Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Capital Power Tisch Mills Wind Farm Information

Since the Kewaunee Star-News printed the story about the Capital Power (capitalpower.com) hereinafter referred to as CP, I have received many emails and calls as to what the county might do in regard to this development.  There were additional questions concerning the impact on land values, impact on health, etc.  I will provide the best possible update here so everyone understands where Kewaunee County is at this moment regarding this development.  I apologize for the long read, but this is a convoluted story.

I want it understood from the beginning of this discussion that I am personally opposed to the construction of wind turbines for a lot of reasons primarily because they are an unreliable source of renewable energy.  When the wind blows you get results, otherwise nothing!  Even the power companies do not embrace this technology because they are required to provide a baseload of energy, and wind turbines do not provide a baseload.  These energy companies have had this rammed down their throat by Congress where the AWEA lobbyists have been working overtime.  So, if you are in love with wind turbines, you may not want to read the rest of this.  

This industry would not exist if it were not for both the Investment Credits and PTC (Production Tax Credits), of your tax dollars the industry is receiving.  The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) admits, it is unlikely there would be any growth in this sector if it weren’t for these subsidies.  Read more about that here -- https://cleantechnica.com/2015/10/23/us-wind-industry-installed-3600-mw-far-year-still-faces-policy-uncertainty/

To start, we might want to understand the history of wind turbines in Kewaunee County and the State in general.  The first wind turbines in the state of Wisconsin appeared in Lincoln Township in 1999.  Even back then these small turbines, 220 ft, compared to today’s turbines, 525 ft. caused a lot of controversy.  Shadow flicker, noise, TV interference, health issues, land values, etc., etc. caused neighbors problems and some decided to sell their properties and relocate.  In the end, two homes in that area were bulldozed after being purchased by the developer. 

After the wind turbines went online in Kewaunee County, the Lincoln Township Board of Supervisors approved a moratorium on new turbine construction.  The purpose of the moratorium was to delay new construction of wind turbines for eighteen months, giving the township the opportunity to assess the impacts of the 22 turbines installed by Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPSC) and Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E), which went online in June, 1999.  You can read a recap of the concerns that prevailed at that time. Read the Excerpts from the Final Report of the Township of Lincoln Wind Turbine Moratorium Committee here.

Granted, this turbine farm was a first, and a lot needed to be learned by both the developers and the population affected by the installation of turbines.  A lot has been learned since the time that first installation occurred, but unfortunately, the wind developers and their strong lobbyists in Madison have the deck stacked in their favor while local government has very little to say.

On Oct 1, 2009, then Governor Doyle signed into law, Wisconsin Act 40 that created the framework to allow for limited and uniform regulation in regard to wind energy systems.  Through Act 40, the legislature directed the Public Service Commission (PSC) to promulgate rules that would specify maximum restrictions a municipality could impose on wind energy systems in the State of Wisconsin.

Subsequently, the PSC established a 15 person Wind Siting Council that ultimately devised the rules that were set forth in PSC 128.  The problem with that council is that 10 of the 15 member council had vested interest in wind development or were employed in the wind business.  Do you suppose there was a little bias in the ultimate rule development?

In December 2012, the PSC came out with their new ruling on the siting of wind turbines in the state of Wisconsin.  With this 12 page document ( PSC 128 PDF), the PSC took away all rights from the local government and transferred that power to the PSC which is comprised of three commissioners. Take the time to scan the PSC 128 PDF as it contains the rules as to how close a wind turbine can be to a home or property line.  I am sure for those folks who live in, and, or near this wind farm you will not be happy about it.

When you read the story in the Star-News, it sounded as though the majority of the CP Tisch Mills Wind Farm development would be in Manitowoc county.  That is true as more land is contracted in Manitowoc County than Kewaunee County.  But imagine, if you will, a corridor as follows: South City limits of Kewaunee, West on Highway 29 to Townhall Road, East to Highway 42 and South to the City limits of Two Rivers.  Those are kind-of the boundaries for this wind farm where the wind turbines will be sited.  In this corridor, there were 84 turbine siting locations.  I say were, because that is when Element Power, the original developer had already gone to the FAA and sited those turbines on the land they had leased, those leases now owned by CP.  Some time ago, I had gone on to the FAA site and pulled down all the GPS locations and plotted on a map.

