Cohocton Wind Watch: May 2013
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.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Noble ready to take down unfinished wind towers

While work was stalled at the Noble Environmental Power wind park in Bellmont back in 2008, landowners with unfinished remnants of it may soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The company has applied for a decommissioning, which essentially means it will be required to remove all 14 of the concrete bases and service pads and restore the land to the way it was before officials stepped foot on it, according to Bellmont Supervisor Bruce Russell on Wednesday.

"It's a very involved process," he said.
The concrete - above and below the ground - has to be removed as part of what's involved with decommissioning.
"All of that has to be disposed of in a safe manner," Russell said.
He added that the holes where the bases and pads were have to be filled in with the same subsoil that currently exists on the land along with the top soil.
Anyone concerned about the process or who has questions can attend an informational meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 3 at the Bellmont town offices in Brainardsville. Russell said Bellmont officials will be there along with ones from Noble as well.
Work on the proposed wind park came to a halt about five years ago, according to past reports. Russell said Wednesday that it had to do with finances for the project.
What was going to happen with the unfinished park has been up in the air since 2008. In 2010, Chateaugay officials received a letter from Noble that said while it would not be building an additional 13-tower park there to add to the existing 71 turbines, it did plan to continue with the Bellmont park after "the economy improves," according to past reports.
Had the wind park been successfully installed, the town of Bellmont would have received around $125,000 to $140,000 annually for a certain number of years, according to Russell, who said it could have been used for town improvements, such as road work or other projects.
Russell said nearby municipalities have had multiple benefits from collecting funds from completed wind parks within their borders.
He noted that Chateaugay has been able to use some of that money for town hall improvements, including revitalizing the theater there.
Chateaugay Supervisor Don Bilow said Friday that the town will receive about $400,000 each year for 20 years from Noble, which started around five years ago.
He said that with the money, the town has been able to reduce property taxes and eliminate town general fund taxes all together.
"We built a salt and sand building at the [town] garage," Bilow said, adding that new equipment was purchased for the town garage and fund upgrades for the Chateaugay Recreation Park.
"It has been a great benefit," Bilow said.
Bilow added that he's surprised that Noble would spend the money to begin working on a wind turbine farm considering the cost it takes to build one.
Past reports indicate that Noble spent $212 million to build the 71-turbine Chateaugay wind farm.


First Wind Proposes 62-Turbine Farm in Western Maine

First Wind has proposed building what could become the largest wind farm of its kind in New England. If the project is approved, 62 turbines would span Bingham, Mayfield Township and Kingsbury Plantation in Somerset and Piscataquis Counties. In its application, the developer says it spent four years analyzing the potential effects on wildlife habitat and the environment. And while the company says the impacts will be minimal, environmental and conservation organizations say they're still doing their own assessments. Jay Field reports.

The turbines would be built on the ridges and hills around Route 16 and Johnson Mountain.

"We've been measuring the wind there for over three years now, and have found it to be a very viable resource in that area," says David Fowler, who heads up New England development for First Wind.

Fowler says the project would generate 186 megawatts of electrcity - enough to power as many as 87,000 homes. Earlier this month, the company filed an application with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, triggering a 180-day review period. The project also needs local permits and the blessing of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Fowler says the company needs to get state approval by the end of December to take advantege of the federal wind power tax credit. "It did get extended for another year," he says. "So that is a subsidy that we are eligible for - if, in fact, we can qualify within that time period. It is a 30 percent tax credit."

But the project is not likely to be approved without a fight.

"People talk about responsibly-located projects - we really don't think that there's a whole lot of any place good in Maine for these things," says Chris O'Neil, who is with the group Friends of Maine's Mountains.

O'Neil says the Bingham Project is in an especially bad spot, near one of the most beautiful stretches of the entire Applachian Trail, near Monson. O'Neil worries the development would harm the quality of place in the region. He says there's little economic evidence that the energy benefits are worth the potential environmental costs.

"We've addressed all of the concerns," Fowler says, "the local environmental concerns, at least, with wetlands, birds and bats, lynx and all the other aspects we've spent a couple years studying now."

Fowler says the Bingham application lays out all the reseach the company has done, showing that the project won't harm the surrounding environment.

In e-mails to MPBN, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the state chapter of the Sierra Club say they're still reviewing the First Wind's application. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Windmills of death

There’s a killer on the loose. Known for murdering in cold blood with a sharp blade, the government has nevertheless turned a blind eye to the killer’s trail of death and destruction. The lucky ones who survive are maimed and left to die. The American taxpayer is forced to subsidize the slaughter.

We’re not taking here about the Tsarnaev brothers and their welfare-fueled electronic benefit cards, or about ravenous and evil blackbirds that feed on robins and their helpless young. Hundreds of America’s greatest birds, many of them protected as endangered species, fall lifeless to the ground after slamming into cruel windmill blades powered by taxpayer dollars.

