I am writing in response to the article on wind turbines near Hudson in the Dec. 27 Courier, and the subsequent editorial in the Jan. 4 edition. Both articles quote the RPMA representative saying “the design hasn’t happened yet, we don’t know where the turbines are going to be.”
On Oct. 3, 37 turbine locations were received by the Federal Aviation Administration, and two more were added Dec. 13, all submitted by RPMA. On Dec. 27, all 39 turbines advanced from proposed to interim stage. The next and last step is “determined” cases (source oeaa.faa.gov). Where’s the transparency?
I live in Section 18 of Eagle Township. There are 18 proposed turbines within one mile of my property lines. On Dec. 20 and 21, a local contractor was hired to build a road in Section 19 of Eagle Township to two turbine sites. These are FAA case numbers 2016-WTE9967OE and 9968OE.
Kevin Lehs, from RPMA, confirmed to me Dec. 30 they indeed did start construction to qualify for the full production tax credit. To understand wind energy, you have to understand the production tax credit. On Dec. 18, 2015, the PTC was extended for five years with a phase out. One hundred percent was given for 2015 and 2016 projects. It would then be reduced 20 percent each year through 2020.
The Internal Revenue Service regulates tax credits. The IRS has reduced construction requirements three times in recent years. The latest came in May, which basically stated, “One man with one shovel turning one shovel of dirt at one site,” (windaction.org) would qualify for showing construction; and the full PTC of $23 per megawatt-hour would be allowed. This was clearly not what Congress intended.
On this proposed 70 megawatt turbine project, the total of 10 years of PTC credits – at 33 percent capacity factor – is $46,541,880. A 20 percent reduction is $9.3 million less. As you can see, it’s important for RPMA to satisfy the IRS that construction started in 2016.
I contacted the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors and Planning and Zoning Commission on Dec. 27 and informed them it looked like construction had started. It was confirmed by Planning and Zoning no permits had been issued.
I returned to Planning and Zoning on Jan. 4 and asked if they did any follow-up. A planning staff member said he did not believe putting in a road constituted construction. I pointed out No. 8 of Regulatory Framework, which states “no grading, filling or construction shall begin until a building permit is issued.” He said, “They might have to consult with the county attorney.” I am waiting for an answer.
They have to get both a special permit for the whole project and a building permit for each site. I contend they have started construction (which they admit) on two sites, and the county should fully enforce the ordinance. Clearly RPMA violated No. 7 and No. 8 sections of the ordinance to gain a benefit of more than $9 milliion. Sadly in this case, the penalty ($250 a day fine for each violation) does not fit the crime.
Truly, when it comes to wind energy, there is very little transparency.
Wayne McCarvey of Hudson
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