and Balances Project to dig deep to unearth a “confidential” document. The brainstorming document was designed to trigger conversation during an initial meeting of grassroots folks with a common goal—the document’s author didn’t even join us and his ideas received little attention. The meeting was February 1 and 2. I was there. But suddenly, on May 8, our little meeting is in the news.

Many of us who were at the meeting received calls from a variety of publications including The National Journal, The Washington Times and Bloomberg News—none of whom ran with the story (after talking to a number of us, the Bloomberg reporter concluded “I don't think we're writing a story about this”)—and The Guardian who did. The Guardian story was picked up and expanded on in Environment & Energy (the reporter did talk to several of us), HuffPost, Tree Hugger, Think Progress’ Climate Progress, and others. (Note: Climate Progress and Tree Hugger remove any comment in opposition to wind energy as soon as it is posted.) From there, some form of the story is all over the Internet.

The wind energy industry panic explains the sudden interest, but why our little group?

Washington Examiner columnist, Timothy Carney, provides the answer: “AWEA plans ‘continued deployment of opposition research through third parties to cause critics to have to respond,’ the battle plan states. In other words: When people attack AWEA's subsidies, AWEA might feed an unflattering story on that person to some ideological or partisan media outlet or activist group.” We are the people who have attacked the subsidies and AWEA has, through a “third party” fed “an unflattering story” to a “partisan media outlet.” Our collaborative actions have helped block the PTC extension efforts.

A common thread in the news stories is that we are really an oil-and-gas funded entity. They’ve tied us to the Koch Brothers. We all wish. Apparently they can’t believe that individuals and local groups can think for themselves and impact public policy without a puppet master telling us what to do and say.

In fact, the group has no funding. As we began to email back and forth over the sudden reporter interest, one meeting attendee quipped: “My trip was funded, in part, by MY brother, Paul, who donated frequent flyer miles for my trip. I can assure you that my brother is not part of the Koch family. I paid for the rest of the trip out of my own pocket.” Yet, the reporters seemed determined to find a funding link. I told the Bloomberg reporter that we each paid our own way, that the meeting was held in a budget hotel outside of DC (unlike the AWEA meeting held at the prestigious La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, CA), and that we each had to pay for our own transportation, food, and lodging. My comments never made it into print. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am the executive director of companion organizations that do receive funding from oil and gas companies and individual donors. But I, like the others, was invited as an individual, not as a member of any organization.

Additionally, we are not even a formal group. We met to consider forming a group. The “leaked” memo, addresses finding a group that might absorb us, affiliate with us, or align with us.

Attendees brought their individual issues, observations, and successes. Each had valid insights to contribute. Some viewed health impacts as the most important ammunition. Others, economics. Some, setbacks or bird deaths or land use. Others, including the meeting’s organizer, John Droz, believe that the science—or lack thereof, is the best weapon. There are so many reasons to oppose wind that come down to government use of taxpayer money to support something that raises electricity prices based on the failed concept of man-made global warming. As a result of the meeting, we now know we are not alone, and we can call on one another for insight and advice.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Gabe Elsner, a co-director of the Checks and Balances Project. Without his discovery and subsequent exposure of the “document,” we’d still be just loosely affiliated individuals and small citizens’ groups. The attack has emboldened us and helped others find us! A representative from the Blue Mountain Alliance sent Droz an email stating: “I probably need to send them a thank you note for leading me to you and your efforts.”

After the murmurings became known, one of the meeting attendees, Paul Driessen, wrote a detailed and data-filled column, “Why we need to terminate Big Wind subsidies,” which has garnered more than 700 Facebook “likes” on (To give perspective, I am pleased if I get 50 “likes.” Each “like” generally represents thousands of readers.) In just a few days, his column is all over the Internet.

Wind energy has more opposition than most people realize, and Elsner, who has served as the “third party” in the AWEA strategy, has allowed us to find one another. While a few attendees at the DC meeting were concerned about all the publicity, attorney Brad Tupi, who has represented citizens victimized by wind energy projects, responded: “I would plead guilty to participating in a meeting of concerned citizens opposed to wasteful, unproven, inefficient wind energy. I would agree that we are interested in coordinating with other reputable organizations, and I personally would be honored to work with Heartland Institute and others.”

