Cohocton Wind Watch: January 2012
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.

READ about the FIRST WIND Connection to the Obama Administration

Industrial Wind and the Wall Street Cap and Trade Fraud


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wind turbine catches on fire

Authorities are investigating what caused a wind turbine to catch fire in Northern New York.

It happened Saturday night in Altona. Officials say people driving by the windfarm noticed the fire in one of the 400 foot turbines. Noble Environmental, the owner of the windfarm, says no one was injured. The cause of the fire is not known.

Two years ago a turbine at the same park came crashing down when the blades spun out-of-control in high winds. An investigation in that case uncovered a wiring problem that prevented the turbine from safely shutting down.

Wind speed at the time of Saturday night's fire was reportedly around 25 miles per hour.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wind Turbine Catches Fire

Firefighters said a wind turbine caught fire in Altona, N.Y. saturday night.

Clinton County fire officials said people driving by the windfarm called in to report the fire. Altona firefighters responded to the scene.

County fire officials said only one wind turbine was on fire, and nobody was hurt.

Winds were gusting up to 25 MPH in the area.

Investigators said it was too early to determine a cause.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. Announces Withdrawal from Minority Interest Wind Investment

Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. ("APUC") (TSX: AQN) today announced that it plans not to proceed with the previously announced investment in First Wind Holdings, LLC's ("First Wind") wind portfolio in the North East United States ("Portfolio"). The initial joint announcement with Emera Inc. ("Emera") (TSX:EMA) in April 2011 had contemplated APUC acquiring a minority interest of approximately 12.5% in the Portfolio, representing an approximate U.S. $83 million investment.

"Although First Wind is a developer of high quality wind projects, the longer than anticipated regulatory process in Maine, together with the transactions we have announced since April 2011 have contributed to our decision not to proceed with the First Wind investment", commented Ian Robertson, Chief Executive Officer of APUC. "Notwithstanding this decision, we remain solidly focused on gaining regulatory approval in Maine for the advancement of our Strategic Investment Agreement with Emera."

"Our Strategic Investment Agreement with Algonquin creates an excellent relationship, and together we believe we can capitalize on many investment opportunities we see in front of us", said Chris Huskilson, CEO, Emera Inc. "Consistent with Emera's significant electrical utility presence in Maine, Emera remains fully committed to the First Wind transaction, as we believe this proposed investment will create benefits for citizens and customers of that State."

Robertson continued, "We have a large pipeline of exceptional acquisition and development opportunities and believe that our efforts should be focused on those investments where we can more directly contribute to their success. Our Strategic Investment Agreement with Emera remains strong and intact and we look forward to a continuing mutually beneficial relationship well into the future."

About Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.

Through its distinct operating subsidiaries, APUC owns and operates a diversified portfolio of $1.2 billion of clean renewable electric generation and sustainable utility distribution businesses in North America. Liberty Utilities Co., APUC's regulated distribution utility business, provides regulated water and electric utility services to more than 120,000 customers with a portfolio of 22 water and electric utility systems. Pursuant to previously announced agreements, Liberty Utilities Co. is committed to acquiring Granite State Electric Company, a New Hampshire electric distribution company, EnergyNorth Natural Gas Inc., a regulated natural gas distribution utility and certain regulated natural gas distribution assets in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa, which together serve approximately 213,000 customers. Algonquin Power Co. (APCo), APUC's electric generation subsidiary, includes 45 renewable energy facilities and 12 thermal energy facilities representing more than 460 MW of installed capacity. APUC and its operating subsidiaries deliver continuing growth through an expanding pipeline of greenfield and expansion renewable power and clean energy projects, organic growth within its regulated utilities and the pursuit of accretive acquisition opportunities. APUC's common shares and convertible debentures are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbols AQN, AQN.DB.A and AQN.DB.B. Visit Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First Wind: PUC position would harm state’s economy

A Maine Public Utilities Commission staff recommendation to reject what could be an $880 million partnership between First Wind and two other companies would deny “a massive boost to Maine’s economy” while hindering First Wind’s ability to help the state meet its aggressive wind energy goals, the company said Tuesday.

First Wind said in a 13-page legal opinion that the PUC staff position is inconsistent with state law, wrongly suggests that First Wind would discriminate against state utility companies, and would — if adopted by the commission — hamper future investments in Maine by First Wind, the state’s largest wind developer.

“First Wind is not confident that it can aggressively pursue future wind power development in Maine if the First Wind Transaction is rejected,” the opinion states. “At best a rejection will cause a significant multi-year hiatus in most of First Wind’s Northeast development work as it pursues new sources of capital.”

First Wind, Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. and Emera Inc., the Nova Scotia-based parent company of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service, propose to jointly build and operate wind energy projects in Maine and elsewhere in the Northeast.

Tony Buxton, an attorney representing Industrial Energy Consumer Group, a 25-year-old trade association representing large energy consumers that opposes the joint deal, said he found it surprising that First Wind would claim that financing is a driving force behind its push.

Buxton pointed to a transcript of a PUC hearing on Oct. 6 in which First Wind President Michael Alvarez said that while Emera’s financial involvement in the deal is welcome, First Wind’s ability to attract future financing does not depend on that company’s participation.

“We are inclined to continue to believe Mr. Alvarez’s testimony given under oath,” Buxton said Tuesday. “It is pretty clear that there are other investors who are not utilities who will provide capital to First Wind projects.”

