In a week’s time, a second company studying the viability of wind energy in Mason County has decided to discontinue its project.
On Friday, Mason County Judge-Executive James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein notified county commissioners and local media outlets of NextEra Energy Resources’ decision to discontinue analysis of the possibility of constructing a wind energy project in Mason County.
The news comes one week after Duke Energy Renewables notified both Mason County and Fleming County officials of its intention to discontinue a wind energy project in May’s Lick and Fleming County. Duke Energy Renewables’ project study became public in spring 2013, after word spread of leases being signed with local property owners.
In June 2011, controversy arose over NextEra’s presence in the Germantown/Minerva communities since 2010 to determine if wind turbines could be feasible in Mason and Bracken counties.
At the July 2011 Mason County Fiscal Court meeting, Adam Rickell, project manager for NextEra Energy, answered all questions or statements from the audience and commissioners in attendance.
At the time, Rickell said it would be 2013 before any construction of turbines would begin, a one-year environmental study needed to be conducted, local electric utilities had been contacted, and it would take six to 12 months to complete the land transactions necessary for a wind farm.
Rickell said NextEra wanted to “make sure we have a project” and “we’ve got an area of interest.”
Since that time, the company has continued its studies, as indicted in a letter received by Mason County Attorney John Estill, dated May 13 and signed by Mark D. Goss, counsel for NextEra Energy Resources.
In the letter, Goss states, “As you and many other in Mason County know, NextEra has spent the better part of four years and considerable resources analyzing the possibility of contructing a wind energy project in Mason County…The results of these analyses have been promising so far and NextEra was moving diligently toward a decision concerning project viability and the refinement of a project site plan that, hopefully, would have been acceptable to all involved.”
Although the letter states economic and employment figures over a 30-year period, it doesn’t state the number of wind turbines to have been constructed under the project; or site locations, which have included Germantown/Minerva area and allegedly, Sardis.
NextEra’s letter was in response to a letter sent by Estill in April asking NextEra Energy to hold a public meeting under the authority of Kentucky House Bill 291, passed during the 2014 General Assembly. The letter requested a public meeting be held within 30 days of receipt of the letter, May 25.
HB 291, sponsored by State Rep. Mike Denham, addresses local concerns with siting of windmill projects by requiring siting board regulation as well as public meetings at the request of the state Public Service Commission or the county where a utility hopes to locate a wind turbine. Wind power utilities would also have to have a separate public meeting 90 days prior to filing an application to site a windmill under the bill. Other approved changes clarify that setback provisions for generating facilities apply to wind turbines and apply to solar or wind projects for which site compatibility certificates are applied for after Jan. 1, 2015.
On Friday, Denham defended the legislation, saying it is fair to all parties involved.
Deham said H.B. built upon existing statutes, while adding the transparency requirement and making the statue applicable to wind turbines.
“I stand by the fact it is fair and responsible legislation…we worked very hard to make sure everyone was included…the setback language was already in the statutes and we made sure it applied to wind mills. We didn’t change the setbacks, we made sure they applied,” Denham said.
In his letter, Goss states, “It has come to NextEra’s attention that House Bill 291 was conceived, encouraged and sponsored by certain public officials in and representing Mason County as a reaction to the protestations of a very vocal group opposed to wind-generated power in the county. It has also come to NextEra’s attention that the Mason County Planning and Zoning commission is soon likely to enact very restrictive setback provisions making it virtually impracticable to construct a wind project of reasonable scale – provisions that go beyond those in House Bill 291.”
The letter goes on to state: NextEra has been and remains committed to reasonable public transparency…at the appropriate time in the project; it would be imprudent and unreasonable for NextEra to convene a public meeting at this time because the project is in the early development phase; and dissemination of highly sensitive and proprietary information at this stage of the project harmful to NextEra’s business activities would occur at the requested public meeting.
“That fact, taken along with the Mason County Planning and Zoning Commission’s proposed action to put into place very restrictive setback provisions for wind turbines, leads NextEra, as it would any reasonable person, to the conclusion that the citizens of the commonwealth of Kentucky, especially those in Mason County, do not want wind-generated power built under any reasonable, responsible circumstances. This is an unfortunate turn of events, and in NextEra’s opinion, a bad decision for the citizens and taxpayers of Kentucky and Mason County.”
Goss goes on to say as a result of H.B. 291, and the activities of the Planning and Zoning Commission, NextEra has “no choice” but to discontinue the Mason County project effective immediately. He goes on to say if the “unreasonable and infeasible restrictions” in H.B. 291 and those being considered by Mason County should be reconsidered, NextEra could revisit the decision.