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Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.


Date added:  October 23, 2017
Texas, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

American Bird Conservancy letters to EDF Renewables: Vista Mountain project

Author:  Hutchins, Michael

I am writing again to express American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC’s) serious concern over EDF Renewable’s proposed Vista Mountain Wind Power Project in the sensitive Texas Hill Country/Cross Timbers region (in Hamilton, Coryell, Lampasas and Mills Counties) and associated high voltage lines and towers to connect it to the existing grid. This is the second letter we have written; the purpose of this correspondence is to point out some additional concerns.

ABC is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas (www.abcbirds.org). ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

ABC is a proponent of Bird Smart Wind Energy, which is described in some detail in Hutchins et al. (2016). Careful wind generation siting is crucial in preventing unintended impacts to native bird and bat species. ABC is concerned that the proposed Vista Mountain Wind Power Project and its associated power lines and towers pose an unacceptably high risk to protected U.S. wildlife. This is especially true, as we have become aware that there are other proposed and existing wind energy facilities in this ecologically sensitive area, including the Priddy, Goldthwaite and Flattop Wind Energy Projects. As such, the cumulative impact of any future development on wildlife becomes an important issue. As you may know, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that cumulative impacts be taken into consideration during pre-construction risk assessments. This argues for a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), not a cursory Environmental Assessment (EA).

The presence of Threatened and Endangered species in the area, such as the Whooping Crane, are also of great concern to us as a bird conservation organization. We recently conducted a study of Whooping Crane stopover sites (Moore et al, 2017), overlaying them with existing and proposed wind turbines and power lines and towers. The current siting of wind turbines probably poses limited threat to this species; however, the power lines and towers are another story. Collisions with power lines and towers are a major killer of cranes worldwide (Morkill and Anderson, 1991, Janss and Ferrer 2000, Sundar and Choudhury 2005, Shaw et al. 2010, Stehn and Wassenich, 2008, Wright et al. 2009). Thus, the new power lines and towers you propose to connect your facility to the existing grid may increase the risk to this species in its Migratory Corridor. Subsequently, approval of this project will require Section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act and a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This should be based on at least three years of pre-construction risk studies, all of which should be done by independent experts (not paid consultants to the industry) using standardized methods.

Thank you for your consideration of ABC’s views. ABC will be watching this proposed project and reviewing any risk assessments produced very carefully.

Michael Hutchins, October 20, 2017

[References available in original document]

(((( o ))))

I am writing to express American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC’s) serious concern over EDF Renewable’s proposed Vista Mountain Wind Power Project in the sensitive Texas Hill Country/Cross Timbers region (in Hamilton, Coryell, Lampasas and Mills Counties) and associated high voltage lines and towers to connect it to the existing grid.

ABC is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas (www.abcbirds.org). ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

ABC supports the development of clean, renewable sources of energy such as wind power, but also believes that it must be done responsibly and with minimal adverse impact on our public trust resources, including native species of birds and bats, and particularly Threatened, Endangered and other protected species.

ABC is a proponent of Bird Smart Wind Energy, which is described in some detail in Hutchins et al. (2016). Careful wind generation siting is crucial in preventing unintended impacts to native bird and bat species, and ABC is concerned that the proposed Vista Mountain Wind Power Project and its associated power lines and towers pose an unacceptably high risk to protected U.S. wildlife.

This project will reportedly consist of 91 500-foot tall turbines set atop 1,400-foot vistas and spread out over four counties and with a four mile-long high voltage line and towers (and the possibility of additional lines) connecting it to the existing grid. All of the counties the project encompasses are located in the ecologically sensitive Texas Hill Country/Cross Timbers Region on the Edwards Plateau. The Edwards Plateau is a region of west-central Texas bounded by the Balcones Fault to the south and east, the Llano Uplift and the Llano Estacado to the north, and the Pecos River and Chihuahuan Desert to the west. The cities of San Angelo, Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio roughly surround the region.