I have spoken to both Matt Martin, a business development employee of CP based in Boston as well as a Mr. Barry Fladaboe, a field manager, who is employed by CP and is based in Minnesota about the Tisch Mills project.  Both confirmed CP will go forward with this development.  They are now looking at equipping this farm with 3.5 megawatt generators perched on top of towers that will give the entire turbine a combined height of 525 feet.  That would make these turbines nearly twice as high as the turbines we currently have in Lincoln Township and some 28 feet higher than the turbines in the Shirley Wind Farm located West of Denmark.

In the 2008/2009 time period, Element Power signed contracts with various landowners in West Kewaunee Township and Carlton Townships.  That land that is either on, or accessed through; Hospital Road, Krok Road, Angle Road, Hwy 42, Townline Road, Townhall Road, Woodside Road, Old Settlers, County Trunk G, Sandy Bay Road, Nuclear Road and County Trunk BB.  This land is under a 10 year contract and the landowners have received a check for $1,000 a year to keep these contracts in place.  These contracts cannot be cancelled and are quite ironclad, they are written all in favor of the developer.  I can only assume the people that signed these contracts had no idea what they were signing up for and/or received bad legal advice.

I am very familiar with these contracts as Element Power had come to me with a contract and wanted me to sign up.  Needless to say, I didn't sign, but I do have a copy of the contract.

So what options are open to Kewaunee County.  Not many.  Over and over again, two of the biggest impacts these turbines have on a community are; decreased land values and health issues.  For example, depending on how close a property is to a wind turbine, the value of that land will be diminished by up to 30%.  This has been proven over and over not only in the United States, but around the world.  To that point, Kewaunee County has issued a letter to the State Attorney General requesting an opinion as to whether or not our county could impose a PVG (Property Value Guarantee).

Why a PVG?  It has successfully been imposed in both Tennessee and North Carolina in the past.  Wind Farm developers continuously deny their turbines have any impact on land values. However, over and over again the overwhelming statistics support the claim of reduced property prices.  How would it work?  At the time a developer would begin developing, they would be required to have all land and homes within a certain distance of any wind turbine appraised.  That appraised value would be the base value of the land/home and if an owner decided to sell later, the wind developer would guarantee that original value plus or minus any increase or decrease due to market conditions.  A comparable home in a non-wind turbine area of the same value would be used to determine the sale price.  The wind developer would be required to put a large sum of money in an escrow fund controlled by a third party to ensure funds would be available at the time a home would be sold.

On the health side, in the Shirley wind farm, there have been three families that have vacated their homes and moved away from the wind farm because their health was impacted once the wind turbines were turned on.  The health problems have to do with the effect of the noise generated by wind turbines, specifically the infrasound that adversely affects people living in their vicinity.  People who are adversely affected cite sleep deprivation, severe headaches, increased blood pressure, equilibrium issues and increased level of stress as their symptoms.

The Brown County Health Department has had numerous hearings on the health of the folks living in and around the Shirley Wind Farm.  On December 15th, they will release their decision.  They could choose to do nothing, or they could shut down the Shirley Wind Farm as a result of the injuries this farm has caused the residents.  This will be a very important decision.  If the health board issues an order to shut down the wind farm, that would have an impact on any other developer who is thinking of building here, including CP.

If these wind generators are built, the townships affected and county would receive a utility tax of some type.  The problem once again though is loaded on the taxpayer's plate as they will bear the brunt of the negative issues of having turbines in their back yards.

As this issue moves forward, I will keep you informed as to any changes.  A friend of mine who is vehemently opposed to wind development and the taxpayer money being spent on this form of energy has had a number of T-shirts printed with this statement.  Somehow for me, it really sums it up.

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