If you do not support industrial, tax-payer-funded, wind-energy projects that are promoted based on ideology and emotion rather than facts and sound science, you can benefit from our affiliation. Droz has a wonderful presentation full of helpful information. A few of the websites from the meeting attendees include: Illinois Wind Watch, Coalition for Sensible Siting, Energy Integrity Project, and Citizen Power Alliance.

The lesson to be learned from the attack on these hard-working citizens is that the little people can make a difference! We’ve got the subsidy-seeking, wind-energy supporters running scared—along with the crony capitalism that accompanies them. Remember, “If the PTC just disappears”—meaning if we do not keep giving them taxpayer dollars—“then the industry will collapse.” Your phone call or email to a Senator or Congressman, such as Steve King or Dave Reichert who recently came out in support of the PTC, can make a difference. Tell them, as the WSJ said, “If the party is serious about tax reform…it will vote to take wind power off the taxpayer dole.”

It is time for the AWEA and the politicians who support the PTC to explain why higher electricity costs, human health impacts, substantial loss of property values in rural communities, dead bats and birds, and increased national debt are good for America and her taxpayers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Neighbours sue farmers for offering land to wind turbine development

Sylvia and John Wiggins put their 48-acre horse farm near Stayner up for sale last summer for $1.25 million.

Then a wind developer sent out notices of its plans to put up big wind turbines on a neighbouring farm.

“Prior to that time, we had a lot of action,” Wiggins said Wednesday. “But from that moment on, none.”

Sylvia Wiggins, the owner of the family property, is now suing not only the wind developer, WPD Canada Corporation, but the owner of the farm that has agreed to lease property for the turbines.

It’s the first time anyone has sued a property owner playing host to a wind development, Wiggins’s lawyer Eric Gillespie, told a news conference.

Gillespie said he doesn’t know if the suit will cast a chill on other landowners who are considering leasing their property to wind developers.

“The intention of this claim is to ensure that the Wiggins situation is dealt with appropriately,” he said. “Whether it has additional impacts is something that obviously we won’t know about…It’ll be a matter of time before we know.”

Wiggins is seeking an injunction against the development. She is also asking $1.5 million in damages, plus $500,000 in exemplary and punitive damages.

The claims were served on the defendants this week. Allegations in the claims have not been tested in court.

While other court cases involving wind farms have focused on the health effects of wind turbines, the Wiggins action is based on the devaluation of their property.

John Wiggins (who attended the news conference for his wife, who was unwell) said the proposed turbines will ruin the scenic views from the farmhouse, built in the 1860s.

“I used to sit on the front porch at happy hour and look out on a field of corn or wheat,” he said. “Now I’m going to look at turbines more than 500 feet tall.”

That’s the height the blades will reach. The closest will be 550 metres from the Wiggins property. That’s the closest a turbine is permitted to be under Ontario law; other turbines will be more distant.

Sylvia Wiggins, 78, used to run a horse farm on the property, but the couple recently bought a condominium in Collingwood. John Wiggins, 80, was one of the founders of Creemore Springs Brewery, but has sold his interest.

Gillespie said there’s precedent for suing the landowner when a business is detrimental to its neighbours, even if the landowner isn’t running the business.

He said in the 1980s, neighbours of a go-kart track in Niagara Falls successfully sued the landowner of the track, even though the owner had leased the property to the go-cart operator.

A spokesman for WPD Canada said the company will defend the action, but had no other comment. The farm owners were not available for comment.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Speak out for home rule on wind power

Perry White’s column regarding efforts by Upstate New York Power Corporation to sell wind-generated power to Fort Drum was revealing.

He reveals the pitfalls of selling energy from an intermittent energy source to a local consumer, the abandonment of underwater transmission from Galloo Island and an antiquated electrical grid, thus exposing the increasingly tenuous nature of the wind industry as they face the loss of taxpayer subsidies.

