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Build a wind turbine; they will cut you a check

Contrary to the assurances made to your readers by a wind turbine executive (“Future of U.S. wind power is promising,” May 9, Times-News), the economics of the wind industry is based on public welfare.

An Oct. 25, 2010, memo to President Obama from Secretary Summers, unearthed by the Wall Street Journal, reviews state and federal perks to big wind (tax credits, uniquely lowered property taxes, doubly accelerated depreciation, guaranteed premium pricing, etc.) but focuses on a program that allows developers to convert an existing investment tax credit, equal to 30 percent of a project’s investment cost, into a cash grant.

The memo states that this cash payment plus perks makes the taxpayer contribution exceed 65 percent and in some cases the promoter has “only about 10 percent of skin in the game.”

In other words, “Build a turbine and we the people will cut you a check. We will also give you tax breaks and other favors to be sure you make a lot of money.” We the people don’t seem to care that even though we put up most of the money, the public ends up having no equity, just higher electricity bills.

Recent examples of this public cash to private industry are an anticipated $500 million to a Scottish company and $99 million to a Canadian company building projects in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal editorialized on the memo (November 12, 2010) by calling attention to government calculations that wind requires 20 times more in government subsidies than most other energy sources. It concluded, “big wind can’t make it in the market place,” “we are throwing good money after bad” and “if Republicans are serious about shrinking the federal budget and ending corporate welfare, a very good target would be green pork, starting with wind.”

We will see how serious Congress is when this cash grant law is up for renewal later this year. I doubt that anything will happen unless the public says it wants these give a ways to stop.

In addition to costing too much, big wind can’t stand on its own because it is too inefficient. The CEO says his turbines are 97 percent at ready but that piece of information doesn’t mean anything.

What does matter is that in this area 70+ percent of the time the wind blows too slow or too fast for the turbines to work to their capacity. The Roanoke Times reported (June 19,2011) that the PMJ grid managers forecast that wind farms produce 13 percent of their generating capacity.

We were told that big wind has no problems in Germany, Spain and Denmark. That simply is not the case. Each country is having issues with the cost and inefficiency of big wind. It appears that the more wind power sent to the grid, the more problems are created.

Policy makers fail to consider what will happen when this region has 2,000 turbines, not the 200 or so we have now. Currently, nothing will stop this from happening.

If your readers would like to know more they should log on to Allegheny Treasures.com. The facts are there, usually delivered with humor and always welcoming comments and debate.

Post script: On a recent balmy Sunday late last month my wife and I took a trip to Garrett County to see the turbines and we saw about 25. Seven weren’t turning.

For the Alleghany Highlands Alliance (AHA)

Wayne C. Spiggle,

Short Gap, W.Va.