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For the sake of green or greed

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Treasury awarded $546 million to Iberdrola from the stimulus program. Per the CEO of Iberdrola, the offshore parent company of Horizon and the developer of Antelope Ridge, they expect to receive another $470 million in 2010.

Horizon’s Elkhorn Wind Farm in 2007 and 2008 received $11 million each year in tax credits from the state of Oregon. In addition, Union County gave Horizon a property tax deduction of $331,680 each year for 2008 and 2009 which will continue for the next 10 years. The federal government also allowed in 2008 and 2009, a Production Tax Credit of $5,518,500 each year wherein it will continue for 10 years which will amount to $55,188,000. If you add up these numbers, it amounts to in excess of $81 million over 10 years, which are political giveaways at taxpayers’ expense. Just imagine what kind of jobs that could be created with this kind of money being addressed to private sector and infrastructure.

If the Antelope Ridge project is built and the county offers the same tax relief program as was given Elkhorn, we will be giving Horizon in excess of $6.5 million in tax relief annually. In addition, there will be a Federal PTC of $16.5 million allowed each year for 10 years for a total PTC of $165,864,000.

Wind farm owners have a strong incentive to sell off or abandon their projects once tax benefits have been captured (5-6 years for accelerated depreciation; 10 years for production tax credits), turbine performance deteriorates and/or operating and maintenance costs escalate. Economics may dictate abandonment of individual windmills or entire “wind farms” before the end of land rental contracts or current estimates of the useful life of the turbines. When and if this happens here, there will be no property tax revenue, jobs will disappear and landowner leases will be worthless since no revenue will be generated, then we will be stuck with the rusting skeletons.

In California with the impact of past mandates and subsidies, there are thousands of abandoned wind turbines that litter the landscape of wind energy’s “big three” locations – Altamont Pass, Tehachapi and San Gorgonio. Across the wind farm sector there are 14,000 turbines that have simply been abandoned – spinning, post-industrial junk that generates nothing but bird kills.

Last year, as the national debt of wind-intensive European Union became unbearable, the bubble burst. What do they do with all this industry that they have been creating with subsidies that now is collapsing? The president of the Renewable Industry in Spain wrote a column arguing that “ … the only way is to find other countries that will give taxpayers’ money away to the wind industry.”

That “other country” is the United States of America.

Wind-subsidy proposals being floated in Congress suggest that American political leaders have yet to understand that “green power” means generating electricity by burning taxpayer dollars.

In a recent news article and press releases from Horizon, it was stated that the Elkhorn project has generated $664,000 in revenue per year and 40 full-time jobs that cannot be substantiated along with the employment numbers of 50 full-time jobs for the Antelope venture. In contacting Horizon for documents to support these claims, they refuse to respond. The number of full-time employees at Elkhorn per Horizon’s own documentation indicates 14 with only two being Horizon employees. The rest are Vestas employees, who may or may not be permanent. Or, is there a serious issue with the project that is requiring constant repair and maintenance?

Regarding jobs, it is interesting that in the proposal Horizon presented for the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm, they state that disruption to wildlife will be kept to a minimum since regularly scheduled turbine visits will be one per turbine every 6 months, so why will it require significant manpower?

The ARWF appears to have the blessing of the commissioners since it is clear that they are looking forward to spending whatever revenue they can from this project. To get 30 jobs, as one commissioner thinks would “be acceptable,” is a huge price to pay for the total destruction of the east end of the county. It is most likely Horizon will combine the workforce of ARWF and Elkhorn, in which we may get 4-5 new jobs between the two farms.

The city of Union will be surrounded by these gigantic wind turbines compromising the citizens’ health and welfare not to mention their livelihood. They are fighting to save their community without the help of the county. In recent communication from Oregon Department of Energy, they were surprised how the city of Union has not been included in the county’s communication regarding the project and stressed Union should be a part of every step of the process.

A rapidly growing grassroots organization, Friends of the Grande Ronde Valley, has been formed to stop the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm and to get the attention of the county officials along with the Oregon Department of Energy and the Energy Siting Council. Join the resistance and help stop this wind farm nonsense.

Dennis Wilkinson is a Cove resident.