Earlier this year, the Ohio House and Senate passed HB483, and Governor Kasich signed it into law. Shortly thereafter the Delphos Herald ran a front page story with the headline, “HB 483 Puts Putnam Wind Farm In Jeopardy.”
According to the July 14 article in The Delphos Herald, Jim O’Conner, project developer with Iberdrola Renewables, told the Putnam County commissioners Gov. Kasich’s approval of the bill has a huge impact on whether Iberdrola will move forward with the project.
My understanding of Ohio HB483 is that it requires the “setback” for building the wind turbines to be measured from the property line, just like any property owner has had to do for virtually any building project. If you want to build a structure on your property, you probably have a “setback” dimension that you must adhere to, and that setback is measured from your property line. Iberdrola, the Spanish oil company that is building many of the wind turbines, apparently doesn’t think they should have to play by the same rules as those of us who live here.
Think of it another way. If I own farm property and I don’t want turbines on my property, all I do is tell Iberdrola that I won’t lease them property. That is all there is to it. But, if my neighbor wants to lease his property to them for turbines, the old law allowed Iberdrola to measure across my land to my house or other “habitable, residential structure,” and use a portion of my land as part of the setback.
My understanding is that HB 483 simply provides that Iberdrola will follow the same “setback” rules that all other property owners in Ohio have done for years. Shouldn’t Iberdrola live by the same rules that you and I live by? I’ve been told that HB684 is being proposed in Columbus to reverse the setback rule established this year. There is too much federal money available for Iberdrola to walk away just because of the changed “setback” regulations.
Also, Iberdrola doesn’t want to pay property taxes like you and me. They want to a program called “PILOT,” or “Payment in Lieu of Taxes.” The “PILOT” arrangement for the “Blue Creek Wind Farm” in Van Wert and Paulding counties would provide that Iberdrola would pay schools and other public entities about $2.75 million per year over 20 years, or about $55 million total.
Iberdrola would receive about $173 million from taxpayers for that same project. That means that for every $173 Iberdrola gets from taxpayers (that’s us), they’ll pay back about $55. Wouldn’t we all like to get a deal like that? Is there any wonder our country is so deep in debt? I don’t know how much of the subsidy Iberdrola keeps because they buy the turbines, the towers, and other materials and they pay the landowners, too.
Warren Buffet, the Omaha billionaire investor, is quoted as telling an audience in Omaha, Nebraska, recently, “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” It sounds like Mr. Buffett gets it!
If private companies like Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway or Iberdrola are not willing to build turbines without government subsidies, it is a sign that the wind farms are a bad investment. It simply does not make sense for the government to subsidize technologies that are not economically sustainable.
And what about reliability? At mid-day on July 17, 2014, not one of the giant turbines visible from U.S. Route 30 was turning. Air conditioners were “ON.” Factories and offices were operating, but none of the turbines were producing energy. That proves that AEP and other the energy companies have to maintain a reliable supply even when the wind isn’t blowing. So when the wind does produce energy, the energy companies shut off the reliable suppliers and buy from the turbines. How much does it cost them to maintain the excess capacity to cover for the turbines when they are not producing?
And what about the millions and millions of dollars that AEP and other energy companies have to invest just to hook up to the un-predictable source of energy from the turbines. I was told that AEP invested over $60 million to hook up to the Van Wert County turbines. All of us who buy power from the utilities will pay for that investment every time we pay our electric bills.
If you think it is a bad idea for your government to receive $55 return for every $173 given away, or if you have an opinion on whether Iberdrola should follow the same “setback” rules as you and I follow, you ought to consider contacting all your elected representatives – township, county, state, and federal – and let them know how you want them to vote.
In Columbus, Van Wert County is represented by Cliff Hite (614 466-8150) in the Senate and by Tony Burkley (614 644-5091) in the House. Allen County is represented by Kieth Faber (614 466-7584) in the Senate and by Matt Huffman (614 466-2124) in the House.
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