“First Wind just completed a $50 million financing in Hawaii. That shows that they can raise money for wind projects that does not come from an affiliate of a regulated utility in Maine,” Buxton added.

The PUC staff recommendation announced Friday opposes the joint venture because of fears that it would lead to higher electricity rates for ratepayers and give a utility control over a power generator, which the state’s Electric Restructuring Act expressly prohibits.

Enacted in 2000, the act forced Maine’s utilities to sell off dams and power plants to avoid what effectively would have been a monopolizing practice.

The PUC staff’s draft decision rejected arguments made by the deal’s opponents that the Electric Restructuring Act would be violated because an affiliate of the utility, not the utility itself, would own the generation assets.

The staff concluded, “The utilities will not have any equity interest or voting securities that will allow them to exercise any direct or indirect management control over the development or operation of generation assets within the meaning of the statute.”

Nevertheless, the staff wrote that the proposed affiliation of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service with companies that will “develop, own and operate generation assets” raises “substantial concerns regarding the possible exercise of preferential treatment by a utility to its competitive affiliates.”

That, in turn, could produce higher transmission rates and higher electricity prices.

First Wind disagreed.

“First Wind is committed to open, competitive markets and neither seeks nor expects any competitive advantage through the First Wind Transaction,” its opinion states. “The suggestion that First Wind will engage in discriminatory or preferential dealings in its relationship with Bangor Hydro or Maine Public is simply unfounded. First Wind has been successful in wind energy development in Maine and across the country and maintains an excellent reputation.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lake Ontario Offshore Wind Hits Some Hurdles

Like the United States, Canada has gotten nowhere in developing offshore wind power, even as Europe reaps massive amounts of energy from the sea. A project planned for Lake Ontario is aiming to become Canada’s first offshore wind farm, and the company leading the effort has just brought on Siemens to supply turbines [PDF] and signed up a roster of contractors. But as with the long-planned, much-disputed Cape Wind development off Massachusetts, Windstream Energy’s 130-turbine, 300-megawatt (MW) Wolfe Island Shoals project is encountering big hurdles.

For instance, there’s the not-so-small matter of the province of Ontario’s moratorium on offshore wind. The government enacted the moratorium in February 2011, saying more research was needed on the potential environmental impact of offshore wind development on freshwater lakes.

“The recently installed Lake Vanern pilot project (pictured above) in Sweden is one of the only operational freshwater offshore projects in the world and a pilot project has been proposed in Ohio,” the Ministry of Environment said. “Ontario will monitor these projects and the resulting scientific knowledge. Ontario will work with our U.S. neighbours on research to ensure any future proposed projects protect the environment on both sides of the Great Lakes.”

In its announcement of the Siemens deal, Windstream noted that it “holds the only offshore wind power feed-in-tariff (FIT) contract in the province of Ontario, which was awarded by the Ontario Power Authority in May 2010.” But with the moratorium in place, that doesn’t count for much – to the company’s apparent frustration. Windstream President Ian Baines told the Hamilton (Ont.) Spectator he saw the FIT as a binding contract and suggested the project – at full scale – could be just the sort of study the province needs to get a better understanding off offshore wind on freshwater lakes.

The Wolfe Shoals Island project is planned for 48,000 acres of shallow water shoals a few miles off the southwest shore of Wolfe Island in the far eastern corner of Lake Ontario.

In its campaign to overturn the moratorium and get the project moving, Windstream is promoting the economic benefits that construction would bring – an average of 1,900 jobs over a five-year construction period, plus 175 permanent jobs once the project is completed, according to a report the company commissioned [PDF]. Windstream and Siemens noted that their turbine deal calls for the rotor blades for the 2.3-MW turbines to be manufactured in Tillsonburg, Ontario, meeting the Ontario FIT requirement that the project have at least 50 percent local content.

In late 2011, a consortium of companies organized the Lake Ontario Offshore Network to advocate for wind development on the lake, and the cities of Kingston and Hamilton have registered support for the offshore project, according to the group [PDF].

Still, there is opposition, and the announcement of the deal with Siemens brought a post and a flurry of comments to the Ontario Wind Resistance blog, with many commenters suspicious that the Ontario government was about to end the moratorium. Wind projects in general in Ontario have faced some opposition, although it is always difficult to know how pervasive the opposition really is. Last month, the government tried to put to rest allegations of adverse health effects citing a new study that it said “concluded there is no direct health risk from wind turbine sound at Ontario’s regulated setback distance.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

PUC staff: No go for energy firms' wind deal

First Wind, Maine's largest wind-energy developer, last April trumpeted a multimillion-dollar deal that would pay for the company's ambitious plans to erect more wind turbines throughout Maine and the Northeast.

But in just the past week, the Maine Public Utilities Commission dealt a potentially fatal blow to the deal.

Faced with what opponents have called the first serious challenge to the state's landmark electricity deregulation law, which went into effect in 2000, PUC staff on Jan. 13 recommended that the agency give a thumbs-down to the deal.

"We deny approval of the 'proposed Transactions' as we find that the risk of harm to ratepayers exceeds the benefits," the draft decision reads, "even if conditions intended to mitigate the risk of harm to ratepayers were imposed."

The recommendation, which will be considered and voted on by the three PUC commissioners Jan. 31, caps a nine-month struggle over a deal that's described in legal filings as being worth, "at the high end," $880 million. The capital infusion to First Wind alone would amount to $333 million.

