December 17, 2012
Letters, Michigan

Township officials need wind turbine information

Aldon Maleckas, Custer Township, 12/5/12

Dear Township Official,

We have 56 wind turbines in Riverton Township. You need the information to decide whether to allow, or promote, more wind turbines in Mason County. We have heard renewable energy projects will clean up the air and create new jobs. I do not think this is the case, and if it is remotely true, at what cost.

At the county level, the quest for renewable energy at our county government level has been a legal one. They made sure that that our county planning and zoning would allow wind turbines in our county even though the Michigan Wind Energy Resource Zone Board (Exhibit 2 and Exhibit 3) did not include our county in the area of highest wind energy potential. I have talked to our planning and county commissioners and asked if an economic impact statement was prepared detailing the cost, or benefit, to our county if wind turbines were allowed. None was prepared. From other sources, I understand that the costs of the project were to be covered by Consumers Energy and our county was to receive $29 million in personal property taxes over 20 years. Here are some of the reasons I feel that it was improper for the commissioners not to have prepared an economic impact statement.

On November 27, 2012, the Ludington Daily News ran an article in their paper stating the following about our county’s wind turbines. “They’re an intermittent resource and they’ll run when they can” and “MISO (Midwest Transmission System Operator)…announced it would lower the mix of wind in favor of purchasing less expensive power from other sources.” This reads like The Detroit Free Press’s article that said thousands of Michigan companies were on the list to purchase cheaper power from other states. In addition, we know that wind turbine electrical generation is intermittent and unreliable.

Jobs: We allowed Consumers Energy to build a $250 million wind turbine project in our county that Consumers Energy states will support only seven permanent jobs. In the past, you will note, companies only told you the number of permanent jobs that would be created in your community. Now, we count every Tom, Dick, and Harry at home and abroad who works on the project as a job created in order to make the project more palatable to the local community. If we want job creation, we should be promoting Meijer’s type super centers which cost $20 million and employee about 450 people making an average wage, in Michigan, of $41,000 per year. Spain, Denmark, Maine and others report that more jobs and financial benefits could have been created by investing wind project money in other industries (Path to Prosperity, 9/27/12). RPS means Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Clean: One of the world’s largest wind energy companies (E.on, Germany)states that 90% of the power generated by a wind turbine must be permanently backed up (these are called spinning reserves) by a fossil fuel generator ready to go on line at a moment’s notice (The Limits of Wind Power, “Wind Penetration and Spinning Reserves”). A study in New Zealand shows a 100% (The Limits of Wind Power, “Reserve Requirements and Wind Penetration”) back up of wind generated electricity by spinning reserves. A gas or coal powered generator operating at idle is not clean. The more renewable wind turbine electricity you generate, the more spinning reserves you have operating at idle. You are not significantly reducing fossil fuel use, air pollution, or electrical generation costs.

MISO: To understand their comments you need to compare electrical output from wind generators fossil fuel generators (The Limits of Wind, “Demand Matching”). While considering E.on’s statement, look at “The Marginal Impact of Increasing Installed Wind Capacity on the Substitutability of Wind”. You should notice that in 2020 when they reach their maximum wind generation capacity, they are only going to allow 4% to replace their fossil fuel generating capacity. The rest of the wind generating capacity will just sit there. Why? If you only had one megawatt (MW) wind turbine supplying electricity to your grid and the wind stopped, it takes seconds for the grid operator to react and bring the spinning reserve on line. Your lights might blink. Now, suppose you had 6,000 MW of wind turbine electricity being supplied and the wind stopped. Brownout! We do not have the technology to bring up and integrate that much power in the seconds it is needed. Of course, no one mentions that wind turbine electricity is more expensive and using less of it will keep the cost of electricity down. Our governments subsidize wind power to keep your electricity prices low.

Subsidies: You pay around $.14 per kWh. Large Michigan users pay about $.04 per kWh. The kWh prices for the top four countries with the most installed wind turbine electrical capacity are: 1st Germany at $.32, 2nd USA at $.08-$.17, 3rd Spain at $.23, and 4th Denmark at $.40. Why is electricity cost in the USA less? Because our wind turbine industry receives massive federal tax credits, subsidies, and out-right payments for building their wind projects (U.S. Energy Information 2010 for some of the costs) that other countries cannot afford or have stopped. But this is not the whole story (EIA report, April 2008). Wind projects in other parts of the USA are selling their generation at $.18 per kWh and higher. It is reported that Consumers Energy cost per kWh for their wind generation is $.24 per kWh. Consumers Energy can only build these wind projects because of the federal and state tax credits, subsidies, and direct government payments. We see the crisis in our federal government where our representatives have stated that any money for a project has to have a corresponding decrease in another project. I do not think anyone has missed the problems caused by lack of money for schools, local governments, state governments, and federal governments. The Path to Prosperity, 9/27/2012, and the subsidies letter summarizes the problems this push for wind turbine electricity is causing. In addition, government entitlements are going to suffer if we keep subsidizing the wind industry. These subsidizes are eventually going to stop and Consumers Energy is going to have to increase electrical rates and our county is going to suffer as entitlements decrease.

What can you do? Understand–You have not missed the turmoil in Europe and the Mideast over debt and employment problems. We only have so much money to go around and I think we can agree that building a $250 million wind turbine project that will only produce at a fraction of its capacity (probably 4%) and only supplies seven permanent jobs is not a very smart use of capital. Learn–Billions of dollars are being spent to support the infant renewable power industry. Well, it is not an infant anymore. It needs to support itself. Go to meetings–All you people should have been at the program where Consumers Energy opposed Proposal 3. They refuted every argument they previously used to argue for wind turbines in our county. Protect us–You need to protect your township with a police power ordinance (Dallas Township). Educate–This will give you the time to prepare an economic impact statement and distribute this information and explain the ramifications of a wind project in your township to every resident, not just the ones who come to the required open meetings. Also, you might ask your commissioner if any of Consumers Energy’s personal property tax money is earmarked to help residents pay for the eventual increase in electricity rates.

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