The fact that an aging grid bottles a significant portion of the intermittent power that wind does generate, as well as the abysmal 25 to 30 percent of nameplate capacity generated at peak operation, shows where the real Achilles heel for the industry is. They can’t operate or compete with current electrical rates, and raise a profit for their shareholders, without subsidies.

Without the capacity for storage, wind-generated power is subject to the intermittent nature of the source. Backup power, from traditional sources, is required, adding costs for the ratepayer.

Read the entire article

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wind Energy Without the PTC

The debate surrounding the Production Tax Credit (PTC) intensified last quarter following several high-profile attempts by Congress to extend the credit before it expires at year-end. Industry warnings of precipitous declines in clean-tech investment and imminent job losses have reached a fevered pitch. The New York Times, for example, reflexively accused budget-hawks in Congress of being preoccupied with safeguarding the dominance of the oil and gas industries.

The idea that wind, which represents less than 3% of total electricity generation in the country after huge taxpayer benefits and state mandates, could threaten the continued use of fossil fuels in electric generation is fantasy. It demonstrates a general ignorance about wind energy’s purpose and its limited contribution to our energy portfolio.

While we might forgive a newspaper editor’s misunderstanding of the complexities of renewable energy policy, it’s quite another thing to see the same level of ignorance on display on Capitol Hill by the very people tasked with understanding and voting on these policies.

Last month, the House Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures invited fellow House members to speak on behalf of bills they introduced or co-sponsored that would extend more than sixty expiring tax provisions, including the PTC. Of the nearly thirty witnesses who testified, one-third pressed for immediate extension of the credit.

Representatives Bass and Welch from New England, Deutch of Florida, Reichert of Washington and others repeatedly echoed the same AWEA talking points about job creation, the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuel, risks of climate change and, my favorite, economic opportunity for their state.

Like the Times, they touted the importance of the U.S. remaining a strong global clean energy market.

And like the Times, not one of those advocating for the PTC had a clue the role of the subsidy in the power market or the likely outcome if the subsidy were to expire. Either that, or political expediency ruled the day and they didn’t care.

PTC and RPS Policy Links

In the early 1990′s following enactment of the PTC there was no demand for wind power. States did not have renewable mandates and by time the Asian Financial crisis hit, oil prices collapsed taking with them any financial incentive to install costly renewables. When energy prices recovered somewhat there was an uptick in wind development but it was concentrated in four states with renewable programs — California, Iowa, Minnesota and Texas.

In the years 2000, 2002 and 2004, the PTC expired and wind development stalled but in that same period, energy prices were fluctuating, the 9/11 terrorist attack shocked the US economy and we slipped into recession. Claims that expiration of the PTC alone caused wind development to stall are overly simplistic. In fact, given available data, it’s impossible to isolate the PTC’s affect. Some energy experts maintain the PTC was largely irrelevant in those years.

After 2004, the subsidy may have contributed to growth, but so did State policies mandating renewables.[1].

When states adopted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) [2] as a means of addressing climate change wind installations showed marked growth. Legislators believed claims made by wind proponents that wind, with no fuel costs, would protect ratepayers from dramatic swings in fuel prices, and eventually stabilize and lower energy prices. In return, they envisioned a transition to more renewables, the decommissioning of older fossil plants and cleaner air.

But wind is an unpredictable, non-dispatchable resource that’s built long distances from load and largely delivers energy at a time of day and year when least needed. With high upfront costs and fewer hours to spread the cost over, wind cannot compete with reliable, lower-priced fossil and nuclear generation. It’s inherently a low-value resource, that demands above market prices.

The PTC subsidizes project capital costs by providing an outside revenue stream [3] for investors and project owners. The credit, in turn, artificially shields ratepayers from the true price of wind power.

Yet, federally subsidizing wind is not enough to incite utilities to buy.

RPS policies created demand for wind [4] by establishing non-competitive segments of the power market for qualifying renewables. Today, over half of the states have RPS policies which apply to more than 50-percent of total U.S. electricity load.