The Wildlife Society Bulletin estimates the death toll at more than a half-million birds in the United States every year, including falcons, hawks and eagles. None of those responsible for the carnage has been held to account.

Neither the Obama administration nor the George W. Bush administration have prosecuted a single case against Big Wind. Providers of conventional energy sources, on the other hand, have had the book thrown at them. Over the past few years, the Justice Department extracted a $600,000 settlement and $3 million in compliance costs from Exxon-Mobil after 85 birds supposedly died from “exposure to hydrocarbons.” The company agreed to install devices to scare birds away from their equipment in the future. In December, SM Energy Co. was drilled for $300,000 after the firm’s oil reserve pits were found not to be “bird safe.”
PacifiCorp was forced to spend more than $10 million in fines and compliance costs after it was summoned to court over the death of 200 eagles said to have been zapped by the company’s power lines in Wyoming.

Like the Internal Revenue Service’s discriminatory treatment of the Tea Party, the Obama administration does not hold everyone equal before the law. The administration’s favorite green energy companies get a pass, and the firms that make affordable energy are mercilessly prosecuted.

Unlike the oil industry, wind power wouldn’t exist if there were no taxpayer subsidies. The Government Accountability Office counted 39 new benefits for windmill operators on Mr. Obama’s watch, beginning with a tax credit covering up to 30 percent of capital investment in new windmill projects, part of the 2009 stimulus. The biggest giveaway is the production tax credit, worth a cool $12.1 billion.

This unnecessary federal spending buys the death of majestic birds of prey. There’s hardly a peep of outrage from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The Audubon Society callously sacrifices the lives of birds just to chill the planet. “On balance, Audubon strongly supports wind power as a clean alternative-energy source that reduces the threat of global warming,” the society’s former president, John Flicker, wrote in the group’s magazine.

It’s a far, far better thing not to kill two birds with one stone, merely by dropping government subsidies for this hopelessly inefficient source of power. The lives of thousands of our countless feathered friends hang in the balance.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

They’re not “wind farms, they’re “tax farms”

Dear Editor,
In the interest of making sure the voting public has all the facts, I am writing in regard to the article in last week’s newspaper, “High Sheldon Wind Farm draws out-of-state visitors.”
Since Sheldon is a town that did sign on to turn itself into an industrial wind factory, it is not surprising that a Big Wind LLC would pay Sheldon Supervisor John Knab to do a speaking tour to try and sell their product in other areas of the country.  No doubt the wind industry has a list of their “go-to” guys that includes all such towns.

Neither is it surprising that these folks did not visit any of the other numerous towns in the area that decided against turning their towns into a wind factory.  They certainly would not want their visitors to get the whole story of what a devastatingly divisive issue this has been in Wyoming County over the past decade.  I truly found it quite sad, however, that the article read as a wind industry advertisement might — as if this whole past decade of conflict had never happened.

The explanation that these folks’ visit was triggered because Sheldon is written up as “one of the most efficient and well-built farms the country has,” highlights was a boatload of pure bunk American citizens have been fed when it comes to industrial wind.

Sheldon’s wind farm again produced a pitiful 25% last year.  And that’s the sorry excuse for “the most efficient and well-built wind farm the country has”? Any other piece of equipment, be it a machine, person or animal, that only operates 25% of the time would have been dubbed a “lemon” and put out to pasture a long time ago.   Which one of you would buy a vehicle that only operated 25% of the time?  You wouldn’t.  You couldn’t afford to.  It’s just that simple.  But when the state and federal government are in charge of spending our money, economic reality doesn’t seem to matter.

Physicist and Malone Town Board member Jack Sullivan recently reported on the reality of wind’s failure to produce in his article “Some Lessons from New York,” that appeared in the Rutland Herald ( online).

He explained, “Both Vesta and GE turbines have a manufacturer’s life expectancy rating of 20 years, yet no New York wind project is on track to sell enough electricity in 20 years to pay for itself.”

Mr. Sullivan used the wind industry’s 20-year life expectancy claim when equating that these giant, property-value-trashing, bird Cuisinarts can never pay for themselves. The inconvenient truth exposed in another report, however, says that, “turbines last only half of what the wind industry originally claimed,” making the fact that they can never pay for themselves even more evident.


These things aren’t “wind farms,” they’re “tax farms” — in the business of harvesting our taxpayer and ratepayer dollars, and transferring them into the pockets of rich, multi-national corporations.  All of this enabled because of cronyism in high places, and short-sightedness, willful ignorance, and greed of those willing to suck on the teat of wind welfare at the rest of our expense.

For the sake of all American taxpayers and ratepayers — and our rural communities and the environment — let’s hope those currently being baited by wind salesmen across the nation are wise enough to know better.

