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Responding to Duke

I recently wrote a commentary addressing Duke Energy Indiana’s role in the wind turbine controversy for Tipton and Howard counties. Expecting an educated response from Duke Energy, disappointment came in the form of a “Letter to the Editor” in the April 24 edition of the Kokomo Perspective from Ms. Laura Sheets, North District Manager, Duke Energy Indiana.

Ms. Sheets writes about a “misunderstanding regarding Duke Energy and a proposed wind farm in Tipton County. We (Duke Energy) are not involved in any way with the proposed wind farm in Tipton County that Mr. Floyd mentions nor do we have plans at this time.” A telling caveat at the end of the sentence states “nor do we have plans at this time.”

In a pronouncement on service to Duke Energy customers, Ms. Sheets states, “The cost to customers is a major factor in each of our power generation choices.” A noble statement, but a statement not backed by facts. If “cost to the customers” is a major consideration in Duke Energy power choices, why is Duke buying energy from wind sources where cost is more than coal and gas by several magnitudes?

The letter continues, “Across the states we serve, Duke Energy supports a diversified portfolio of generation assets, including coal, gas nuclear and renewables, like wind and solar. Our aim is to provide reliable, affordable, and environmentally clean electricity for our customers.” Wind and solar energy sources do not meet two of three major goals of Duke Energy – reliable and affordable.

Wind power is inconsistent and generated only when there is sufficient wind. Solar energy generation only occurs when sunlight is available. These two energy sources could hardly be called reliable or affordable.

A response to the article was probably given to a Duke attorney who gave little thought to content since he was dealing with a small market like Kokomo.

The Duke Energy attorney and Ms. Sheets should have given more thought to the letter’s content. This was a short letter full of inconsistencies and hopefully not representative of a financial powerhouse like Duke Energy.

Definitive answers to some of the public’s questions would seem more appropriate. For instance, just how does Duke Energy pay the wind farms for power generated? What price is paid by Duke Energy? Does Duke Energy participate in the subsidies paid to wind farms for generated power?

These and other questions should be answered by Duke Energy, followed by a definitive dialogue with the two counties, Howard and Tipton. With an issue like wind generation tearing at the moral fabric of both communities, all facts, including those concerning Duke Energy participation, should be on the table.

On a related note, on April 23 I drove from Gastonia, N.C., to Kokomo. Because I live on the east side of Kokomo, I take the back way which leads me through Windfall and Greentown. I witnessed for the first time the entire length of the wind farm.

The enormity and number of windmills was breathtaking. My first thoughts were for the poor people who live in proximity to these monsters. I even wonder if the land owners who leased their land are now having second thoughts. But the windmills are forever, and no amount of second guessing will magically remove the gigantic structures.

One question that intrigues me about wind farms is the one about property values. Studies by wind farm advocates have determined wind farms don’t negatively affect property values. When observing the behemoths dotting the landscape, my first thoughts were, “I would sure hate living close to these wind turbines.” I personally would never buy property in close proximity to a wind farm.

As the energy market sorts out the various generators of energy, wind and solar will be eliminated because of cost. The subsidies are not forever, and when removed, solar and wind will have to compete with gas, coal, and nuclear on an equal footing. With the present cost structure there is no way solar and wind can compete.

Presently, Duke Energy and other power companies are obsessed with being seen as a “green” supplier of energy. With the availability of natural gas and its low carbon footprint, the demise of solar and wind generated energy will come sooner than later.

After the elimination of subsidies for renewables Duke Energy and other power producers will continue to buy from wind and solar producers, but at a competitive price. However renewable energy suppliers cannot compete without a taxpayer funded subsidy.

What happens next is an interesting question.