Life after the PTC: No Free Lunch

The PTC and RPS combined provide the wind industry a market for its energy and a means of shielding ratepayers from the true cost of their product. But the PTC disproportionately benefits ratepayers in States with renewable mandates by distributing the high cost of wind to taxpayers at large.

Some complain that Americans are double-paying for wind — once through above-market energy prices and again in their taxes, but this is not true. In fact, we are paying the true price of wind allocated in both the rate-base and the tax-base. If the PTC were to expire, people living in Georgia, Wyoming and other states with no RPS policies would rightfully be relieved of subsidizing policies enacted in other states. But what would happen in states with mandates?

Existing wind projects that are still collecting the PTC would not be impacted, but proposals for new wind would be under pressure to significantly lower their capital costs and improve their production numbers in order to account for the lost federal revenue. In addition, the value of the renewable energy credits would likely increase thus placing even more upward pressure on renewable energy prices. Legislatures will be forced to confront the real cost of wind power and evaluate whether the policy will ever deliver on goals originally envisioned.

The AWEA insists the PTC is an effective tool to keep electricity rates low. In fact, it is nothing more than a cost imposed on all taxpayers in order to accommodate development of a politically well-connected, high-priced, low-value resource that cannot meet our electric capacity needs.

[1]Wind also benefited from rising natural gas prices (over $5 per million BTU) making wind power contracts an attractive way to displace higher-cost natural gas generation.

[2]RPS policies mandate utilities supply a minimum percentage of their customer load with electricity from qualified renewable sources.

[3]The open-ended subsidy of 2.2¢/kWh in after-tax income represents a pre-tax value of approximately 3.7¢/kWh.. The PTC is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and therefore is scaled each year. Today, the PTC costs US taxpayers $1.5 billion per year.

[4] Wiser, R., Namovicz, C., Glelecki, M., Smith, R., Renewables Portfolio Standards: A Factual Introduction to Experience from the United States Some states allow out-of-state generation to count toward their RPS requirements. Renewable capacity built in a non-RPS state may be used to meet another state’s mandate.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Prattsburgh, Ecogen may face off again

The town of Prattsburgh and wind developer Ecogen may be headed back to state Supreme Court Justice John Ark’s courtroom.

Town board members voted 3-2 Monday to respond to Ecogen’s latest legal action – a stay -- which could force another hearing by Ark on a three-year old dispute between the town and the developer.

One of the issues is a 168-day window Ark left open for Ecogen to show it had “vested rights” to the wind farm. Ecogen has claimed for at least four years it has those rights and is prepared to begin construction on a 16-turbine wind farm.

The question is when Ark’s 168-day deadline started, town board members said.
But the unity the board has shown in the past several months split wide open over concerns about mounting legal fees, now pegged at $120,000.

Town Supervisor Lenny McConnell said the town faces as much as $50,000 - $60,000 in additional court costs if the matter goes to the state Court of Appeals. The town could pull about $53,000 from reserves, but would have to float a bond if legal fees exceeded that.

McConnell also questioned Town Councilman Chuck Shick’s report that responding to the current issue would cost in the neighborhood of $10,000. Shick’s estimate was later verified during a teleconference by the town’s attorney Ed Hourihan.

The two men also clashed several times during the meeting, with McConnell insisting the town cannot win the lawsuit, and Shick saying the town has the upper hand in the current dispute and should not give up.

Other board members said they wanted more information on what’s at stake before the town pursues the matter to the appellate court.

After the teleconference with Hourihan, the board agree by a narrow margin to the interim legal step that could bring the matter back to Ark’s court.

Shick and councilwomen Anneke Radin-Snaith and Angela Einwachter voted for the resolution, while McConnell and Councilman Greg Booth voted against it.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

NextEra plans wind turbines at WGI

NextEra Energy, the company that’s planning a $200 million wind farm project across Schuyler and Chemung counties, has reached a deal with a high-profile landowner – Watkins Glen International.

NextEra – one of the largest power providers in the country – plans to locate multiple wind turbines, 400 feet tall, on the 1,832 acres that surround the historic race track in Schuyler County, officials announced Thursday.

