A pair of stories in the last week detailed conflicts between San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) and national environmental groups over two separate wind projects. One of the conflicts appears to have been resolved amicably, while the other is headed to the courtroom. And each story involves the power of flight.
Among the birds nesting along the cliffs are the state's highest concentration of rare Ferruginous hawks - 24 nests were documented there in one year - and federally protected golden eagles.
Unfortunately, it has become a matter of increasing concern nationally that the giant turbines can cause high mortality among bats and birds, including raptors.
These comments by Montana Public Service Commissioner, John Vincent, appeared following an article on the MSTI transmission line proposed in Montana to deliver wind to the California market.
Wind developers are federally subsidized with tax credits and they are asking the BPA to pay for those credits temporarily lost during curtailment. This would amount to customers of public utilities paying private investors to stop producing electricity when it isn’t needed. BPA already gives these producers free hydropower to compensate for power deliveries they give up when production is curbed.
Salois had asked Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. to move its line to avoid damaging historical Native American tepee rings on his mother's private property. MATL refused and chose condemnation. Having lost, MATL now expects the Legislature to bail it out.
MATL claims it has a deal with Montana's legislators and the governor. As reported in the Lethbridge Herald, that deal will be done by March.
Questioning large-scale wind and transmission development often results in charges of being against both wind and jobs. This is unfortunate because it's often not true, discourages public involvement and inhibits the questioning of positions held by important public figures. And questions need to be asked. ...There are no guarantees that wind power will be "low cost" for Montana's rate payers.
I'm not condemning these projects because the information simply isn't available now to determine whether the greater good is to build them. But I do believe that to this point, they've done the absolute bare minimum to explain themselves to the community.
Montana deserves better. And Montana can do better for itself.
So, receipt of the promised annual payment hinges on legislative actions of foreign elected representatives for whom an affected landowner cannot even vote. The provincial legislature might simply repeal or amend the Surface Rights Act, and MATL could say: Oh, sorry, no more annual payment; the Canadian law has changed.
When environmentalists tout wind as a clean alternative to climate-changing fossil fuels, they are not talking about the Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI). In fact we feel Montanans are being misled by the "green" nature of the line and "in-state benefits.
Unfortunately, the energy business in 2010 is much more about generating, transmitting and selling more energy than it is about using the energy we already have more efficiently. This in a country that wastes fully 70 percent of the electricity it produces. ...We certainly do need more clean, renewable energy, but that clean energy needs to at least start replacing dirty energy, and that just isn't happening.
Imagine a utility that generates 100 percent of the electricity it sells by burning coal or natural gas. Impose the S. 3813 RES standard on that utility and, all of a sudden, only a maximum of 85 percent of its electricity can be generated by fossil fuels. In other words, the utility's use of fossil fuels has been capped - the result would be skyrocketing energy prices.
The project came as a surprise to those who live here. There was no community involvement before the announcement and has been very little since. The majority of landowners in the two-mile area surrounding the project are opposed to it. The turbines could be installed as early as next summer.
As part of the utility's application, the DEQ and the federal Bureau of Land Management are conducting the EIS. The lawsuit alleged that work on the EIS had been deficient of any incorporation of county policies and regulations. The county said a resolution on the books since 2008 mandates coordination between state and federal agencies in plans that impact areas under the county's jurisdiction.
But we can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, the state should be taking steps to indemnify itself against the possibility, however remote, of "ghost wind farms" - sprawling graveyards with 30-story tombstones in the event a developer or the technology fails.
If they are going to "talk the talk," it is time to "walk the walk." The foreign windmill promoters that are covering Montana like a swarm of locusts will be more than happy to sign you up for a giant industrial wind plant (subsidized by taxpayers) that you expect the rest of us to live with.
Coal mines always have been big business. Wind farms are getting to be.
And when heavy-hitting companies such as North American Coal Corp., Minnesota Power and Florida Power and Light are eyeing an area of real estate, you bet it's consequential.
The real estate isn't paltry; it's a lot of acreage in Oliver and Morton counties.
Minnesota Power and FPL want to build separate wind farms. But the coal company says, "Wait a minute, we may want to mine where you guys are talking about putting up wind turbines. That won't work."
Small Montana wind energy producers are challenging NWE's proposal to charge them more for "integrating" their product into the portfolio. The wind producers contend that the costs NWE wants them to pay are more than what "integrating" their electricity actually costs. Further, the wind energy producers say NWE's proposed pricing could put them out of business. NWE has said that its customers will have to pay these costs if the wind energy producers don't.
In its portfolio proposals, NWE assumes a carbon tax will be implemented in the future, making coal a less appealing source than in the past. The proposed portfolio also assumes the customer will increase energy conservation.
These towers will forever change the scenic value of the Musselshell River Valley. They will have a devastating effect on land values, adversely affect wildlife, create high noise levels and block the beauty of the night sky with red strobe lights.
Wind power is being "sold" as green power. It is not green power. The United States Department of Energy study completed in 2007 indicates wind farms operate at 21 percent of capacity. That simply means other sources of conventional power, such as coal-fired, nuclear or natural gas, must back up the power generated by these turbines. ...Will we change from the Big Sky Country to The Big Tower Country just so a foreign utility and a couple landowners can line their pockets?
[P]urchasers of green energy will find that wind energy produced in Pennsylvania is much more expensive than wind produced in, say, Montana.
This mainly has to do with the location of wind resources. Montana has more areas with a higher sustained four wind than Pennsylvania. Also, since Montana is less densely populated, there are fewer troubles in siting the windfarms.
The drawback, obviously, is that Montana is very far away, and electricity grids lose power over long distances. However, some researchers in Europe claim to have found a solution: DC current.
The message gets repetitious: There needs to be more electrical power transmission capacity in and from North Dakota ... more transmission capacity ... more ...
So, isn't the answer as simple as stringing a bunch of lines?
The fact is, no. The power has to have somewhere to go and must travel by an extraordinarily complex network of technology. For our area it's managed by a strange entity called the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator. ...The snag is the process of hooking in a new power source. ...Midwest's queue has 224 wind projects, a 64 percent increase in one year. Not all will make it through the process; actually only 32 percent will end up connecting and producing. About 40 percent of requests drop out before even commencing the required FERC study. And 10 percent of those in the queue don't help matters at all, because they're just sitting on approvals ...