First Wind, Emera Inc. (the Nova Scotia-based parent company of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service) and Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. propose to jointly build and operate wind- energy projects in Maine and elsewhere in the Northeast. After a failed bid to go public in 2010, which left First Wind cash-hungry, the deal is a way for the Boston-based company to continue building wind towers across Maine and the region, as well as a way for Emera and Algonquin to reach new energy consumers in the U.S.

At last count, there were 312 legal filings in the case, a brigade of lawyers from Maine's top law firms and state agencies, briefs, motions and documents that referenced Hemingway, Shakespeare and Lady Gaga and a subpoena served on an Emera official by a retired Canadian Mountie.

The case centered on two legal issues: Was the proposal in the interest of ratepayers, and would the deal violate the state's "Electric Restructuring Act?" That act, which took effect on March 1, 2000, prohibits utilities from owning both transmission and generation, which forced the state's utilities to sell off their dams and power plants. After what came to be called "restructuring," utilities were responsible only for delivering power, while other companies produced it -- all in the hopes that it would lead to more competition and lower electricity rates.

Parties to the deal asserted in filings that it would benefit ratepayers by providing "a substantial benefit in achieving the State's aggressive wind energy targets," lowering the price of electricity in the regional market and strengthening the finances of both Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service. And they said that the Restructuring Act would not be violated because Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Utility, the two regulated Maine utilities in the deal, would not actually "own" or "have any measure of control" over generation assets or hold a "financial interest" in them.

But Eric Bryant, an attorney for the Maine Public Advocate's office, which represents the interest of utility customers, said last week that his office opposed the deal because it could result in "higher utility prices," thus violating the law that required a deal to do no harm to the interests of ratepayers.

Bryant said the plan would violate the Restructuring Act, too. Its complex corporate structure, he said, would amount to just what the law forbids -- a utility controlling a power generator.

"It's a virtual vertical utility," Bryant said. "If we're going to actually honor the Restructuring Act, you can't allow this restructuring to happen."

Anthony Buxton, the lead attorney for industrial energy users such as Verso, Huhtamaki and Madison Paper, who are opposed to the deal, said, "Maine is being asked to change its energy policy, dramatically. The interpretation of this part of the statute is incredibly important in keeping a competitive market for electricity prices in Maine.

"The question is whether the Restructuring Act will be kept whole," he said, "or whether someone will drive a big hole in it."

The PUC staff draft decision rejected the opponents' arguments that the Restructuring Act would be violated, because it would be a utility affiliate that owned generation, not the utility itself.

The staff concluded, "The utilities will not have any equity interest or voting securities that will allow them to exercise any direct or indirect management control over the development or operation of generation assets within the meaning of the statute."

Nevertheless, staff wrote that the proposed affiliation of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service with companies that will "develop, own and operate generation assets" raises "substantial concerns regarding the possible exercise of preferential treatment by a utility to its competitive affiliates." That, in turn, could produce higher transmission rates and higher electricity prices.

First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said Thursday, "We firmly believe that the joint venture with Northeast Wind will bring significant benefits to Maine ratepayers and will lead to as much as $3 billion in investment in the Maine economy and its communities. That will create hundreds of related jobs and generate more competitively priced clean, renewable energy for Maine homes and businesses."

Emera spokeswoman Sasha Irving declined to comment.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

First Wind-Emera partnership under PUC scrutiny

A proposal by First Wind and Canadian utility Emera to partner with a third energy company to build and operate energy projects in the Northeast is in danger of being rejected by Maine regulators.

The staff of the Maine Public Utilities Commission has recommended commissioners oppose the deal, saying the risk to the ratepayers exceeds the benefits, according to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. As proposed, the partnership would bring together Massachusetts-based First Wind, Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Emera -- which owns Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine & Maritimes Corp. -- and Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. They would jointly own and operate First Wind's 370-megawatt wind farm portfolio, and through a joint venture called Northeast Wind, would pump $333 million into First Wind.

The deal, however, raised questions over whether it violates the state's so-called deregulation, or the Electric Restructuring Act passed in 2000, which prohibits utilities from owning both transmission and generation. The PUC staff, however, said the deal would not violate the act, but that it could lead to "preferential treatment by a utility to its competitive affiliates," as well as higher prices. Commissioners are scheduled to review the staff recommendation on Jan. 31.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Vestas Cuts 2,335 Jobs With More at Risk This Year in U.S.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), the world’s biggest wind turbine maker, said it will halt production at one factory and cut 2,335 jobs, or 10 percent of its staff, to become more competitive with Chinese suppliers.

The changes are aimed at saving more than 150 million euros ($191 million) by the end of 2012, the company based in Aarhus, Denmark, said today in a statement. Vestas said another 1,600 jobs in the U.S. are at risk as a tax credit supporting the industry expires at year-end.

Chief Executive Officer Ditlev Engel will keep his post after cutting sales forecasts twice since October. Three times in three years he’s pared the workforce as Sinovel Wind Group (SINOVZ) Co. and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. grabbed market share. Vestas also suffered from production delays at a generator factory and from downward pressure on turbine prices.

“The challenges we have faced in the fourth quarter of 2011 have given us a credibility problem,” Engel said in the statement. “I can certainly understand if employees as well as people outside Vestas consider us to be in a state of crisis.”

Vestas fell 7.1 percent to 58.50 kroner at the close of trading in Copenhagen, the most since Jan. 4, the day after the last profit warning. The stock has lost almost 92 percent of its value since peaking at 692 kroner in 2008.