The turbines at the race track would be among 50 to 75 scattered across the towns of Dix, Catharine and Hector in Schuyler County, and Catlin in Chemung County.

NextEra installed towers in the area to measure wind capacity in 2010, and has been negotiating with landowners about possible locations for the turbines.

They’ve also contacted local governments about the project, and will be seeking tax break packages through the county industrial development agencies. The bulk of the permits required will come from the state. An environmental impact review is required prior to approval.

NextEra hopes to begin building access roads, laying connecting lines and assembling the giant turbines in 2014 or 2015, and says the project will create about 200 construction jobs and 8 to 10 permanent jobs. The project will take six to nine months to complete.

WGI is not the first landowner that NextEra has reached a tentative agreement with, but is “certainly the largest,” NextEra spokesman Ross Groffman said during a press conference Thursday afternoon at WGI’s Media Center.

Groffman says having one of the most prominent businesses in the area on board gives the project a significant boost.

Michael Printup, WGI president, says the land lease will be the “first step of many” in the relationship between the two companies.

“I think there’s nothing like clean energy that can move the little needle, and with us and the popularity of NASCAR, and we have 5 or 6 million people watching us on TV, that’s the crux of this relationship,” Printup said.

The huge turbines will likely be visible from the grandstands during races, officials say.

Printup was asked if NextEra planned to advertise at the race track.

“We would expect to sit down and talk once they have a project, but at this point, it’s only a land lease,” he said. “But of course we would like to expand that relationship to include something else down the road.”

WGI’s biggest draw, the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in August, is currently without a title sponsor, as the track announced back in February that it was unable to reach a deal for Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips to return.

Groffman didn’t say if NextEra would consider sponsoring the Cup race, saying only: “Going forward, we expect we’ll have some marketing activity here, if and when the project comes to fruition.”

There’s already a relationship between WGI’s parent company, the International Speedway Corp., and NextEra. They have deals involving renewable energy credits, marketing and sponsorships at ISC’s two tracks in Florida, Daytona International Speedway and Homestead Miami Speedway.

NextEra, based in Florida, is a Fortune 200 company with approximately $15 billion in annual revenues.

It’s the largest renewable energy provider in North America, with wind, solar and hydro facilities. It also has electricity-generating plants fueled by nuclear, natural gas and oil.

NextEra has 90 wind farms with 8,900 turbines across the U.S. and Canada, but they’ve never put a wind farm at a major outdoor sporting complex, Groffman said.

“We have not built a wind farm in a location like (WGI) before,” he said. “We’re really excited about the potential of doing something like this.”

WGI would not be able to draw power directly from the turbines. Rather, the turbines feed power into the local grid.
Deals with landowners typically involve an up-front bonus along with annual payments. Groffman called the payments a “generous sum.”

Multiple elected officials from the area -- including Congressman Tom Reed, state Senator Tom O’Mara, state Assemblyman Tom Reed, Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn and several economic development officials -- attended Thursday’s announcement.

“While it’s preliminary, we’re certainly excited about the potential this project brings, from an economic development standpoint as well as the renewable energy front,” O’Hearn said.

Wind farms in Steuben County have been met with resistance from some residents who don’t want the huge turbines located near their homes.

Concerns have included their impact on property value, as well as noise, the potential to kill birds and bats, and “shadow flicker,” a strobe-like effect inside homes created by the spinning turbines which studies have linked to health issues.

Also, some towns in Steuben have become involved in legal disputes with other wind companies.

But NextEra officials said there were no issues so far with their Schuyler/Chemung project.

O’Hearn agreed.

“The comments we’ve gotten so far have been more along the lines of questions, landowners doing their due diligence, to find out what opportunities might present for them,” he said. “We have not received any significant opposition at this point.”

“Ultimately, as a community -- as in any development -- we want to make sure that it’s done responsibly,” O’Hearn added. “Certainly we’d be foolish not to recognize the economic potential of this. The question now is to balance the economic impact with responsible development.”