Local laws leave wind farms out to pasture

Posted on November 21, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

From an article by Sean Ryan and Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

Lawmakers will rally again for statewide regulations on wind farm development in the upcoming legislative session, and, if the standards pass, local regulation could be a thing of the past.

“We will push for the (Public Service Commission of Wisconsin) to create uniform standards and regulation of wind energy for all projects,” said Curt Pawlisch, an attorney with Cullen Weston Pines & Bach LLP, Madison. Pawlisch is revising wind farm standards that failed to get out of legislative committees last session.

“I wouldn’t say local regulations would be for naught,” he said, “but the PSC would determine what works and what doesn’t.”

And that could mean the state getting final say on any wind project.

For some, it’s encouraging news. Mike Donahue, executive vice president of Midwest Wind Energy in Chicago said statewide rules would help Wisconsin attract more wind farm projects because clarity and consistency in law is the key.

“In Wisconsin, (laws) vary so wildly,” Donahue said. “Oftentimes, they will change on you in the middle of the development process.”

And with the state scrambling to reach its goal of obtaining 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025, state officials are increasingly wary of local obstacles.

Wisconsin’s biggest competitors for wind farm projects are Iowa and Minnesota, both of which have statewide rules and permitting systems, Donahue said. Localized control of wind farm legislation in Wisconsin puts the state at a competitive disadvantage, he said.

“That’s sort of the great irony of Wisconsin,” he said. “You have an excellent state policy framework that supports wind energy development, but you don’t necessarily have that kind of support at the local government (level).”


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5 Responses to “Local laws leave wind farms out to pasture”

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Wind developers want to put local government out to pasture

Lawmakers didn’t rally for statewide regulations, it was the wind developers and wind advocates. Lawmakers made the decision to drop SB544 in favor maintaining of local government control. Wind developers may again rally for statewide standards but elected officials will never support local regulations being a thing of the past. Support among lawmakers was low last session and will be even lower this time around in light of new information concerning health and safety impacts of industrial wind turbines sited too close to homes.

The push for the Public Service Commission (PSC) to have control of turbine siting is interesting in that there is not one elected official working there. The PSC would take control of tens of thousands of acres of private land without any input from local elected officials. Is that what’s best for us, I don’t think so. Local elected officials know best what works and what doesn’t.

I would be a little wary of statements made by Mr. Donahue. I believe he was the one that stated at the Senate Hearings that wind turbine production would be 33% to 35%. Wind turbine actual production in Wisconsin has historically been about 20%. Production standards are something that needs to be addressed in Madison this session. I think an audit is in order here. Why should the taxpayers and rate payers be asked and expected to support something that only works 20% of the time? Wisconsin has a poor wind resource. We need to be looking at other options for our renewable energy. Mr. Donahue should be bringing some options to the table for us to evaluate. If all of us are really concerned about renewable energy we need what works best in Wisconsin, not Minnesota and Iowa.

I could support statewide standards for turbine siting provided they are not written by a lawyer that is being paid by wind developers. Standards need to be written with equal input from developers, citizens, elected government officials, and Acoustical Engineers. Property rights and property value guarantee’s need to be addressed as the new standards are developed.

Elected government officials have an intrinsic responsibility to protect the citizens. Lawmakers have no responsibility to provide a place for private industry to site wind turbines.

See the post titled “No money, no coal plants, and fewer wind projects create concerns about grid reliability.” It was posted on November 19.

I have taken another look at the article you mentioned and here are my thoughts.

First, I don’t believe we have a power shortage in the USA. Second, we do have a problem moving around what power we can generate. Third, the RPS standards are a great goal but may be too aggressive.

Money is extremely tight for everyone from the federal government right down to you and me. Everyone is under extraordinary financial pressure. I own a small business and our sales are down 35% from the average year. What that means is there is no fluff at any level for anyone. In these tight times there is no money to build wind turbines with a 20% capacity factor that will only add instability to the grid. This was clearly shown last year when the north half of Texas browned out after the wind suddenly stopped blowing. Power was cut off to some customers and it took grid operators hours to restore the power grid. Wind power not being dispatchable only adds to an already problematic power grid.