Sentiment at ‘Lows’

“Some in the market were hoping for significant management changes and this hasn’t happened,” Charlie Thomas, a London- based fund manager of the Jupiter Ecology Fund, which owns Vestas shares, said by e-mail. “With shareholder sentiment at such lows, there was the potential to make a more significant transformation. This is missing in our view.”

Jacob Pedersen, an analyst at Sydbank A/S (SYDB) who correctly predicted the scale of the cuts, said in a phone interview from Aabenraa, Denmark, that some investors may have expected Engel to step down. He said Vestas “disappointed massively” with its latest earnings forecast cut on Jan. 3.

Engel, 47, later told reporters the company’s board had asked him to make today’s announcement, and that it would be “unnatural” to leave the company now.

“The right time to leave a company is not when it’s facing challenges and is in trouble,” Engel said at a news conference in Copenhagen broadcast on the company website. “Have I offered my resignation to the board? No. That’s because I don’t think it would be the right thing to do.”

‘Enormous Setback’

At a news conference today in Copenhagen with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called the job losses an “enormous setback” to European Union efforts to promote green growth.

“This is a very, very sad day for Denmark as this is one of the things we think Denmark should be doing in the future,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “I still think this is the way forward, investing in new ways of doing things and new technologies, and despite this enormous setback, we’re on the right path.”

Engel also announced changes to management, with Chief Financial Officer Henrik Norremark named chief operating officer and deputy chief executive officer, and starting a search for a new finance director. Vestas will organize its business into five divisions and form a six-member executive team including Engel and Norremark, who will remain acting CFO until a replacement is found.

Management Changes

Those leaving the management team include Ander Soe-Jensen, head of offshore wind; Bjarne Ravn Soerensen, president of control systems; Finn Stroem Madsen, head of technology research and development; and communications chief Peter Kruse.

Juan Araluce becomes chief sales officer and Anders Vedel will be in charge of turbines. The new CFO and a new person to head a services division will complete the team, which comes into place on Feb. 1.

“We believe replacing the CFO to be a wise move,” Rupesh Madlani, an analyst in London at Barclays Capital, said in a note to investors. “The market had been disappointed over the last year at the lack of financial details and two profit warnings in a quarter from the company. We therefore view this change to be particularly positive.”

Vestas slashed 3,000 jobs in October 2010 and 1,900 in April 2009. After the latest round of cuts, its workforce will number about 20,400.

A total of 1,749 of the jobs to be lost will be in Europe, including 1,300 in Denmark, the statement said.
‘Risk’ to Knowledge

“The redundancies are happening in an industry which ought to experience progress due to the massive climate problems that both Denmark and the world are facing,” Frida Frost, who chairs the Danish Society of Engineers, which has 550 Vestas members, said in an e-mail. “We risk that knowledge and know-how about wind technology now disappears, and that is not what Denmark needs in the current economic situation.”

Danish Metal Workers Union chairman Thorkild E. Jensen said in a statement that the announcement creates “great uncertainty” in the Vestas work force and is a “hard blow” to those who’ll lose their jobs.

In the U.S., 182 workers will lose their jobs, and 404 in China and the rest of the world. Vestas will stop producing at its tower factory in Varde, western Denmark, the company said.

“Vestas has one of the highest costs of all its peers and will therefore have to take these painful steps in order to remain profitable in the future,” Justin Wu, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in an e-mail. “Turbine manufacturing margins have plummeted while competition has become increasingly fierce.”

U.S. Jobs

In the U.S., a further 1,600 jobs may be cut if lawmakers don’t extend the so-called production tax credit beyond 2012, Vestas’s chief said. A decision will be made no later than the fourth quarter, he said. The credit gives an incentive of 2.2 cents a kilowatt-hour of wind power.

“The expected layoffs are one of many steps that we now take in order to bring down costs,” Engel said. The changes are necessary “in order to prepare for a market with low growth and increased competition.”

Vestas has spent more than $1 billion building four plants in Colorado. About 900 work at plants making nacelles and blades in Brighton, Colorado. The company has hired almost 700 people in the U.S. and Canada the past eight months. Vestas said it will decide the size of the U.S. staff later this year.

“We are now preparing Vestas for the situation where one of our largest single markets, the U.S.A., may be facing a tough 2013,” Engel said. “This will have a huge impact on our business if we do not act now.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The latest news concerning wind farms comes from the Fish and Wildlife Service. A proposal was made by the West Butte Wind Power LLC located in central Oregon for a permit that would allow the wind farm to kill up to 3 Golden Eagles within a five year period.

Such a proposal is meaningless, since the number of Golden Eagles killed by the wind turbines within the first six months would surpass that number. This does not include other protected birds that would also be killed by the turbines. Overall, the official number of protected birds killed by wind turbines per year is estimated at about a half million in the United States alone. This number is more than likely a very low estimate since most kills are not even reported.

Each year, oil and power companies are fined huge sums, amounting into the billions for killing protected bird species here in the US. Yet, wind generated power companies are never prosecuted for killing hundreds of thousands more than these companies ever will. The Federal government needs to get its act together, and prosecute all who are responsible for killing protected birds or remove all birds from the protected list.

Laws in the US are not in place to be enforced on a select few but to include all. Thus, for the Feds to prosecute individuals who accidentally kill an endangered bird, or oil and power companies who happen to kill a few mostly by accident, while ignoring the millions killed by wind farms, is insane and in itself, unlawful.

Most people believe it is the wind turbines alone that kill birds. However, as many bird deaths are attributed to the destruction of their habitat by the construction of wind farms in very sensitive areas. Wind farms are a losing proposition altogether for protected bird species, not only here in America but also, the world over.

