While most of the controversy over wind farms in Navajo County has centered on noise, viewsheds and the proximity of turbines to homes, one group is raising questions about the economics of wind farms.
The Chevelon Alliance, headed by Tom Lahman, claims that wind generation funded by the government is set to create another “economic bubble.” According to Lahman, developers build the farms not for the profits from generating electricity, but for the government funds that flow to the projects.
“The only reason that industrial wind farms exist today is the tax write-offs, subsidies and green mandates that make it profitable to build and operate them,” Lahman noted.
According to the Chevelon Alliance, wind farms are not capable of producing enough funds to sustain themselves under the current marketing system, and will result in increased electricity costs for everyone. Lahman points out that Arizonans are already paying a higher price for utilities based on the corporation commission’s mandate that utility companies begin supplying a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources.
The Goldwater Institute has filed suit over the mandate, claiming that the Arizona Corporation Commission has overstepped its bounds by setting energy policy rather than regulating prices. According to the Goldwater Institute, problems with the commission policy include, “millions of dollars in surcharges consumers must pay so their utility can meet the ACC requirements, including $48.2 million for APS (Arizona Public Service Co.) customers alone in one year.”
In one filing, the Goldwater Institute estimates that the policy, which includes a surcharge added to customers’ bills, will cost consumers a total of $1.2 billion.
“The rules lock in energy policy for most of the next two decades, forcing utility companies to provide specific percentages of power from renewable resources regardless of cost or reliability. The commission estimates that over the life of the rules, the energy will cost $1.2 billion more than conventional energy sources,” the Goldwater Institute noted.
Lahman likens this to forcing car companies to encourage customers to buy from another company.
“This is a disastrous business policy and should have stockholders and investors infuriated,” Lahman said. “In fact, APS applied to the ACC for a rate increase to compensate for anticipated losses resulting from their mandated participation in the program.”
Lahman also argues that energy produced by wind turbines is not offsetting coal power, but rather natural gas power instead, and therefore is not reducing carbon emissions. He suggests that government money used for wind farms would be better spent on clean coal burning technology.
With the Chevelon Alliance, Lahman is calling for area and state residents to start questioning the economics and environmental benefits of wind energy.
“I believe that the ‘wind farm’ issue is soon to become what will likely be the most significant and divisive issue to face Arizona since statehood,” he noted.
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