Local Voices: Calling Out Big Fossil’s Anti-Wind Campaign

May 19, 2018

Wind energy is coming to the midwest, and the heart of Michigan in a big and successful way.
No surprise, a very well organized fossil fuel funded push-back is active across the state, and throughout the heartland.

They’ve been operating mostly unopposed, spreading a lot of misinformation to hard hit rural americans (sound familiar?).  All the polls tell us that Americans living with wind turbines generally like them – and just down the road from me, Gratiot County,  home to Michigan’s largest wind development, is about to enthusiastically add another large array – proving the point.

supportdarksnow

I’m serving notice there will be a pushback.  Here’s my recent op-ed in a local paper.

Mount Pleasant (Michigan) Morning Sun:

 

Isabella County is about to take an important step into the renewable energy revolution of the 21st century.

Two wind power projects are potentially in the works – one, in Coe Township, could break ground as early as this spring. Another project could be generating clean, inexpensive electricity, and paying taxes, as early as 2020 – pending an application process.

A few key points:

The latest “all in” prices for electricity in the United States shows that wind energy is cost competitive everywhere, and in many areas, hands down the cheapest option.

Lazard, one of the world’s largest, and oldest financial advisory and asset management firms, shows that wind energy ranges from $30/MWhr to $60/MWhr, compared to $42 to $78 for the nearest competitor, natural gas.

Nationally, wind energy is down in price by 67 percent since 2009.

Dow Chemical is one of the largest industrial purchasers of wind power, having contracted for wind to entirely power its Freeport, Texas facility, Dow’s largest plant, and the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

A big reason Dow chose wind energy in gas-rich Texas, is that wind power has a completely predictable fuel cost, namely zero, which budget planners like – they don’t have to guess what their costs will be a decade in advance – creating a “long-term competitive advantage”.

Across the country, industrial leaders like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, and others are contracting extensively for wind, as well as solar energy, as a way to hedge against future cost increases and decrease pollution.

Many of these companies will not even consider a location unless they can access 100 percent renewable energy.

For instance, the company Switch has just opened a new five billion dollar data center near Grand Rapids – the largest capital investment in Michigan history. The company would not have located in Michigan if they could not source 100 percent renewable energy.

Switch will bring 1000 sorely needed good jobs to the area, something that would not have happened without wind energy.

One state that has benefitted greatly from wind energy has been Iowa, which is now the state with the greatest penetration of wind energy, at a very reliable 36 percent.

The Des Moine Register recently reported that Iowa power users now pay about 5 percent less, adjusted for inflation, than in 1998, when wind energy got its start in the state, while, on average, U.S. consumers pay 5.4 percent more.

In addition, Iowa has benefitted by attracting the world’s most prominent high tech companies to the state, as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have all recently announced data centers for Iowa, based largely on the availability of 100 percent renewable energy. The attraction is a predictable, low, reliable source of non-polluting electricity, and what Apple Chairman Tim Cook calls a “world class power grid.”

While some misinformers raise concerns about property values near wind farms, the best resource on property values comes from experts at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, who looked at data from 50,000 home sales among 27 counties in nine states.

These homes were within 10 miles of 67 different wind facilities, and 1,198 sales were within 1 mile of a turbine.

Bottom line, they found no statistical evidence that home values near turbines were affected.

For confirmation, Isabella residents need look no further than just to the south in Gratiot County, where Michigan’s largest wind development has been hugely successful, and popular.

Counties in Michigan with wind development have seen welcome increases in their tax base – in Huron County, a 34% increase since 2011. Tuscola County saw a 26 percent increase, and Gratiot county a whopping 38 percent. (on average Michigan counties increased only 1% during the same time)

This is increased money for schools, libraries, law enforcement, trash collection, roads, county pensions, and many other life-enhancing activities.

Michigan lead the Industrial Revolution of the last century, but is lagging in this century’s revolution of renewable energy.

It’s time we took a step toward regaining leadership, and a prosperous, clean future.

Reuters:

NEW YORK, May 7 (Reuters) – Wind farms have boosted local tax bases and generated new revenue as they expand across the United States, especially for rural areas, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report on Monday.

“What we’re seeing is wind farms generate new operating revenues, lower the tax burden for local residents,” Moody’s analyst Frank Mamo told Reuters. “In many cases, local governments are using this new money to address what was a growing backlog of deferred capital expenditures.”

In Adair County, Iowa, construction of 10 new wind farms has grown the tax base nearly 30 percent over the last decade, giving it money to fix bridges and streets.

Wind farm taxes are also paying over 40 percent of debt service for Webb Consolidated Independent School District in Texas, Moody’s noted.

In Jackson County, Minnesota, a wind production tax generates nearly 20 percent of the county’s annual operating revenues and helped fund construction of a new public works facility.

Nearly half of the country’s installed wind power capacity is located in Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma and California, the report showed.

Yet wind power is growing elsewhere. At least 400 counties in 41 states had wind farms as of January, more than double the number that had them 10 years ago, Moody’s found.

The developments have expanded rapidly in Kansas and Minnesota, for instance. The primary factor for placing wind farms is an abundance of wind, but government tax incentives and mandated clean energy requirements can also drive their location.

The tax boost is especially strong in counties that are allowed to apply their locally determined property tax rate to the valuation of wind turbines, as they do in Iowa.

There, the state lets wind farms be phased into a county’s tax base, starting at 5 percent of a turbine’s assessed valuation annually until it hits a maximum of 30 percent.

Iowa’s booming wind energy sector also prompted tech companies, including Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook, to invest a total of nearly $10 billion on data centers, Moody’s said.

Editorial – Midland, MI Daily News:

I used to be editor of the Huron Daily Tribune in Bad Axe.