The landscape of the plateau (eroded flat-topped buttes and escarpment capped by Edwards limestone) is mostly savanna covered primarily with juniper and live oak trees and a mesquite-acacia mix over short grasses, which grow well in the alkaline soils. Extensive grasslands are interspersed with valleys, with high, narrow wooded, mesa-like divides. The area is largely undeveloped, containing many ranches that raise cattle, sheep and goats. Wildlife is abundant. The region is a birder’s paradise, with many species either residing in, wintering in, or moving through the area during their annual migrations. These include several Threatened and Endangered Species, such as the Black-Capped Vireo, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Red Knot and Whooping Crane (the location is within the whooping Crane Migratory Corridor). It is also home to many declining avian species of conservation concern, such as the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, Harris’ Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Loggerhead Shrike, Orchard Oriole, Painted Bunting, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Mccowan’s Longspur, Short-eared Owl, Prothonotary Warbler, Sprague’s Pipit, Dickcissel, Fox Sparrow, Little Blue Heron, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Burrowing Owl, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Bell’s Vireo, and Hudsonian Godwit (FWS 2017). Federally protected Bald Eagles are also present and are being sighted with increasing regularity.

When it comes to wind energy, siting is everything, and turbines and their associated power lines and towers, need to be kept away from large concentrations of birds and bats, such as key migratory routes, and foraging and breeding areas (Arnett and May 2016, Hutchins et al, 2016). Wind turbines and their associated power lines and towers, are among the fastest growing threats to birds and bats in North America. Hundreds of thousands of birds are killed annually by the fast-spinning turbine blades (Smallwood and Thelander 2008, Loss et al. 2013, Smallwood, 2013, Erickson et al. 2014), and that number grows with each turbine built. Bats are affected too, with around 888,000 being lost annually at 2012 build-out levels (Smallwood 2013), possibly because tree-roosting species are attracted to turbines (Cryan et al. 2014). Fragile-bodied bats can even succumb to the pressures created when the turbine blades pass through the air (known as barotrauma) (Grodsky et al. 2011).

The actual numbers of birds and bats killed may be much higher because nearly all mortality data are collected by paid consultants to the wind industry—a direct conflict of interest (Hutchins et al. 2016), and sampling is often insufficient or non-standardized (Beston et al. 2015, Johnson et al. 2016). Based on the Smallwood (2013) and Loss et al. (2013) studies, ABC estimates that around 5 million birds and many more bats will be killed by wind turbines alone by 2050 or earlier when wind energy produces 35% of our electrical energy (Pyper 2015). This is especially true, since our native birds are already in serious trouble, with fully one-third of North America’s species requiring concerted conservation action to ensure their continued existence (North American Bird Conservation Initiative 2016).

Yet the numbers are far higher, going into the tens of millions annually when collisions and electrocutions at power lines and towers are included (Loss et al. 2015). The generation of energy and its transportation cannot be separated as risks to wildlife, and many additional transmission lines are being built to accommodate renewable energy (Magill 2014).

Furthermore, these figures do not take into account the effects of habitat loss, road-building and other infrastructure construction that are associated with wind energy facilities, and that can have serious impacts on birds and bats, such as displacement, migratory impediments, reproductive failure, isolation and loss of genetic diversity, and increased predation (Schroeder 2010, Cryan 2011, Stevens et al. 2013, LeBeau et al. 2014, DeGregorio et al. 2015, Schaffer and Buhl, 2015, Winder et al. 2015, Associated Press 2016, Mahoney and Chalfoun 2016).

