Marita Noon: Wind Energy: The Wheels are Coming Off The Gravy Train

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Wind Energy: the wheels are coming off the gravy train 

Marita Noon

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 influence, 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.) High Country News has apparently done an original story trigged by the Checks and Balances press release. From these sources, 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 Townhall.com. (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!

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes AmericaGreat Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

Google Pitches A Gaggle Of Money At Mariah

Google Inc.
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By Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot ©2009 – 2010)

Quote Freely From The Article – Leave The Pseudonym Alone

Mariah the Wind, that is.  Google has committed some 38 million dollars to a wind generation farm in North Dakota.  They will partner with another company or companies with the total investment for the project to be 190 million.  The turbines are to generate some 170 Megawatts of electricity or enough power to serve 55,000 homes.  Google has invested a great deal of money toward buying or investing in other projects this  according to Tech Crunch they have recently:

… (bought) 3D interface startup BumpTop, and invest in mobile payments company Corduro …

Google has previously invested in renewable energy companies, but this is said to be the first time it has invested in a wind or other renewable energy project, that i, except for direct investment for its own use.  The article states:

Google has $26.5 billion in cash, so it needs to find something to do with all of that money.

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Wind Power Installed In Europe For 2009

Enercon E70-4 wind energy converter at Steinko...
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By Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot ©2009 – 2010)

Quote Freely From The Article – Leave The Pseudonym Alone

More wind power generating capacity was installed in Europe than any other technology last year.  Gas generating capacity followed with second place and solar photo-voltaic came in third.  All this according to PR Newswire.  The report states that more coal and nuclear capacity was decommissioned than was installed for the two sources during 2009. The story continues:

Investment in new European wind farms in 2009 reached EUR13 billion, including EUR1.5 billion offshore. 10,163 MW of wind power capacity was installed across the European Union – a 23% increase compared to 2008 installations – made up of 9,581 MW onshore (up 21% from last year) and 582 MW offshore (up 56% from last year).

2009 is the second year running that more wind power capacity has been installed than any other electricity-generating technology, and wind’s share of newly installed capacity increased from 35% in 2008 to 39% in 2009. It is also the second year running that renewable energies have accounted for the majority of new investments.

Industry managers are praising the increased capacity as decreasing carbon, while increasing jobs, other economic activity and overall electricity production.  The total European generating capacity from wind generation sources is found in this quote:

Wind power’s total capacity in the European Union has now reached 74,767 MW, up from 64,719 MW by the end of 2008 with Germany remaining the EU country with the largest installed capacity, followed by Spain, Italy, France and the UK.

Optimism appears to be common in the European renewable energy field. To read the forecast possibilities, click here.

To see and read a PDF with all the 2009 statistics, click here.

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Panasonic Stores The Juice You Can Use

5 Kilowatt Vertical Axis Wind Turbine
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By Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot ©2009)

Quote Freely From The Article – Leave The Pseudonym Alone

Panasonic has come out with a storage battery that will interface with solar energy and wind energy on a long-term storage basis. That means that one of the obstacles which makes wind and solar somewhat unreliable may now be conquered.

Since this is New Year’s Eve and I’ve nothing better to do, I thought a little good news to chase the gloom from 2009 might be welcome. Here is the link to story. Enjoy and keep a great attitude and outlook for the future … this too shall pass! No, really!

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Edgewood Approves Wind Generator Ordinance

Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.
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By Bob Steiner

Since last December  the town’s Energy Committee and the Planning and Zoning Commission have been working on an amendment to the town’s  zoning ordinance  which will regulate the installation and use of residential wind generating equipment in Edgewood. Most of the regularly scheduled council meeting on May 7th was devoted to this subject and any citizen present had opportunity to comment on the proposed amendment.  the town had  also  solicited email comments by citizens who were unable to attend the meeting. It seems odd but according to the town administrator only two emails were submitted regarding this subject.

After  the document was read before those present, some sixteen persons, one at a time, chose to make vocal comments on wind energy.   While six citizens expressed concern about the amendment, the remaining  ten commented in favor of it.  Those in opposition seemed  most concerned  about how generators might impact on their view of the local mountains.  Those in favor seemed  most concerned with the impact of potentially more polluting power sources (coal, for example) on our local environment.  In any event, while it appeared that the Mayor was not  overly- enthusiastic about approving the document, all four council members voted to approve the document.

From where I sat in the audience,  it seemed that all parties involved in the writing of the regulation have done a good job. Deserving of special kudos are John Abrams, who led the energy committees, and John Bassett and Janelle Turner,  commissioners in Edgewood Planning and Zoning,  whose attention to detail help make this  a viable document.  I am  convinced every effort was made to insure that the wants and concerns of all our citizens were embodied in the completed work.

Mr. Kenneth Brennan, who  works for a major commercial wind generator supplier, was present and addressed the meeting.  He seems to have a wealth of knowledge about the subject and has graciously agreed to answer wind energy  questions for his Edgewood neighbors.  He can be reached by calling  505-286-1897.

Please Note:  Gadabout-blogalot   does not endorse any specific products or sales agents.

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Would Edgewood Win With Wind?

New Mexico state welcome sign
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By Bob Steiner

At a time in our history when we could soon again experience $4. 00 a gallon gasoline, our community is trying to evaluate sources of energy which could meet our  present and future needs.  There are many  potential  solutions. Some of these might require extensive networks of pipes or electrical wiring.   We also could be looking  at nuclear power or “coal-fired” electric plants (more on this later) .  We must not forget solar power and wind energy which, if feasible,  might provide  the energy we need.

