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Wind energy development practices questioned

America led the way globally last year in the creation of new wind energy by increasing capacity 27 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In the fast growing and largely unregulated industry, questions have surfaced in several states regarding development practices.

Last April, an antitrust complaint was filed by a citizen group from four states against Babcock & Brown and several of its development, financing, management and operational business groups, plus 50 other domestic and international companies. Babcock & Brown is the parent company of Babcock & Brown Renewable Energy Holdings Inc, wind energy developers working locally.

Lead complainant Brad Jones of Naples, New York, along with 93 other citizens, allege developers systematically divide the market and eliminate opportunities for fair bidding processes. The complaint also asserts local officials are provided personal financial incentives to approve projects.

Attorney for Babcock & Brown, Daniel Elkort, said the company does not condone such activities and states there is no merit to these allegations, but declined further comment on the complaint. Company representative working in the highlands, Peter Gross, said landowners are approached with lease offers based solely on wind data and whether their property fits into a block of land identified for project siting.

A second developer working in the area, Heritage Sustainable Energy LLC, follows a similar strategy, according to the company’s land manager, Rick Wilson.

“We approach people based on their ownership of land in areas we believe are suited for wind development,” he said.

Sherman planning board members Denise Justus, Ron Moesta, Pete Nemish and Rick Stokes report neither Babcock & Brown nor Heritage has made offers which would be of personal benefit.

By Sally Barber

Cadillac News

18 June 2007