Industrial wind has a strong foothold in our region and wind boosters like to use our fair state as an example of “wind succeeding.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We all want a better world and cleaner energy but wind is not the answer.
Let’s evaluate the claims of Big Wind. Part of opposing Industrial Wind is having the knowledge to back up your views.
Wind Turbines avoid CO₂
In 2016 the American Wind Energy Association claims that Industrial Wind avoided carbon emissions of 159 million metric tons. And the UK’s Partnership for Renewables claims that each modern 2MW wind turbine avoids 1880 tons each year. Yet each year humanity is said to be responsible for 35-40 billion metric tons of CO₂.
At best, the total CO₂ emissions avoided by every wind turbine in the world is less than 1%. Even that trivial number assumes wind is displacing only coal fired generators. If they displace natural gas you need to ~1/2 that number and if they offset nuclear or hydroelectric power there is no CO₂ “savings”.
Wind is cheap, Wind is free
In Iowa, Midamerican Energy company is investing billions of dollars into wind energy. Yet Warren Buffet who owns Midamerican once said, “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.” MidAmerican now says that they can do it without the PTC but in their application for Wind XI they are very clear that they “need” that PTC.
The Mid-continent Independent Systems Operators (MISO), the people that run the entire Midwest electrical grid, say that it costs $237/ton to avoid CO₂ with wind energy. (https://docs.wind-watch.org/MISO-GHG-regulation-impact-2014.pdf – see the graph on page 7)
The last administration put the social cost of excess CO₂ at $40/ton. “The current social cost of carbon pollution estimates for a unit of emissions in 2015 are $57, $37, and $11 using discount rates of 2.5 percent, 3 percent, and 5 percent, respectively. The fourth social cost of carbon pollution estimate of $109 uses a 3 percent discount rate and describes the 95th-percentile value for the social cost figure, in an attempt to capture the damages associated with extreme climatic outcomes. The estimate of $37, which uses a 3 percent discount rate, is considered the “central” estimate for a unit of emissions in 2015. That $37 value is denoted in 2007 USD and equals around $40 in today’s dollars.” (http://costofcarbon.org/faq)
One company paid $650 million for 80% of 405 MW of installed capacity wind turbines. These turbines would not have been built without the PTC. The money that was spent could have benefited communities in a number of different ways.
Mandate – We still need to have enough traditional power sources to completely power our communities at any given moment if the wind dies down. Every time Industrial Wind goes on line all other traditional power generation has to stand aside. Now we have power plants that still have mortgages to pay, payroll for staff and maintenance costs but they are not able to make any money while wind is on line.
Production Tax Credit and Guaranteed Profits – Most of us understand this by now but why can utilities expect to make wind energy work after the PTC eventually expires? Utilities receive a guaranteed rate of return, about 11%. They can build wind turbines or generate electricity with hamsters running on wheels and they are guaranteed a profit.
Tax abatement – Wind turbines do not pay tax the first year. Only 5% the 2nd year, 10% the fourth … at year 7 their taxes are capped at 30%.
More transmission lines – Transmission lines are increased because while the traditional lines remain for traditional power, new lines are built for wind energy taking land from thousands by threat of eminent domain. The utility companies are also guaranteed profit for building and maintaining these lines.
(As an aside, people who have signed contracts should look to see if the contact gives the company the right to build “wind energy transmission lines” because it is likely that Big Wind is going to use your land to try to punch another hole through to Chicago for something to replace the Rock Island Clean Line that was refused by landowners across the state.)
This is really what it all comes down to: the money. Industrial Wind pays communities to sell out part of their population.
Economic development is offset by the many imposed costs.
If Industrial Wind is not viable without the PTC then the money that communities and landowners are receiving is not being created by Industrial Wind but being taken by Americans, many who are struggling to make ends meet, all for a cleverly crafted shell game.
Social cost – Our communities are fighting bitterly as people are being dragged into something they want no part of. Relationships are being hurt and broken and may never be repaired. Most community members agree that they did not know about the proposed installation until it was already far along. Wind companies do not tell landowners about the detriments of Industrial Wind so it is up to the community to play catch up and educate themselves.
Especially in Iowa, residents have no recourse to defend themselves.We do not have the power of a recall election the power of referendum vote. If the Supervisors choose the money against the will of the people in the proposed installation their only recourse is to sue and/or start a large multi-state grassroots movement.
Wind opposition across the US knows that generally 85% to even 100% of the land signed to wind turbines will be signed by people who do not live on the land and often don’t even farm it.
Property value loss – We know that the values of our homes will decrease. When people all over the country are willing to fight to not live in or near an Industrial Wind Installation we can only surmise that people will not be seeking to buy/build homes in or near one.
Loss of efficiency – Farming practices of all land participating and non-participating will lose access to efficient aerial application. Most Ag pilots will not fly within or near IWTs. Those that do, even with helicopters lose efficiency. Pioneer will not put research plots on farms with turbines for this reason and non-GMO crops that some people plant for savings on seed cost need efficient aerial applications to work. Ground rigs do not work if the ground is soggy or the crops are leaning.
Tiling concerns – With the amount of construction and buried cables tiling can be crushed impacting participating and non-participating ground alike. The wind companies will say that they will fix tile but if they don’t agree that they are at fault farmers or surrounding landowners will have little to no recourse.
Health impacts – Many of the problems with Industrial Wind have been studied extensively and are widely documented. Generally the malaise that people experience is a sort of motion sickness from the changes in air pressure from turbulence in the turbine’s wake. Often people cannot sleep because of the sound of the turbines creating a wide range of health impacts. Infrasound from turbines is thought to cause harm and is being researched. There is too much information to include here so I will include a wealth of information that was presented at The Minnesota Legislative Energy Commission’s hearing on Wind Turbine Noise and Health Effects, October 19, 2017: https://www.lec.leg.mn/meetings201718.html
Decommissioning costs – Wind companies often low ball the cost that it will take to decommission these projects, often offering to do a partial job which will leave farm ground hindered for generations. A decommissioning estimate by expert engineer Thomas Hewson details the cost of complete decommissioning at close to $2 million per turbine, and the report is already 5 years old. In the report see the bottom of page 5.
Cost on wildlife – Usually wind supporters like to offset the damage to wildlife by pointing out that climate change will hurt so many more animals. We have already proved that turbines are doing little to nothing to reduce CO₂ so really wind turbines are just causing more damage.
Safety concerns – Wind turbines are not reliably safe. Even wind technicians are told to shut of turbines remotely yet we have many farmers, tilers, agronomists, rock pickers, farm hands and different applicators that have to work under these huge industrial machines that can throw blades, start on fire or just simply collapse.
There are a wide variety of experts willing to speak to all of these points and Industrial Wind has been losing to them in courts of law when the facts are presented. Industrial Wind has lied to and bullied our communities for too long. It is time to push back.
Coalition for Rural Property Rights