We understand that Fort Hood was contacted as a prospective buyer for energy produced by this project. Only some 19 miles away from the proposed Vista Mountain project, this facility has been an important center for Golden-Cheeked Warbler and Black-Capped Vireo conservation (Ferrell et al. 2013). Furthermore, two Endangered Whooping Cranes were sighted at Fort Hood during Spring, 2017 (http://whoopingcrane.com/spring-migration-2017/). The Department of Defense has an excellent record with regard to bird conservation and ABC would therefore be surprised if it would consider purchasing power from such a poorly placed wind energy facility. Responsible energy consumers should first assure that the wind energy facilities they buy from are bird and bat friendly. This was demonstrated most recently with ABC’s and Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s success in stopping a large wind turbine to be built at the Ohio Air National Guard’s Camp Perry facility in one of the world’s greatest concentrations of migratory birds and bats within 0.6 miles of Lake Erie (ABC 2017).

We realize that these projects are in their early stages of development. However, we wanted to record our concerns before the process proceeds any farther. Both the turbines and associated power transmission lines appear to be poorly sited with regard to bird and bat conservation. At the very least, these projects will require extensive, independent surveys of the birds and bats that inhabit the region, as well as an Avian and Bat Conservation Plan, a compensatory mitigation plan (including a plan for installing APLIC-approved mitigations for the new power lines and towers, APLIC 2012), and plan for the independent, standardized monitoring of bird and bat mortality post-construction. Applications for incidental take permits under the Endangered Species Act and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act are also warranted.

ABC would be pleased to consult with you as this project proceeds. We also intend to monitor this project very closely for adherence to all state and federal guidelines, to communicate with local residents concerned about the project, and to raise our concerns with elected officials, state and federal wildlife authorities, and any prospective buyers of energy.

Thank you for your consideration of ABC’s views.

Michael Hutchins, July 31, 2017

[References available in original document]

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Date added:  October 20, 2017
Health, Human rights, Law, New York, Noise, Property valuesPrint storyE-mail story

Lawsuit against Invenergy for loss of amenity and well-being

Author:  Andre, Mark; Andre, Donna; et al.

State of New York Supreme Court, County of Wyoming—

FACTS

33. Upon information and belief, Defendant Invenergy created and owns a wind energy operation, including wind turbines on property located within 800-1500 feet from the properties owned by Plaintiffs.

34. Upon the construction of and operation of the· wind turbines, Defendant has destroyed Plaintiffs’ rural viewshed from their property.

35. Upon the construction of and operation of the wind turbines, Defendant has caused constant noise, vibrations and flicker to enter Plaintiffs’ property, significantly impacting the health and wellbeing of the Plaintiffs and causing them to become sick, sore, lame and disabled.

36. Upon the construction of and operation of the wind turbines, Defendant has caused constant noise and vibrations significantly diminishing the value of Plaintiffs’ property and home.

37. Upon information and belief, Defendant’s wind turbines have violated, on a regular basis, town noise ordinances that restrict the noise levels to 50 decibels.

38. Moreover, Defendant’s operation of such wind turbines caused noise pollution, vibrations, and flicker to occur, creating a nuisance and interfering with Plaintiffs’ exclusive possessory interest in their property, and causing Plaintiffs’ quality of life to be significantly diminished.

39. In spite of being informed of the nuisance condition created by the Defendant, the Defendant has refused to either abate the nuisance or otherwise engage in any mitigating measures, intentionally continuing the nuisance that they have created, causing a significant diminishment of the Plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their property, quality of life, health, value of Plaintiffs’ property and economic wellbeing.

Download original document: “Andre et al. v. Invenergy

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Date added:  October 19, 2017
Contracts, IowaPrint storyE-mail story

Amshore Wind Easement, Kossuth County, Iowa

Author:  Amshore US WindAmshore US WindAmshore US WindAmshore US WindAmshore US Wind

This ORIGINAL WIND EASEMENT (this “Easement”) is made and entered into effective as of the Effective Date by and between ____ (“Owner”) and Amshore US Wind, L.L.C., a Texas limited liability company, its successors and assigns (“Grantee”).