It might be a different story if wind generated energy produced enough electricity to get us off fossil fuels, but the fact is it simply does not. Even the Federal government, who will over estimate figures associated with projects it wants in operation cannot stretch the estimated overall electricity produced by wind farms above 1%. In reality, the actual number is closer to less than half that.

If we take into consideration the fossil fuels used in the manufacture of the turbines, internal equipment, and all other devices used by wind farms, the amount of fossil fuel already used even before they go into operation supersedes all they will generate during the lifetime of the equipment. This does not include the amount of grid electricity used to run the turbines during periods of calm wind conditions, the electricity needed to start the turbines and that necessary for cutting them off in conditions where the wind velocity is too high. When these factors are considered, wind farms end up producing nothing in the way of adding electricity to the grid and actually use more power from it than they produce.

The days when wind power projects could march freely into any area of the country or world unconcerned with any public opposition to them are over. The state of Maine has made great progress over the past year, in limiting where wind farms can be located and at times, stopping their construction altogether. The Citizens Task Force on Wind Power-Maine, which is a group of concerned citizens, interested in protecting their environment, health, and protected bird species has made great strides in this direction.

Recently, Gov. Paul LePage made the following statement in a radio address:

Lowering Energy Prices Creates Path to Economic Growth and More Jobs for Mainers

The opposition to the wind scam is growing in Canada as well, with heavy opposition in Ontario.

The same is growing worldwide from Scotland to Norway, as people are beginning to realize that wind farms will never produce enough electricity to ever even make a difference in our fossil fuel consumption. Now, more and more people realize the negative environmental impact on their beautiful countryside, the destruction of wildlife and their habitat. They are also concerned about the health problems to humans who are exposed to both the noise generated by the turbines as well as physical effects of living near them, similar to that produced by high voltage power lines.

The fight isn't over however, as all existing wind farms need to be shut down everywhere and new proposed wind farms scrapped. This needs to happen, because all wind energy is doing is raising the price of electricity and related taxes everywhere, drastically increasing inflation at a time when lower energy costs and job creation should be a top priority. All this negativity while producing nothing in return.

The wind energy concept should be reduced to a scientific experimental project, where only a few dot the countryside in the form of research facilities where perhaps one day, it may be a good alternative to fossil fuel usage. As it stands now, their whole existence is negativity without any positive aspects at all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Local elections influence two towns' wind futures

The prospect of wind energy development has divided north country communities from Cape Vincent to Clinton County. New York's new Article X law gives developers the option to seek state review of where to put their wind farms. But prior to Article X, accepting and siting the big turbines was up to each town. And companies can still choose local rather than state review.

More than once, the conflict over wind has spilled over into local politics. That has been the case in both Cape Vincent, on Lake Ontario, and Hammond, on a windy ridge overlooking the St. Lawrence River. In both towns, last fall's elections pitted incumbent supervisors who favor regulation of wind power against challengers who had already signed leases with energy companies to place wind turbines on their land. Joanna Richards reports on the likely impact of those elections.

Both incumbents won in November. In Hammond, the election seems to preserve a divided status quo, but in Cape Vincent, the board is poised to prepare a new law regulating wind development.

Both Urban Hirschey in Cape Vincent and Ronald Bertram in Hammond were labelled anti-wind during the campaigns. But they say they're not against wind development per se. They want local control – rules and regulations to protect the towns’ and their residents’ interests.

Ronald Bertram is supervisor of the town of Hammond.

It wasn't my intention to rule, you know, wind turbines out of our town. It's my intention to have them where it's safe.

Bertram defeated challenger Michele McQueer, who has filed a challenge against the law governing wind energy development in the town. That lawsuit is still in progress. Bertram says he took his victory as a sign that most town residents support the new wind law.

For now, Bertram says Iberdrola Renewables has withdrawn its application with the state electrical power authority for a wind farm in the town. No other company has approached the town about development so far.

As for the five-person town board, it will continue to have two members abstaining from any wind-related votes because of conflicts of interest.

James Pitcher, who has a wind lease, kept his seat. New councilman Howard Demick has said he will abstain from wind votes because his brother has a lease with Iberdrola.

He is basically in the same situation, so, um, basically the changing of our board doesn't really have any effect on it.

The remainder of the board passed the new law governing wind turbines, so unless McQueer's lawsuit is successful, Hammond's regulations on wind development are likely to stand.

That means the town will remain divided over the issue, although immediate prospects for a wind farm there seem to be stalled for now.

In Cape Vincent, there is no law governing wind turbines. Supervisor Urban Hirschey says that leaves the town vulnerable.

Right now, without a zoning law, the town becomes on the defensive. The town has been on the defensive. With a zoning law, you're basically saying, “Here's where the turbines can go, and these are the conditions in which they have to meet.” And then it's up to the developer to say, “Well, I don't really like this; let's talk about it.” So we really need a zoning law to guide the process. We haven't been able to do that for the last four years – ten years.

Hirschey says there's been a further complication. Until now, any group of landowners controlling at least 20 percent of the acreage in the town can overrule a simple majority vote of the Town Council and instead require a supermajority vote. With two members abstaining from any wind votes, the council couldn’t overrule landowners' objections to a wind law.

But that may change now, since the two members of the Town Council with conflicts of interest in the issue were defeated in November.