That may not seem very important to most of you, but it might seem a bit more important to the people of Ingersoll Township. That’s where the energy companies would like to erect some wind turbines, in fact lots of wind turbines. It’s also where I own a home.

If you didn’t know, let me tell you that Bad Axe is located in the center of Huron County in Michigan’s Thumb, and Huron County is the center of wind energy in Michigan. The county has 472 wind turbines. That’s more than any other county in the state — and my job as editor of the local newspaper in Bad Axe was to keep people informed about it.

We had turbine blades stop working, break, and once an entire turbine tower fell over, which if I remember correctly was only the second time that has ever happened in the world, the other incident occurring in Europe. Now that was an interesting news day. I remember the local farmer saying his house shook like there was an earthquake.

One time, I received a phone call from a township board member near Lansing. She asked me, as editor of the local newspaper, what was my take about all this wind turbine talk. What was the straight story? Should we allow them to come to our community? Will we regret it?

And I gave it to her straight: Wind turbines will increase the tax revenue for both the local governing bodies and the school district. They also create steady revenue for the landowners who accept them.

And, finally, as a renewable energy form they are good for the environment. Remember, there is a law in Michigan that says we must have renewable energy, and turbines are the most efficient way to do that. If we don’t want that, then we need to change that law.

There were a few drawbacks, but most people consider the wind turbines as more of a plus, than a minus. The drawbacks, as I told this board member from the Lansing area, probably start with the change of the scenery. Once they go up, you are going to pretty much always have them.

Now, some people actually like to look at them. But then others get tired of them. The blinking red lights at night can get to be annoying, although new technology can now prevent their blinking until an airplane or helicopter is nearby.

There is something called flicker, which results when the sun is low in the sky and a nearby turbine blade rotation interrupts the sun’s rays. You pretty much have to close your drapes because the flicker can, for a short period of time, become very bothersome inside your home. It normally only occurs either early or late in the day, when the sun is shining and at a certain time of year when the sun’s rays line up with a nearby turbine.

There is noise from the turbines, but I found that hardly discernible. And, finally, there are a few people that have said they actually were bothered (to the point of feeling ill) by the low frequency waves that emanate from the turbines.

This last side effect could actually be the most serious, yet it is so uncommon as to be considered fictitious, by some. But I would not completely dismiss the possibility.

There are not piles of dead birds or bats under the turbines. Talk to the farmers with the turbines on their land. They will tell you.

Now I figure most of you from Ingersoll Township that are reading this fall into three categories. Some are dead set against the turbines. Some would love to have them. And there are few people in the middle, kind of like me, trying to sort out wind energy and make a wise decision for all of us.

No, Ingersoll Township does not need wind turbines. But if we do have them, they will be out of sight and out of mind to a large share of the residents. For me? I will see them maybe one day a week, when I drive through the southern part of the township on Sundays on my way to Mass.

The township boards, the school district, the county board and the intermediate school district will all notice some more revenue. As will, as I said before, the landowners who see them and hear them the most.

It can be a difficult decision to make. Most townships in Huron County welcomed the turbines. But some did not.

As a resident of Ingersoll Township, I do not believe I will be disappointed in whatever conclusion our people and our leaders decide on.

The important thing is that the residents of the township feel that their voices have been heard and that the elected officials come to a decision based on what the majority of the people want — not what outside interests on either side of the issue say.

Below, the more you look into anti-wind propaganda, the more distortions and fakery you find.

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6 Responses to “Local Voices: Calling Out Big Fossil’s Anti-Wind Campaign”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Good to see some intelligent discourse taking place in the papers in MI. Not much happening in VA re: wind power—-we’re too busy digging up some of our prettiest scenery for gas pipelines (and watching MANY slick ads on local TV about how good the pipelines will be for us).

  2. grindupbaker Says:

    “low frequency waves that emanate from the turbines”. If it was found to be a big issue then it would be possible to design with multiple-rotor configurations (though more expensive) to whiten the air pressure change (reduce the rhythmic component of the wind interruption and randomize it). An acoustical engineer could figure it out.

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “And, finally, there are a few people that have said they actually were bothered (to the point of feeling ill) by the low frequency waves that emanate from the turbines.”

    In one of Richard Wiseman’s books (Quirkology?), he describes experiments with thorax-rumbling low frequencies (below the capability of the human ear to detect) enhancing a sense of somberness or dread in people, with a resonant frequencies in some old stone structures plausibly being behind frequent reports of the buildings being haunted. They also played those frequencies in some concert performances, and, IIRC, there were more reports of feeling dread or despair from performances within the audience exposed to the lower frequencies.

    Of course human vulnerability to the power of suggestion* is more than enough to explain the complaints about low-frequency turbine emissions, but there is a plausible real-world effect that should not be dismissed out of hand.
    _____
    *There’s are funny reports about people complaining about “EMF sensitivity” from cellphone towers that hadn’t yet been activated, and others going for “EMF sensitivity” treatment at a country spa *located near a giant transmitter array*.

  4. L RACINE Says:

    “Turns out Millenials give a damn about their planet and their children. Sorry, angry old people.”

    Thank you for the link to Deloitte 2016 Resources Study, I found it a very interesting read. I was intrigued and surprised by the interest in conserving electrical usage but the people surveyed.

    “50% of Mature residential consumers are very concerned about climate change and their personal carbon footprints.

    56% of Boomer residential consumers are very concerned about climate change and their personal carbon footprints.

    69% of Generation X residential consumers are very concerned about climate change and their personal carbon footprints.

    75% of Millennial residential consumers are very concerned about climate change and their personal carbon footprints.”

    See page 8 of the Executive Summary to confirm these numbers….

    Peter looking at your bio seems to me you too fall in the “angry and old” categories….. Your point was not well with that flip comment….. just saying.


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