“Easement Term” or “Term”: Subject to earlier termination in accord with the terms of this Easement and the Option to Extend Wind Easement Term, set out in Section 24 below, the period commencing on the Effective Date and continuing for thirty (30) years after the Date of Commercial Operation, as extended by the terms of this Easement for purposes of removal of Improvements and completion of Surface Restoration.

“Permitted Use”: (1) Installing, operating, maintaining, removing, replacing and collecting data from meteorological towers, stations and anemometers, conducting avian, archeological and biological assessments, environmental assessments, soil and preconstruction analysis, and other studies and evaluations deemed necessary by Grantee for purposes of evaluating the Wind Resources of the Premises, exercising the rights granted to Grantee hereunder, and developing the Wind Energy Project; (2) Constructing, installing, operating, accessing, maintaining and removing (including, when necessary, replacing) (a) WTGs on WTG Pads on the Premises for the conversion of Wind Resources to electricity, and including replacing WTGs for purposes of repowering for conversion of Wind Resources to electricity on WTG Pads located on the Premises and/or in connection or conjunction with other real property on which the Wind Energy Project is located; and (b) all related Improvements (i) necessary or convenient to Grantee in conjunction with WTGs for the Wind Energy Project (ii) for the use by Grantee in collecting, transmitting or otherwise making electricity from the WTGs on the Wind Energy Project marketable and available for sale; or (iii) for the use by Grantee for access to and from the Improvements or a public right of way to the WTGs for the Wind Energy Project (in each case, whether or not such WTGs are on the Premises), or (3) uses otherwise permitted herein. All references in this Easement to electricity or the production of electricity shall mean and include any forms of energy generated from renewable natural wind resources that might be developed, provided nothing contained herein gives Grantee the right to develop renewable natural resources other than wind without the written agreement of Owner regarding the manner in which such other resources may be developed and considerations due Owner therefore.

“Improvements”: Improvements include, but are not limited to, any of the following: WTG’s, buried electric collection lines, electric collection systems, electric transmission lines and poles, telecommunication towers and lines, buried fiber optic and other telecommunication lines, physical hardware, supporting components, Interconnection Facilities, O&M Building, Utility Substation, Collection Substation, transformers, junction boxes, any other operation and maintenance buildings, communication buildings, meteorological towers, stations, anemometers, electric substations, project access and other roads, staging and laydown areas for the construction and maintenance of such Improvements, gates, fences, and any other improvements, equipment, facilities, or fixtures completed by Grantee in accordance with the terms hereunder that are related to and for the purpose of converting Wind Resources into electrical energy (and transmitting data related thereto).

Development Spacing. From and after the Effective Date of this Easement, Owner agrees that it will not (and will not allow any other person or entity to) construct any improvements whatsoever on the Premises that will interfere with the free and unobstructed natural wind flow over the Premises to a WTG. Owner shall not construct any improvements on a WTG Pad without the prior written consent of Grantee. Owner shall not construct any building or other structure in excess of sixty (60) feet in height in the Wind Flow Zone. Owner shall have the right to construct and maintain normal and customary farm and ranch improvements such as livestock pens, water wells, barns and sheds within the Wind Flow Zone. The construction of such farm and ranch improvements within the Wind Flow Zone and the construction of improvements outside the Wind Flow Zone shall be deemed not to interfere with the free and unobstructed natural wind flow over the Premises to the WTG; provided however, Grantee shall not construct any WTG within one thousand four hundred (1,400) feet of the main residence on the Premises or one thousand (1,000) feet of any other existing, permanent residence or barn, either of which is located immediately adjacent to the main residence, or within one hundred fifty (150) feet from any other existing structures, pump jacks, tank batteries, or other above ground oil and gas facilities located on the Premises as of the Effective Date, without Owner’s prior written consent.

