Initially they were clueless. A few of them had heard about a successful fight to stop a proposed power line that was to be erected across the county and they had heard hints about a possible wind farm planned for the area. Then, as the activity on their quiet county road began to increase, they started asking questions. The answers they received caused them to be worried, angry, and motivated to join a battle to halt a wind farm project. Just who are these folks referred to above, and why do they care? These are regular folks –landowners-- who have worked hard their entire lives in order to achieve the dream of owning a little piece of land in the quiet, beautiful, scenic Hill Country. A little piece of property where they could escape from the dirty, noisy suburban areas or returning to raise a family or retire, all in hopes of passing it on to their children and grandchildren.
So, what has disturbed these folks enough to fight? They are diligently working to halt the construction of a wind turbine farm in Mason and Menard Counties. These wind turbines will be as tall as 500 feet and will be visible for miles. They will destroy untold acres of wildlife habitat. They will create noise pollution, light pollution and kill countless bats, eagles, hawks, and other birds. These are only a few of the horrific consequences of building wind turbines in our counties, and you may be aware of many more.
So you might ask, if these wind farms produce so many undesirable side effects, why would anyone be so intent on building them here in the first place? In a word - MONEY. Huge sums of money will be made by the companies owning and building these turbines. In our case, the company in question is Enel Green Power of North America. This company was formed in Italy in 1962 and was initially owned entirely by the Italian government. Today, the Italian government owns 25.5 % of the company and it remains under “state control”. As of the end of 2013, Enel had revenues of $88 Billion. Why would an Italian company wish to be in the business of building a wind farm in our counties, where there is insufficient wind to keep the turbines turning effectively? The money Enel receives from Production Tax Credits (PTC) or Investment Tax Credits (ITC) along with property tax incentives or abatements provide the only way for these wind farms to remain financially viable, that is, to stay in business.
The Production Tax Credit was first enacted in 1992 and has been renewed many more times. More recently, the Production Tax Credit was included as part of Obama’s “Stimulus Package”. This Stimulus Package, also known as The Recovery Act of 2009 contained one extension of the Production Tax Credit that reportedly cost the American taxpayers $12 Billion in 2009 alone. The Recovery Act also created another cash cow for the wind industry called the “1603 Grant Program”. This program offers wind project developers cash payments in lieu of ITC. The value of an award is equivalent to 30% of the projects total eligible cost basis. As of January 5, 2015, total “1603” funding had reached $23.7 billion. In 2013, the Energy and Commerce Committee released a report about an ongoing investigation into Obama’s Green Energy Stimulus spending. The report reveals that foreign corporations have received approximately 25 % of the $16 Billion spent on this “1603” Program.
Remember the “Fiscal Cliff” of 2012? There was great drama as Congress fought well past midnight on December 31, 2012, to pass legislation to keep the government funded. A bill was finally passed by 2:00 a.m. the following morning, which ultimately became law. This bill extended Tax Credits worth Billions of dollars to the energy companies. The wind industry had hired a team of high powered lobbyists with close ties to Obama and Capitol Hill to make sure their subsidies would not be cut. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is said to have spent more than $2.1 Million in 2012 alone to protect their Production Tax Credits.
Most Texans do not object to legitimate businesses making money by creating a product or service that people need and are willing to buy. However in this case, these companies have little concern about selling a product to anyone. They make the majority of their money by simply constructing the turbines. This allows them to pocket the proceeds of the subsidies paid for by you, the taxpayer. Ultimately, they care little about whether the turbines are efficient, profitable, or even necessary to provide energy. They have made their huge profit upfront and care little about what happens in the long run.
The land owners, who have leased their land to these wind farm companies, are promised a steady stream of income from each turbine. In truth, they receive only a tiny fraction of the monies generated by the wind farms. Some land owners will be surprised to learn that their property will only be used as a storage area, and thus, no turbines will be constructed there to provide the promised revenue stream. Additionally, they may be surprised to learn that they have lost all control of what is done to and with their property for the next 50 years. It might even seem that these land owners have little concern regarding the damage done to their land, and to the Hill Country in general. Perhaps they inherited this property from a grandparent, and they seldom visit their property. Perhaps they have lived their whole life on the property and no longer appreciate the value of the beauty that it provides to themselves and to all visitors to the Hill Country. This makes one recall the 1970’s song with the lyrics, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
In summary, we have a foreign corporation that stands to receive Billions of dollars of subsidies, paid for with your tax dollars that will build a wind farm, which will provide marginal, if any, benefit to anyone in our counties. In the process they will cause devastating destruction of the scenic Hill Country while destroying the tourism and hunting industry in our counties.
Perhaps, all citizens of both Mason and Menard counties would be well served to do everything possible to halt the construction of this proposed wind farm.