Ah, the election was very pivotal, and ah, in our opinion, very definitive. I think the public really is aware of – or the voters, those who voted – are really aware of the situation, and they voted with wind in mind.

Article X throws a new variable into the prospects for wind development in Hammond, Cape Vincent and throughout the state. It allows energy companies to choose state rather than local review of proposed projects. But Hirschey says Cape Vincent has to proceed as if Article X didn't exist. After all, he says, the projects proposed in the town are, for now at least, still under local control.

We're gonna do what we think is right. And, ah, and if it comes to Article X, we hope that we can convince the Article X board that what we've done is right.

With the changes on the board, Hirshey says he'd like to pass a moratorium on wind development for about six months in order to stave off any development activity until a wind law can be passed. He says the Town Council expects to pass the moratorium on wind development after a public hearing at its February meeting.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm Joanna Richards in Watertown

Monday, January 09, 2012

Wind power 'does not give value for money' as it is unreliable and requires back-up gas stations

Europe's focus on wind power is crippling British energy users with additional costs as it is not a cost-effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a report has found.

The EU has directed governments to generate 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020, leading many to focus on wind.

But wind power is unreliable and requires back-up gas power stations to maintain a consistent electricity supply, the Civitas think-tank study found.

It means energy users pay twice – once for the ‘window-dressing’ of renewables and again for fossil fuels the energy sector continues to rely on.

The study, written by economist Ruth Lea, uses Government-commissioned estimates of the cost of electricity generation to calculate the most cost-effective technologies.

Gas-fired power is the most cost-effective in the short term, while nuclear power stations become the most cost-efficient in the medium term, more than twice as cost-effective as wind.

The report concludes: ‘Wind power is expensive and yet is not effective in cutting CO2 emissions.

‘If it were not for the renewables targets, wind power would not even be entertained as a cost-effective way of generating electricity or cutting emissions. The renewables target should be renegotiated with the EU.’

The study attacks Government claims that wind power is one of the more cost-effective means of generating power. In fact, it says, it is ‘unreliable and requires conventional back-up capacity’.

The report also says wind power, backed by conventional gas-fired generation, can emit more CO2 than the most effective gas turbines running alone.

Turbine projects in the area hit turbulence

Large windmills started spinning last year in Gardner, but for the rest of the region, 2011 was a mixed bag for wind energy projects.

In Central Massachusetts, several community wind projects are in the study stage. A few, including commercial developments, have been at least temporarily sidelined by lack of wind, lack of long-term purchase agreements, or local opposition.

In Gardner, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections prison and Mount Wachusett Community College each began operating two 1.65-megawatt turbines in 2011, joining four other existing community-scale projects at: Nature's Classroom in Charlton, Princeton Municipal Light and Water Plant, Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Worcester and Templeton Municipal Light and Water Plant, on land owned by Narragansett Regional School District.

The local picture looks a little different from the milestones reached by wind power nationally, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In Iowa and South Dakota, wind energy accounted for 20 percent of all electricity; the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior streamlined processes to move significant offshore wind energy projects forward; and the cost of wind turbines dropped by as much as one-third over the previous two years.

Worcester County's gently rolling hills and river valleys are an obstacle for major wind energy development, according to Kate Plourd, communications manager at Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

“We really see the wind resources along the coast or in the Berkshires, where the wind is,” she said.

Not having strong enough wind to generate power economically may hamper plans for a proposed turbine in Northboro, according to Town Engineer Fred Litchfield. The town recently released a feasibility study done by Sustainable Energy Developments of Ontario, N.Y. It showed that among several test scenarios with different sizes of turbines, situated at either Ball Hill or Mount Pisgah, the average wind speed at the height of the turbine's hub was around 5.5 meters per second. Massachusetts Clean Energy Center requires average wind speeds of 6 meters per second at a proposed site to fund development grants.

Mr. Litchfield said the payback period for the upfront capital costs would also take longer because the wind wasn't as strong as had been hoped.

“It still could be done, but it's just not as feasible,” Mr. Litchfield said.

The only test site that had an average wind speed of more than 6 meters per second was on Mount Pisgah, with a large Vestas 1.8-megawatt turbine as the model, which recorded 6.05 meters per second. But the report cautions: “ … from a community standpoint, however, this location may be the most controversial of those considered as significant construction would be required to install a wind turbine in what is viewed as a critically important conservation and public recreation area.”

The results of Northboro's wind feasibility study will be presented at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, 63 Main St.

“Technology could be changed in the next few years,” Mr. Litchfield said. “If we could get more energy from the site and tower, we wouldn't rule it out.”

Funding slowdowns from a variety of sources have been a drag on wind energy development as well.

Douglas Woods Wind Farm, abutting Douglas State Forest, had received approval for an 11-turbine, 27.5-megawatt commercial wind farm before a lawsuit from an out-of-state energy producer nullified its long-term power purchase agreement with NSTAR in 2010.

The lawsuit, filed by energy firm TransCanada, argued that the request for proposals for purchase agreements between energy producers and utilities under the state's Green Communities Act, which affected projects statewide, violated the Interstate Commerce Clause because it only allowed Massachusetts renewable energy projects to bid. All the signed agreements had to go back out to bid.

Since wind farms in such places as upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire are often on less expensive, less densely populated land and can harness more wind, the price of the power they produce is usually lower. Many Massachusetts commercial wind projects could not compete with out-of-state companies on price for the second round of bids with utilities.

Catherine Williams, press secretary for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said in an email about the revised purchasing rules: “We expect that both in-state and out-of-state projects will be a part of Massachusetts renewable energy mix and that some in-state projects were selected through the long-term contract procurement process.”