Utility Substation & Collection Substation. At any time during the Term of this Easement, and upon notice by Grantee, Owner agrees to either (i) accept rental payments or (ii) promptly execute a purchase agreement, for an electric substation (“Utility Substation”) and transmission facilities in favor of Grantee, or at Grantee’s option, in favor of any electric transmission utility company providing Grantee access for its electricity to the MISO grid, covering no more than twenty-five (25) acres of land, which land must be other than mineral classified land, the location of which will be selected by Grantee and approved by Owner (which approval will not be unreasonably withheld, conditioned or delayed). … Owner shall also grant appropriate easements or sales … for road and power transmission facilities to permit connection to existing transmission lines.

O&M Building. Grantee shall have the right to construct an operations and maintenance facility on the Premises with storage facilities and parking areas (“O&M Building”) covering no more than ten (10) acres of land, the location of which be selected by Grantee after consultation with Owner.

Construction. … Grantee shall construct and install all electric gathering lines, conduit, fiber optics and cables for the collection of electricity (and related data) from the WTGs of the Wind Energy Project underground, buried to a depth of at least forty (40) inches, to the point of connection with any Utility and/or Collection Substation. Upon Owner request, all ditching or trenching shall be done either by trenching using the double ditching method of trench construction whereby up to eighteen (18) inches of the topsoil will be separated from the balance of the dirt removed in making the ditch or trench, so that any caliche, other rock or shale will be separated from any topsoil so removed, or by the plowing method. In backfilling after any such operation, the topsoil first removed shall be used as cover soil in such a manner as to result in it being returned to the top of the ditch or trench as topsoil unless the existing soils are rocky and cause thermal resistivity issues which require the use of different soil.

New and Improved Road Payments. Grantee agrees to pay Owner for each new road constructed by Grantee for the Easement Term and existing roads improved by Grantee on the Premises a one-time payment based on Eight Thousand and No/100 Dollars ($8,000.00) per mile, with a minimum payment of Eight Thousand and No/100 Dollars ($8,000.00) regardless of the actual distance of any such road. Any such roads shall not exceed thirty-six (36) feet in width (or a temporary width of fifty (50) feet of such roads during construction or certain maintenance/repair activities for the WTG’s and other Improvements) without the consent of Owner, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld. … Payments under this Section 4.13 shall also constitute payment for surface and crop damages for the construction or installation of all underground electric gathering or collection lines and overhead power lines on the Premises that run along the route of or under new roads constructed by Grantee or existing roads improved by Grantee on the Premises, and any payments under this Section 4.13 shall be without duplication of the payments for Compensated Lines under Section 4.12.

Energy Royalty. Grantee shall pay Owner royalties on electricity produced from WTG’s located on the Premises, or on electricity sales from the Wind Energy Project otherwise attributable to the Premises (the “Energy Royalty”) as follows: (I) four percent (4.0%) of the Gross Revenues from the Date of Commercial Operation until the fifth (5th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation; (2) four and one-half percent (4.50%) of the Gross Revenues from the fifth (5th) anniversary to the tenth (I 0th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial tion; (3) five percent (5.00%) from the tenth (10th) anniversary to the fifteenth (15th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation; (4) five and one-half percent (5.50%) from the fifteenth (15th) anniversary to the twentieth (20th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation; (5) six percent (6.00%) from the twentieth (20th) anniversary to the twenty-fifth (25th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation; and (6) six and one-half percent (6.50%) from the twenty-fifth (25th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation until the end ofthe initial Easement Term.

