On Monday, September 29, 2014, the promoters of an industrial wind farm in south Lincoln County SD announced in an AP press release that they had raised enough capital to move forward with their project. Although their announcement is technically accurate, it is important for the public to understand that they have raised $1.5 million of what they claim will be nearly $2 billion needed to construct the wind farm they are describing to the investors and public. As much as the promoters of industrial wind would like their investors and the public to believe that a 175 square mile industrial wind farm in south Lincoln County SD is already a guaranteed success, the fact is that it may actually be very far from reality.
To date, the wind farm promoters have not conducted a single environmental study, not announced that they have negotiated a transmission line contract, or attracted a commitment from anyone to build the necessary gas-fired power plant for backup. The wind farm promoters have not disclosed the identity a construction company willing to sign a letter of intent to build even one tower or any transmission lines, nor have they disclosed if any electrical utility is ready to commit to buying the power the proponents expect the wind farm to produce if it is built. What they have (according to their own publications) are a few land lease options, a single Meteorological Environment Test (MET) tower and some unsecured investors.
Based on claims in their project prospectus, the amount raised is the minimum subscription amount required to begin their development project. The announcement comes one day before the deadline by which that amount was to have been raised and falls far short of their stated goal of $4 million. From those funds the self-titled ‘community’ wind company further indicated in their prospectus that they must pay three of their board members (and the companies they own) nearly $435k in consulting fees, pay for $445k in scientific and environmental impact studies (providers and scope to be determined by the county board), make up to $212K investments in Meteorological MET towers and pay $35k to landowners for two years of lease payments.
In the fall of 2013, the project promoters claimed to have irrevocable signed land lease options from about 100 landowners with a patchwork of slightly more than 20,000 acres. In their press release on 9/29 their numbers show that a full year of promotion has secured only about 10 more lease agreements for around 3,000 more acres. At recent state-wide promotional events the project promoters have quietly scaled back the number of towers to slightly more than half the original plan. It is unknown if revised financial or economic budget and impact figures will be published based on fewer towers.
In the months since the development company announced its initial stock offering, several factors have actually increased the risk of industrial wind projects. First, the loss of federal tax subsidies and production tax credits (PTCs) have caused some large investors to conclude that industrial scale wind energy is not economically sustainable and they are no longer investing the industry. Furthermore, many local governments find that without PTCs, existing wind energy producers are have little or no taxable income and local government and school budgets suffer. When tax revenues to local government are reduced, local land use boards are increasingly reluctant to approve the industrialization of hundreds of square miles of productive farm land for unpopular wind projects. In addition to the economic obstacles, there is also growing body of sound scientific evidence of significant health hazards to people and animals living near industrial wind farms. Finally, when these factors are combined with the fact that there is a wide-spread, community based opposition to the proposed wind farm, by well organized, informed and vocal volunteers, the probability of profitable completion of the project may actually be very low.
In conclusion, interested parties are well advised to ‘consider the source’ of their information and continue to follow all sides of the situation in south Lincoln County SD, where an industrial wind farm continues to be far from a ‘done deal.’
Winnie Peterson, is the chair of WE-CAREsd.org, a SD non-profit organization made up of volunteer community members with homes and families in Lincoln County SD. The group is funded entirely by residents of Lincoln County SD that believe that all of their friends and neighbors are entitled to know about a proposed industrial wind farm in their community, deserve access to all of the information they need to have an informed opinion about how an industrial wind farm will affect their homes and families, and a right to have their opinion considered by the decision makers elected by the community to protect and promote the health and well-being of its citizens.
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