Mary Kay Barton, Silver Lake


Monday, May 06, 2013

First Wind acquires development rights to solar projects in three Mass. towns

First Wind is known for developing wind farms. But the firm's first power plant in its home state will most likely end up being solar-powered.

The Boston company has a number of wind turbine projects in northern New England, but it abandoned plans for what would have been its first wind farm in Massachusetts two years ago.

Now, First Wind is getting into the solar business, after buying the development rights to solar projects in three Massachusetts towns earlier this year from Victus Solar. First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne gave me the lineup for what the company has on tap following the Victus Solar acquisition:
  • 3.9 megawatts in Millbury
  • 6 megawatts in Freetown
  • 17 megawatts in Warren, spread among three projects in the town
“We’re excited about the possibility of having a renewable project in our home state,” Lamontagne says. “It’s kind of a natural thing for us. … We’ve developed a lot of utility-scale wind projects. Solar, in many respects, has some similar characteristics as wind.”

Growing wind and solar generation in the state has been a huge priority for Gov. Deval Patrick, almost since he took office in 2007. The progress on wind development has been slower than he had hoped. But solar has easily exceeded his expectations: He set a goal of reaching 250 megawatts of solar generation in the state by 2017, when there were fewer than five megawatts at the time. The state just crossed that threshold this spring — four years early.

The state Department of Energy Resources can certify solar renewable energy credits for up to 400 megawatts of solar projects in the state, essentially creating a way to ensure these projects will have buyers for their power. Now the Patrick administration is working on a way of adjusting that cap. After all, with players such as First Wind in the game now, it probably won’t be long before we cross that threshold as well.


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Is Sheffield wind typical?

A recent article in The Times Argus reported the statistics of the first full year’s performance of the wind farm at Sheffield. First Wind Inc. has installed 16 2.5-megawatt turbines that have a maximum capacity of 40 megawatts. The article reported they had an unexpectedly poor production year of 81 million kilowatt-hours, down from their projected 115 million kilowatt-hours, but they reported supplying power to 12,300 homes. Here’s a little more to this story.

The Sheffield project has a maximum capacity of 350 million kilowatt-hours, but the variability of wind and demand means that First Wind rates the expected actual capacity at 115 million kilowatt-hours or about 33 percent efficiency. By comparison, Searsburg has an efficiency of 19.2 percent. In 2012, Sheffield achieved an efficiency of about 23 percent or about 70 percent of its projected production. The U.S. Energy Information Administration rates average household power use at 11,280 kilowatt-hours, meaning Sheffield actually supplied power to about 7,180 homes.

The reasons given for the lowered production were lower than expected winds and the inability to load the distribution grid with the produced power. The unexpected lower winds apparently did not show up in their two-year study of wind conditions performed prior to construction. This may or may not be a long-term trend as a result of global warming.

The distribution grid problem exists when the variable wind causes spikes in power production that exceed demand at that time. These wind-powered surges cannot be matched with rapid response rises and falls in power production from the base load power production facility (nuclear, hydro, coal or gas) so the excess power is simply discarded. This means that even when the wind is blowing, there may be no significant reduction in greenhouse gases produced or any drop in base load production.

Now you have heard the rest of the story, just to keep everything in perspective.

Tom Watkins



Wednesday, May 01, 2013

First Wind tries again for Bowers Mountain

First Wind is hoping for a second chance at developing a wind farm near Lee. The company has resubmitted an application to place sixteen turbines on top of Bowers Mountain. First Wind retracted the original proposal in 2011 after facing tough opposition.

Vice President of Development for First Wind Matt Kearns said, "What we really focused on with this application is making a smaller, better project that's responsive to some of the issues that were raised by the folks."

Tuesday the Maine Department of Environmental Protection began a two-day public hearing on the project. Members and supporters of First Wind will submit the new proposal and those opposing the wind farm will have the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns.

According to Kearns, the new plan is based on the feedback and concerns voiced in 2011 and will not impact the region's scenery. The current proposal requests the building of sixteen turbine wind farm rather than the original twenty-seven.

Some opponents, like Gary Campbell, remain against the project.

Campbell said, "It's 16 turbines this time, but they've replaced the turbines with taller models and they're placing them on taller land."

Campbell is worried the wind farm could hurt the region's tourism, a industry the area relies heavily on.

"If we have 15% of the tourists decide not to come because there are now turbines on the horizon on what used to be a wilderness type area. A 20% decline in business, a 15% decline in business that's all it takes to go under," said Campbell.

First Wind stands by the new plan. According to Kearns, it would help boost the state's economy.
"We are able to bring new development, new economic opportunities, new jobs, maintain jobs for maine businesses who do this work in this sector. It's really important," said Kearns.

Members of the public will be able to ask questions and offer their concerns Tuesday evening at Lee Academy. The public forum will continue into Wednesday.

It will be up to the Department of Environmental Protection to determine if the project is fit to be built this time around.


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

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

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