Definition of Gross Revenues. “Gross Revenues” means the total monies received by Grantee from a utility company or other power purchaser (provided, however, that if electricity is sold to a subsidiary or affiliate of Grantee, then, and only then, the gross receipts from the sale of electricity under such contract shall be calculated using a sale of not less than the arithmetical average of the prices quoted by market sources of information, which information may be based upon the price paid by any purchaser or purchasers, including Grantee or any subsidiary or affiliate of Grantee, for electricity produced in the Iowa region of the Midwest Independent System Operator (“MISO”) from operation of wind turbines during the calendar year immediate!y preceding the year in which such electricity production from the Wind Energy Project occurs, taking into account the aggregate terms associated with such transaction) derived from the sale of electric energy and capacity produced and sold from the WTG’s installed on the Premises, net of proportional energy losses associated with the power collection system or utility interconnection. For the avoidance of doubt, Gross Revenues shall (A) exclude monies received from any source other than the sale of electric energy and capacity, including, without limitation, any of the following: (i) any federal, state, county or local tax benefits, grants or credits or allowances related to, derived from, or granted to the Wind Energy Project or Grantee, including, but not limited to, investment or production tax credits, or property or sales tax exemptions, (ii) proceeds from financing activities, sales, assignments, partial assignments, contracts (other than the power purchase agreement) or other dispositions of or related to the Wind Energy Project (such as damages for breach of contract or liquidated damages for delays in project completion or failures in equipment performance), (iii) amounts received as reimbursements or compensation for wheeling costs or other electricity transmission or delivery costs, and (iv) any proceeds received by Grantee as a result of damage or casualty to the Wind Energy Project, or any portion thereof and (B) include any revenues derived from Grantee’s sale of carbon dioxide trading credits, renewable energy credits or certificates, emissions reduction credits, emissions allowances, green tags, tradable renewable credits, or Green-e® products, any of which are allocated to Grantee, if applicable, through its participation in any voluntary registry, association or market-based exchange.

Minimum Royalty. … Grantee shall pay Owner a minimum royalty (the “Minimum Royalty”) equal to the greater of (I) the dollar amount per nameplate rated Megawatt Capacity or (2) the dollar amount per WTG Installed on the Premises based on the minimum dollar amount per year, as set forth in the table below. In the event the Megawatt Capacity per WTG increases during the Easement Term as a result of any repowering effort, the Minimum Royalty shall likewise increase where applicable. The Minimum Royalty shall be prorated for partial years. Grantee shall be allowed to credit against the Minimum Royalty any Energy Royalty accrued during any applicable year and timely paid to Owner as provided in this Easement. In each year that the Energy Royalty timely paid to Owner in accord with this Easement exceeds the Minimum Royalty, then no Minimum Royalty shall be due. I f following Commercial Operation, Grantee terminates this Easement prior to the end of the Easement Term, the full Minimum Royalty for the year of termination will be due and payable unless such Energy Royalty paid during such year exceeds the Minimum Royalty.

APPLICABLE PERIOD MINIMUM ROYALTY
From the Date of Commercial Operation through the fifth (5th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation $3,500.00 per Megawatt Capacity or
$7,000.00 per WTG
From the fifth (5th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation through the tenth (10th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation $4,000.00 per Megawatt Capacity or
$8,000.00 per WTG
From the tenth (1Oth) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation through the fifteenth (15th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation $4,500.00 per Megawatt Capacity or
$9,000.00 per WTG
From the fifteenth (15th) anniversary of the Date of Commercial Operation twentieth (20th) anniversary of Commercial Operation $5,000.00 per Megawatt Capacity or
$10,000.00 per WTG

Exclusive Use and Owner Access. This Easement grants to Grantee a sole, superior and exclusive right of use, enjoyment or possession of the Premises for the Permitted Use, including without limitation as to (a) each WTG Pad during the period of construction of the WTG located on such WTG Pad, (b) fenced construction staging or storage areas of Grantee, (c) any Utility Substation, (d) the O&M Building and (e) any Collection Substation, where Grantee shall have the exclusive right of use, possession and enjoyment of such facilities, all subject to Owner’s inspection and emergency rights under this Easement.