This is what I think should be done. We need to back up the bus. If we really want to reduce CO2 emissions the coal plants need to be cleaned up first. The money that seems to be so readily available for wind power should be diverted to convert coal plants to natural gas and bio mass. At the same time and with the same money the power grid should be rebuilt so that the power we do generate can be efficiently moved around. Then if we want to build wind turbines let’s do it in the areas that have a good wind resource. Wind turbines at 4 million dollars each times the 1000’s proposed for Wisconsin will provide money necessary for these repairs. We also need to get the money to wind developers so they can build the necessary transmission lines and move the turbines away from existing lines that are close to homes. Building wind turbines now anywhere in the U.S. is no better than putting a band aid on something that needs a major operation.
In April 2008 the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released an important analysis on Federal energy subsidies with a focus on electricity production. This information further supports the fact that at this time we as taxpayers cannot afford to invest in wind turbines especially when sited in low wind areas like Wisconsin.

Coal $.44 per MWh
Nat Gas $.25 per MWh
Nuclear $1.59 per MWh
Biomass $.89 per MWh
Geothermal $.92 per MWh
Hydro $.67 per MWh
Solar $24.34 per MWh
Landfill Gas $1.37 per MWh
Wind $23.37 per MWh

Wind subsidies are 93 X what is paid for natural gas, and 53 X paid for coal. Based on these numbers it’s clear that we cannot afford to pursue wind or solar energy in current hard economic times. Wisconsin can generate renewable energy from biomass, geothermal, hydro, landfill gas, and manure at a fraction of the cost of wind.

I also disagree with the NERC statement that “increased dependency on natural gas as a fuel for electric generation may impact reliability.” Natural gas has been proven to be very reliable, very clean, and very cost effective. How did they come to that conclusion?

Ed, I respect your position on this subject and I hope someday we can find some middle ground where we can agree on a plan for cost effective renewable energy for Wisconsin.

Thanks for providing the opportunity to correct many misunderstandings about wind and the criticisms of wind energy.

Electricity need
You base some of your points on a belief that we don’t have a power shortage in the USA. This belief allows you to argue for retrofitting existing coal plans (a very good idea) without adding capacity.

Most people both in and outside of the power generation industry provide facts and figures to project continued load growth and capacity requirements.

Texas reliability
From the summary of an analysis by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA:
“Over the 40-minute period preceding the start of load curtailment, wind generation declined by 80 MW relative to its schedule, non-wind generation decreased by 350 MW relative to its schedule, and load rapidly increased to a level that was 1,185 MW more than forecast. More generally, disturbances of this type routinely involve conventional power plants. The incident in reality shows that the key to successful electric system management lies in a diverse power supply, of which wind can reliably be a large part.”

Here’s the link to the AWEA analysis – http://www.awea.org/newsroom/pdf/AWEA_Viewpoint_on_ERCOT_event_031208.pdf

The analysis came from the official report of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas –http://interchange.puc.state.tx.us/WebApp/Interchange/Documents/27706_114_577769.PDF

Distribution requirements
Yes, wind projects will require transmission lines in new places. And yes, most analyses point to the need for major improvements in the national grid. Here’s what AWEA has to say: http://www.awea.org/newsroom/pdf/Reliability_NERC_report.pdf

Turbines in Wisconsin
The number of turbines proposed for Wisconsin is not “1000s.” The megawatt capacity for proposed projects is approximately 1,460. Depending on the generation capacity of the turbines used in the projects, the total number of turbines might be as high as 970, assuming 1.5 MW turbines. Larger turbine capacity will reduce that number, of course.

See this chart for the proposed projects: http://www.renewwisconsin.org/proposed_wind _11-20-08.pdf.

Again from AWEA:

“The method of comparing only 2007 subsidies to generation from all capacity
installed over the past 50-60 years does not accurately capture the true distribution
of Federal electricity support. As presented in the EIA report, comparing all generation to subsidies provided only in 2007 greatly biases the results negatively against sources that were installed recently. Capturing the flow of subsidies provided during the entire period when electricity capacity was actually installed is the only way to accurately present the distribution of federal support by energy source.