“They (Douglas Woods' developers) have all the local approvals; they just need to sew up the PPA,” said Douglas Town Administrator Michael J. Guzinski.

Stephen Zisk, Douglas planning/conservation agent, said the Planning Board has given American Pro Wind, the developer of Douglas Woods, a continuation until March for site plan review.

Money, controversy and a lawsuit have stalled plans for two proposed wind projects in Charlton.

Two requests for proposals for a 900-kilowatt turbine at Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in 2011 yielded only one bid.

“We decided for the time being to put the project on the shelf,” said Superintendent-Director David P. Pagnani.

“We are also waiting to hear what happens on the (Overlook) Masonic (Health Center) project,” he said, referring to a proposal for two turbines, about a mile away from Bay Path, which has been controversial among some residents.

Charlton Town Planner Alan I. Gordon said both projects underwent favorable site plan review.

“The general community … understood the details and were comfortable with it,” Mr. Gordon said.

But one abutter appealed the Planning Board's decision on the Overlook Masonic Health Center project, and the case is in Land Court.

The Charlton Board of Health also issued controversial regulations in 2011 that called for a 2,500-foot distance between the base of wind turbines and any existing dwelling or building, which would affect the already approved project designs. Mr. Gordon said the health board's regulation would apply to anyone seeking a building permit, and some have questioned the board's jurisdiction over wind energy projects.Several more projects throughout the region are in the feasibility-study phase.

In Auburn, a meteorological, or “met” tower, sits on the highest spot in town overlooking Home Depot on Washington Street. The tower has anemometers, wind-direction vanes, and temperature and pressure sensors that collect data on wind speed and other factors that would affect a wind turbine's power capacity.

Town Planner Adam R. Burney said the town will collect 12 months of data by July, and should have a report and recommendations from consultants in about a year.

He said, “I think that there's a hope that it will reduce our energy costs … over the lifetime of the turbine.”

The town's original intent is to own the turbine, if it's installed, but the consultants will further explore ownership and financing models.

Millbury Town Planner Laurie Connors said the town installed a met tower in August. The tower is gathering data at Butler Farm in West Millbury, a proposed site for one or two turbines.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Wind turbine output a lie (Vermont & NY)

Engineer demonstrates the “dis-connect” between wind developer claims and actual energy output

Kibby Wind Power I and II, a 132 MW windplant, capital cost $330 million, is owned by TransCanada and was built, after a lot of destruction, on one of the most beautiful ridgelines in the State of Maine.

TransCanada and Vestas (the Danish turbine manufacturer) claimed the capacity factor would be 0.32 or greater. According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, “66 MW [became] operational beginning October 16, 2009 and the remaining 66 MW [became] operational beginning November 1, 2010.”

Its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) designation is Trans Canadian Wind Development, Inc., in case you wish to look up the data, below.

In 2009 and 2010, the facility had a lot of startup problems and its energy production was negligible.

In 2011, it had a capacity factor of 22.5% for the first 9 months.

For the 3rd Quarter of 2011, it was 14.42%. Monthly capacity factors were as follows:

July 18.48%

Aug 12.31%

Sept 12.41%

Why are the CF’s (Capacity Factor) so low?

Winds on ridgelines have highly-irregular velocities and directions. This does not show up when one does wind velocity testing for feasibility, but when rotors are 373 feet in diameter, one part of a rotor will likely see a different wind velocity & direction from another part.

This results in highly inefficient energy production and CFs. Wind vendors (sellers) are very familiar with this, but neglect to mention it. However, all is explained in this article. I recommend the Vermont Dept. of Public Service and (Vermont) House Environment and Energy Committee, and all others, finally read this article, before “leading” Vermont into an expensive energy La-la-land.

The Bolton Valley Ski Resort wind turbine CF also does not live up to claims. (Click here.)

The New York State wind turbine CF’s also do not live up to claims. The Vendor promises were for capacity factors of 30% to 35%, before installation. The reality, after installation:

Installed capacity, MW: 1035.5 in 2008; 1,274 in 2009: 1,274 in 2009; 1,348 in 2010

Production, MWh: 1,282,325 in 2008; 2,108,500 in 2009, 2,532,800 in 2010

Capacity factors: 14.1% in 2008; 18.9% in 2009; 22.7% in 2010

The above data were obtained from the 2011 New York ISO (Independent System Operator) Gold Book.

Because no wind turbines were added during 2010, the 22.7% capacity factor of 2010 is the best proof of the lack of performance of the New York State wind turbine facilities.

This reality is not unique to Maine, Bolton Valley and NY State. It has replicated itself in The Netherlands, Denmark, England, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, etc. The production is invariably less than promised. Add this to the fact that the CO2 emissions reduction is much less than claimed, as shown in these articles (click here and here and here and here and here), and further investments in wind energy clearly become an extremely dubious and expensive proposition.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Would you sign this? (Ontario)

Would you sign this contract? These two sections are quoted verbatim from a wind developer contract currently making the rounds in Ontario, Canada.

I guess, if (a) you don’t actually occupy your 200 acres and (b) you really don’t give a damn about your neighbors—I imagine such scum bags sign with glee.

Grant of Effects

Lessor grants to lessee a non-exclusive license for audio, visual, view, light, flicker, noise, shadow, vibration, air turbulence, wake, electromagnetic, electrical and radio frequency interference, and any other effects attributable to the wind power facilities or activity located on the leased lands or on adjacent properties (“effects of license”).