Standards for Removal of Improvements. … Tower Foundations and Pad Mount Transformer Foundations: All foundations installed on the Premises shall be demolished, cleared and removed from the ground to a depth of at least three (3) feet from the grade of the surface of the land (i.e., below plow depth). Grantee shall ensure that any holes or cavities created in the ground as a result of such removal are filled with topsoil of the same or similar type at the Premises in accord with Surface Restoration. …

Amshore US Wind, Corpus Christi, Texas

Download original document: “Amshore Wind Easement, Kossuth County, Iowa

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Date added:  October 12, 2017
Economics, Emissions, MinnesotaPrint storyE-mail story

Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure

Author:  Hayward, Steven; and Nelson, Peter

Executive Summary:

In recent years, the state of Minnesota has pursued a series of increasingly aggressive renewable energy and “clean energy” policies that cost electricity consumers billions of dollars, without achieving its ambitious environmental protection goals.

Minnesota law sets out ambitious state energy policy goals. The primary goal would have the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2015, 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050. State law incorporates a number of additional energy policy goals aimed largely at supporting these greenhouse gas reduction targets. In particular, the state’s renewable energy standard requires utilities to generate a substantial portion (25 to 30 percent) of electricity from renewable sources, mostly wind.

Historically, Minnesota enjoyed the advantage of relatively cheap electricity, with rates typically 18 percent less than the national average. However, since spending an estimated $10 billion on building wind farms and billions more on new and upgraded transmission lines, Minnesota has lost this competitive advantage with little to show for it, except higher electric bills. As electricity generation from carbon free wind approaches 20 percent of total generation, Minnesota has not experienced any appreciable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to the U.S. average.

This report evaluates Minnesota’s energy policy and reaches five main findings that buttress one conclusion: Minnesota’s aspirational energy policy is a grand exercise in virtue signaling that does little to reduce either conventional pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.

Minnesota has lost its advantage on electricity pricing. Between 1990 and 2009, the retail price of electricity in Minnesota was, on average, 18.2 percent lower than the national average. However, in just seven years, this price advantage has completely disappeared. February 2017 marked the first month the average retail price of electricity in Minnesota rose above the U.S. price. (Data are available dating back to 1990.) If in the past seven years Minnesota would have maintained its historic price advantage versus the rest of the country, the state’s consumers would have paid nearly $4.4 billion less than what the actual cost of electricity turned out to be.

Minnesota’s energy policy primarily promotes wind power. Minnesota’s energy policy emphasizing renewable energy is mostly an electricity policy, which represents only about 40 percent of the state’s total energy consumption. Because Minnesota’s geography is not suitable for large-scale solar power, it aims, to date, for only modest increases in solar. As such, Minnesota’s energy policy is primarily a wind-energy policy.

Minnesota’s energy policy is failing on its own terms, as it has not achieved a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. While Minnesota was losing its advantage on electricity pricing, it did not see any significant decreases in CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions in Minnesota declined by 6.6 percent from 2005 (the peak year for CO2 emissions in both the U.S. and Minnesota) to 2014 (before starting to rise again). This decline is one-third less than the decline experienced by the nation as a whole, which saw greenhouse gas emissions drop 9.3 percent during the same time period. Looking at just emissions from the electric power sector, emissions in Minnesota dropped by slightly more than the U.S. However, since 2009, the state has made little to no progress on emissions even as electricity generation by wind increased by 92 percent.

To satisfy Minnesota’s renewable energy standard, an estimated $10 billion dollars has been spent on building wind farms and billions more on transmission. In the past five years, Minnesota utilities have reported using wind power from wind farms totaling 5,000 megawatts of nameplate capacity to meet the requirements of the state’s renewable energy standard. Based on industry cost estimates for building new generating capacity, ratepayers are committed to covering an estimated $10 billion for constructing these wind farms and billions more for the transmission needed to move this new power to market. On top of these upfront costs, ratepayers are on the hook for ongoing wind energy maintenance costs, property taxes, and replacement power needed when the wind doesn’t blow.

October 2017

Steven F. Hayward, Ph.D., senior resident scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies, University
of California at Berkeley, and author of the 2011 Almanac of Environmental Trends.

Peter J. Nelson, J.D., vice president and senior policy fellow, Center of the American Experiment

Download original document: “Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure

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