For some time the town has worked on a town ordinance which would regulate the installation and use of wind generators. The town  energy committee, chaired by Town Councilor John Abrams, has been researching the technical side of this issue for the past year.  Surprisingly, the Mayor of Edgewood, Bob Stearley, who had appointed that committee,  without waiting for the group’s final report and conclusions, came out against wind energy in a local newspaper article (see The Independent,Sep 23rd).  In his writing he challenged  citizens to research the internet for information on the negative aspects of  wind turbines. I, personally did  go to “wind turbine wars” on Google and I did, in fact find some negative data.  By the same token, I looked up “Wind Energy” also and found just as many articles attesting to the viability of “Wind’ as a potential cost-effective source.  Needless to say, not being an energy technician, I am now quite confused as to whether to support wind energy or not.

In view of the above, I have decided not to take a position on this issue until I am able to gain more comments from the energy committee and other sources. Having watched the group’s chairman at many council meetings, I have the utmost respect for him and his work.  Any  premature decisions on this subject , based upon “minimal” internet data, from potentially questionable sources, could have a devastating impact on our valley for many years to come.   I would hope to  soon hear some definitive input from the committee.

For those citizens who are concerned about this issue, a draft ordinance on wind generators will be discussed at the town council meeting  to be  held at the community center  October 7th at 6:30 P.M.  I would encourage anyone who can attend the meeting to do so. There could well be some changes in your long term lifestyle being discussed.In the event you are unable to attend and would like to comment on this issue, please send an Email to the town administrator,  Karen Mahalick, at planning@edgewood-nm.gov

According to the Mountain View Telegraph of October 1st,  a developer is planning to install 330 wind turbines near Duran, New Mexico. (This indicates that someone who is going to spend a lot of money believes that wind turbines are practical.)

Highlighting  the  ongoing importance of coal as an energy source, the National Nuclear Museum on Eubank SE in Albuquerque has a display which points out that 82% of coal mined in our country is used to power “coal-fired” electric power plants. Is there coal smoke in your future?  More important, how would this affect the environment that your grandchildren are growing up in?

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Windy City (Not Chicago) & Maybe Not Edgewood

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza by Honoré Daumier.
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By Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot ©2009).

Quote Freely From The Article – Leave The Pseudonym Alone

Edgewood’s energy committee has worked hard for almost a year and our mayor has worked just as hard for the same time span (perhaps even harder) what with his kitchen cabinet meetings at various restaurants where he has espoused a philosophy in opposition to wind energy in Edgewood.

The latest from the mayor, just in front of a public meeting to discuss and perhaps pass a wind energy ordinance comes in the form of a letter sent to local newspaper editors.

In his letter the mayor puts forth arguments against wind energy in the Town of Edgewood and appears to use scare tactics; citing noise, obscured vistas, etc., to “blow” down the idea that wind energy might be practical and desirable  in our community. It is not so much what he says as it is what he does not say that is important. More on that in the future.

Edgewood  has applied for one or more grants for experimental wind turbines to help defray the cost of electricity for various public offices or facilities in our town. It is sad that the mayor’s constant opposition lobbying about wind energy may impact unfavorably on Edgewood’s chance to  get any part of the grant funding. It appears that Mayor Stearley has become Edgewood’s Don Quixote and tilts not only at big windmill blades, but small windmill blades as well (see letter).

The mayor, as are others, is entitled to his opposition, but one would hope that scare tactics would not be the lance chosen as a weapon against a technology proven many times over. Enough for now. I have posted the mayor’s letter to the local newspaper editors. It is interesting that he did not choose to send the letter to the local blog editors.

letter to editors 9-21-09

Please follow the related articles just below.

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The Wind, The Wind

by Chuck Ring (GadaboutBlogalot ©2009)

Quote Freely From The Article – Leave The Pseudonym Alone

Not so long ago, when the Edgewood Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) allowed me to make a few remarks during one of their deliberations on the possibility of Edgewood having its very own wind energy ordinance, hopefully to be followed by wind turbines, I jokingly said that in my 60 plus years of living in New Mexico, I had called the wind Mariah  or on occassion, the blankedy-blank wind. Some members of the commission chuckled, after which I urged them to continue to use common sense as they deliberated and stated that I felt sure many citizens of Edgewood would support their common sense approach toward resolving the issues which had at that time been brought before them.

I spoke before the commission because I believe we should seize every opportunity to provide our society with, so far as is possible, sustainable models of power generation. Not that I subscribe to the theory, some would say proof, of global warming. As I look forward, and I don’t have forever to look in that direction, sustainability is not the same as taming “global warming.” It is much more. It is weaning ourselves from dependence on those who do not particularly like us, but that love our money and a lot of it. Sustainability also means that we have enough energy of every kind imaginable, so  that we remain strong and ever ready to defend ourselves from those who are hellbent on our destruction.

We do have a lot of wind in New Mexico and it doesn’t always (seldom actually) quit when the sun exits our horizon … as the sun must for at least several hours. Wind tests to determine adequacy for electricity generation have found that some areas of the Edgewood community have such wind on a more or less consistent basis.

So, it seems that the wind cooperates, those that market wind generation systems are likely to cooperate, those that are sold on the idea of wind generation will cooperate and there is no reason why our various levels of government should not do the same.

Speaking of wind generation for power, it looks like Santa Fe County has finally approved its first application for a wind turbine. The turbine has been erected, albeit after a seven month process, and is now providing energy for its owners who reside west of Santa Fe City. Here’s hoping that Edgewood will scurry safely along and spin the props before too much longer.

You can read more about Santa Fe County’s first wind turbine approval here. Altogether, it is a great story, but it does state that the wind turbine approved by the County of Santa Fe is the first electricity generating turbine in the county. Tain’t so. There used to be two here in Edgewood and one still spins along. Can you place its geographic location? Where was the other one?

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