The steady and significant subsidies provided over the past 50 or more years has
allowed generation from sources like nuclear, coal and even hydro to flourish and
become major electricity sources for the U.S. However, the majority of generation
from these sources in 2007 actually comes from capacity installed prior to 1990s or much earlier . . . . Unfortunately, the EIA report does not include the federal
subsidies provided during actual installation of these power plants.”

See AWEA’s full statement: http://www.awea.org/newsroom/pdf/Alexander_EIA_Two_Pager_051308.pdf

Risks of natural gas
Canada provides about 80% of the natural gas imported into the U.S.

Canada appears to have passed its peak in natural gas production. “Despite record drilling activity, natural gas extraction volumes have slipped from the peak set in 2002, and output per well is now declining at an annual rate of 28%.”

See Draining Canada First. http://renewmediacenter.blogspot.com/2006/11/draining-canada-first.html

I do not believe there is a power shortage in the USA at this time. I do believe we have a transmission problem. However the idea of retrofitting the existing coal plants is to clean up the CO2 emissions. If you believe there is a shortage now or that there will be one in the near future then we need base load power. Wind turbines cannot provide base load power. Other forms of renewable energy readily available for development in Wisconsin can. Please read this report. http://www.betterenvironmentalsolutions.com/reports/CellulosePrairie.pdf

The story about the Texas brownout came from Reuters. The story was not intended to be negative about wind power. The explanation of the incident included comments from the grid operators that worked the emergency. http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2749522920080228?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews&rpc=22&sp=true

Wind turbines in Wisconsin. The number of turbines depends on what you are trying to achieve. Is it 1460 MW of installed capacity or capacity factor? If you are going to produce 1460MW of real electricity then you would need to install 3893 1.5MW turbines. That is based on a very generous proposed capacity factor of 25%. Historically wind turbines produce about 20% of their rated capacity in Wisconsin. If you want 1460 MW of nameplate capacity then you need about 970 turbines but you will only produce 365MW of electricity or less. None of this power could be used as base load, wind power is not dispatchable. You will need several natural gas plants just to back up and run 3893 turbines. The 365MW of power could be produced by a single gas or biomass plant. Now let’s consider the impact on the land. The 3893 turbines at 80 acres each would impact over 300,000 acres. The view shed would be much larger. The 365 MW biomass plant would cover 200 acres or less and could be located off prime farm land. The big question here is what would you connect all these turbines to if we don’t rebuild and add to the existing power grid first? What about the 300 turbines in Minnesota that are up and connected to nothing? The money spent to build the turbines in Minnesota should have been used to build the transmission lines first. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen in Wisconsin. One more time, let’s back up the bus. Clean up the coal plants, rebuild the power grid then add wind power where there is enough wind. Wisconsin can do its part with other forms of renewable energy. I feel wind turbines should be limited to the small personal size. For the same cost of one large turbine you could install 100 small turbines and the power they produce can be stored in a battery until needed our any excess can be put on the grid.

Now the AWEA. This organization has a way manipulating and twisting every fact, figure, and news story to try and make it look like they are the good guys, and anyone that is critical of wind power is the bad guy. Wind power in not perfect. I am not sure if this group has any real interest in producing renewable energy. I think they want to sell wind turbines at any cost to the taxpayers. My opinion of the AWEA is, this is a group of wind turbine salesmen on steroids, and statements made by this group are misleading. The AWEA should consider the constructive criticism about wind power and make their organization better for all of us. The report from the EIA is valid. The subsidies are as stated.

What about the natural gas in Alaska? What about the natural gas in the USA? What about all the other ways to produce renewable energy in Wisconsin that I mentioned earlier, none of which would require any natural gas?

As a consumer what would you buy that only worked 12 minutes out of every hour if you really needed 60 minutes of performance? Why should taxpayers and rate payers be expected to pay for these inefficient wind turbines, when there are better more cost effective ways to produce renewable energy?

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