The burden of the effects of license shall run with and bind the lands and every part thereof and benefit the lessee’s interest in the leased lands and such other lands that the lessee may have a real property interest in the leased lands from time to time and which form part of the project. If requested by the lessee, the lessor shall execute and deliver to the lessee such separate and registerable transfer of easements which reproduce the terms of the effects license.

Waiver of Setback

To the extent that (a) lessor now or in the future owns or leases any land adjacent to the leased lands; or (b) lessee leases or holds an easement/license or a lease over land adjacent to leased lands and has installed or constructed or desires to install or construct any power facilities on said land at and/or near the common boundary between the leased lands and said land, lessor hereby waives any and all setbacks and setback requirements, whether imposed by law or by any person or entity, including without limitation, any setback requirements described in the zoning by-laws of the county and/or province or in any governmental entitlement or permit heretofore or hereafter issued to the lessee.

If so requested by lessee, lessor shall promptly, without demanding consideration, therefore execute and, if appropriate, cause to be acknowledged, any setback waiver, setback elimination or other document or instrument required by any governmental authority or that lessee deems necessary or convenient to the obtaining of any entitlement or permit.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Feds propose allowing wind-farm developer to kill golden eagles

The federal government is proposing to grant a first-of-its-kind permit that would allow the developer of a central Oregon wind-power project to legally kill golden eagles, a regulatory move being closely watched by conservationists.

The Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday released a draft environmental assessment that would allow West Butte Wind Power LLC to kill as many as three protected golden eagles over five years if the company fulfills its conservation commitments.

It’s the first eagle “take permit” application to be received and acted on by U.S. Fish and Wildlife under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. (“Take” means to kill, harass or disturb the birds, their nests or their eggs.)

The legislation, enacted in 1940, prohibits anyone from killing or disturbing any bald or golden eagles without a permit from the Interior Department.

Regulations adopted in 2009 enabled the agency to authorize, for the first time, the “take” of eagles for activities that are otherwise lawful but that result in either disturbance or death. In this case "taking" would be the killing of eagles hit by the wind turbines' huge blades.

Public comments on the draft environmental assessment of the Wind Butte project will be accepted until Feb. 2.

The permit, if ultimately issued, stipulates that there must be no net loss to breeding populations of golden eagles from the wind farm project. That means for every protected bird permitted killed, developers must contribute to conservation efforts for breeding them.

“Our goal is to maintain stable or increasing populations of eagles protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act," said Chris McKay, assistant regional director for Migratory Birds and State Programs in the Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific Region.

"Regulations under the Act allow us to issue permits for activities that are likely to take eagles provided the activity is otherwise lawful and the taking is not the purpose of that activity, the take is unavoidable even though advanced conservation practices are being implemented, and the take is compatible with eagle preservation," McKay said in a press release.

California-based West Butte Wind Power LLC is proposing to build a 104-megawatt wind energy generation facility on ranchland in Oregon’s Deschutes and Crook counties, consisting of up to 52 wind turbines. Electricity generated by the project could power as many as 50,000 homes.

Conservation groups expressed cautious optimism at the government’s proposal to award the eagle take permit.

“This is a type of project where it’s appropriate for them to issue this kind of permit,” said Liz Nysson, energy policy coordinator with the Oregon Natural Desert Association She noted that only a small number of golden eagles are believed to be in and around the area where the wind turbines will be built.

“I say ‘cautious optimism’ because we fear that the agency is going to go forward and start issuing these permits … for a multitude of golden eagles every year, and that would be a bad use of the policy,” Nysson said.

It's not mandatory for wind-power projects to apply for the eagle "take" permits.

Kelly Fuller, wind campaign coordinator for the American Bird Conservancy, praised West Butte for being the first company to apply for one. She described the latest development as “precedent-setting,” according to the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, a bipartisan group of the nation’s governors dedicated to expanding the development of wind energy.

Fuller said the eagle permit process gives conservationists more opportunity to participate in the development process.

She said the conservancy group will ask Fish and Wildlife to extend its public comment period an additional 30 days beyond the Feb. 2 deadline, according to the Wind Energy Coalition.

Setback for turbines important part of wind law

Ten years ago, my husband Terry and I came close to signing a wind lease without doing basic research or taking the lease to a lawyer. It seemed so simple -- we could make money and be good citizens at the same time. It was only when we read about noise and significant health issues that we had second thoughts about the enormity of the projects, but then we felt guilty because wind was green and great for the environment. Wasn’t it?

Our skepticism about the green potential started on the night we did some math, and Terry calculated that it would take approximately 50 turbines to power one shopping mall. Over time we learned that all around the world, noise was a problem.

We also learned that inland wind turbines work at only 10 percent of their rated capacity. On top of that they often need to be shut down during winter, because of high winds and icing.

Prattsburgh needs a wind law to protect the people who live in the project area. We would have liked to see much larger setbacks than are in the proposed law, but we understand the need to compromise. Interestingly, the overwhelming number of people who are complaining about adoption of an adequate wind law do not live in the project area.

They deny that commercial wind has any ill effects, which is hard to understand when the evidence is as close as Cohocton.

If a wind project is built in Prattsburgh, then it must have adequate setbacks. People in the project area should be able to sleep at night, leave their windows open in summer and should not need blackout curtains to avoid shadow flicker. A wind law will help ensure that.

Ruth Matilsky
Prattsburgh, NY

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