A Nov. 12 story by Gadsden Times staff writer Lisa Rogers Savage quoted Patrick Buckley, development manager for Pioneer Green Energy, as saying Sen. Phil Williams’ “proposed legislation to regulate wind farms in Alabama is just a move to keep windmills out of Alabama.” He was talking specifically about a part of the legislation requiring a bond to cover the cost of removal of turbines should they become inactive. He stated that it is not practical to remove them. Really.
I have personal experience with the installation of giant wind turbines. The installation, and the proposed installation, of these monstrous machines has divided communities, families and friends in the Indiana town of Windfall and surrounding Tipton County. The installations are beneficial to the few while detrimental to the many.
My home is 15 miles from the closest installation, but the giant turbines are highly visible, especially at night. I can only imagine what life is like in proximity to these behemoths.
Buckley stated there would only be a profitable return after the project is complete. He further stated there would only be a profitable return after the project provided an energy tax credit. Let’s examine each of his statements.
First, the proposed legislation is an effort to regulate a massive intrusion of privacy for many people. Baldwin County, in south Alabama, recently stopped construction of a wind farm without state legislation. However, actual experience with problems generated by wind farms constructed around the country makes regulation an absolute necessity.
Second, Buckley says it is now impractical to remove wind turbines. This statement is puzzling as well as troubling. The impractical part would be the expense of removal for the company, Pioneer Green Energy. The troubling aspect is the recognition that removal is a possibility. Pioneer Green does not want to be obligated to the expense of removal. Removal would be a moot point because under adverse financial conditions Pioneer Green would declare bankruptcy and simply walk away with the windmills in place. Based on European experience, this is a strong possibility.
The third statement concerning return on investment highlights the formula for successful operation of the windmill farm, and this is the most damning of all statements. Buckley admits that the only way the project will be successful will be through American taxpayer support. He talks of a profitable return only after it qualifies for energy tax credits.
In other words, the people who are fighting the wind farms would ultimately, with their taxes, be forced to subsidize profitability of the land owners and Pioneer Green.
The ultimate question for Pioneer Green and other wind companies is this: Can you survive as an electricity generating company without subsidies from the American taxpayer? It is obvious they cannot. The wind farms are not labor intensive, therefore productivity improvements are not likely. There are only 10 employees for a wind farm consisting of 187 giant wind turbines in Windfall. As the turbines age, maintenance costs will only increase. Cost reductions at wind farms are almost impossible.
With a change in personnel at the federal government level, federal subsidies could disappear. Additionally, power companies are not required to buy energy from wind farms. When the cost of energy from wind farms becomes prohibitive, do the investors walk away from a losing investment? They always do, but Buckley says it is impractical to remove wind turbines. When the turbines are no longer financially viable, what happens?
Green energy, solar and wind power are losing their allure for investors. A major European utility has canceled a project to build the largest offshore wind project in Europe. Investors have balked at financing a wind farm while government subsidies (taxpayer money) are essential but not a sure thing.
Wind power arguably is the most costly of all electrical generation and will die without taxpayer subsidies.
Another significant issue has been identified in relation to wind farms – the killing of birds, and especially America’s symbol, the bald eagle.
Duke Energy, a Charlotte-based company, recently was fined $1 million for killing 14 eagles and various other species of wildlife. Duke Power has said it deeply regrets the impact on bald eagles at two of its wind facilities. But the truth is, all Duke can do is give lip service because once the turbines are in place, nothing to prevent the killing of eagles is possible.
The Obama administration has given the power companies a pass on killing eagles. If a civilian kills an eagle, the penalties are extreme, but wind farm destruction of eagles is exempted. I don’t know how the Obama administration or any administration can allow the American national symbol to be slowly destroyed. The moratorium on the killing of eagles will last for 30 years, time enough to greatly diminish the eagle population. The response from the environmentalists has been muted.
In her article, Savage quoted Leland Shaneyfelt: “The wind don’t belong to anybody but God.” True, but the transformation of wind to energy is what is being debated. Since all Americans are paying taxes to subsidize wind energy companies, taxpayers should insist on strict regulations. Williams’ regulatory legislation is a perfect place to start.
To all who read my commentary (and those who don’t), I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. Let us all count our blessings.
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