Library from Oregon
A transformer caught fire at the base of a Bigelow Canyon wind turbine over the weekend, spilling an estimated 600 gallons of transformer oil. A representative of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) spills unit reported that PGE, the owner of the wind farm, reported the fire and hired SMF Environmental to clean up the spill.
EDP's project manager for Antelope Ridge, said the withdrawal was "100 percent a business decision." The company faced a considerable investment to proceed with its site certificate, and didn't see a clear path to sell the power at this point.
The energy department has a task immediately ahead before yet another legislative hearing on the subject: It must tell lawmakers, who represent the Oregonians who underwrite incentive programs such as the BETC, whether Shepherds Flat got a deal too good to be true and whether it knows the right questions are being asked of an energy-producing applicant.
The application for the Antelope Ridge wind farm has been withdrawn. No explanation for the withdrawal was included in a letter sent to the Department of Energy earlier this week, and Union County Commissioner Steve McClure says they haven't received any details from the company.
Shepherds Flat's three LLCs share a common parent company, Caithness Shepherd's Flat LLC. Caithness Shepherd's Flat LLC, in turn, is owned by the project developer, Caithness Energy, its turbine supplier, General Electric, and three investors brought in to harvest the project's tax benefits - Google, Itochu and Sumitomo of America. "I don't know how much more common ownership you could have."
The director and staffers at the Oregon Department of Energy faced sharp questions from lawmakers at a Tuesday hearing regarding their approval of three separate $10 million tax credits for the Shepherds Flat wind farm in eastern Oregon.
Some of the proposed sites for installing wind turbines are in core sage grouse habitat. That fact, as well as potential effects of the turbines on the region's viewshed and, in turn, it's economy, came up repeatedly during proceedings about the conditional-use permit required for the project.
At the heart of the money problem is the state's decision to award the project three tax credits with a combined value of $30 million rather than the single tax credit worth $10 million to which it was entitled. Shepherds Flat began as one project that subsequently was broken up into three pieces in an attempt to maximize state subsidies.
"If it is true that the state, in one stroke, gave away or simply wasted $20 million, the people of Oregon deserve an explanation and the assurance that we will take steps to change the law so it cannot happen again." ..."Unless someone can show me some additional information," she said, "it's pretty clear that taxpayers got bilked."
Williams filed a lawsuit Friday against Invenergy, the Illinois-based company behind the wind farm, for non-economic losses up to $5 million, as well as economic losses -- mostly related to property value depreciation -- for $170,000. Since Invenergy began construction on the 50 wind turbines at Willow Creek in 2008, it has fought in the courts over noise compliance.
Williams acknowledged the company has tried to work on a solution, but he contends that the Chicago-based company's proposed measures are inadequate and untested. The complaint also notes that the local county commission and land-use appeals panels agreed that the wind farm was exceeding permissible noise levels, but officials have done nothing to curb the project's operations.
This complaint was filed in US District Court in reference to Invenergy's Willow Creek wind energy facility, Invenergy's furst project in the Sttae of Oregon. THe project which consists of 48 turbines with a maximum output of 78 megawatts became operational in December 2008. Noise complaint were ongoing since before the project was fully operational. An excerpt of the complaint is provided below. The full complaint can be accessed by clicking on the link(s) at the bottom of this page.
Taxpayers should be dismayed by the Shepherds Flat wind farm mess, which The Oregonian's Ted Sickinger dissected on Sunday and Monday. They also should be relieved. By the narrowest of margins, the Oregon Senate this year stalled another complex clean-energy program that many Oregonians would regret in several years, long after it had gained too much momentum (and subsidized too many businesses) to stop easily.
Grove and other commissioners believe wind farms would affect the local economy as well. The county has "spent a lot of money" promoting the Oregon Trail, Grove said during the lengthy discussion. Erecting turbines isn't "preserving an asset in particular interest to the community," he said.
In contrast, federal officials didn't seem to have much doubt that the Shepherds Flat project would progress. Still, The Oregonian cited an email from Jim McCrea, a credit adviser in DOE's loan program office, suggesting heavy interest from the White House to make a decision on Shepherds Flat. "Pressure is on real heavy on SF due to interest from VP," McCrea wrote to a contractor in September 2010.
In the end, Caithness sold its three tax credits at a discount to WalMart and Comcast. The extra cash from the sale of the wind farm's second and third tax credit will generate less than 0.7 percent of its price. "These tax credits would not have made a whit of difference in the construction of this project, and yet $20 million would make an extraordinary difference to the people of Oregon," said Lynn Frank, former director of the state Energy Department.
The Oregon Department of Energy ignored its own rules, legislators' intent and taxpayers' interests in reaffirming its decision to define Shepherds Flat wind farm as three separate facilities and provide its owners three separate $10 million tax credits. ..."What is clear, without question, is that they have sought how to qualify it, not how to disqualify it. Any reasonable person looking at the project would have denied the application."
It's beyond dispute that, were dozens of turbines built here, Baker County's appearance would be changed dramatically. This is no minor matter in a county where tourism is an important industry. And many of our visitors are attracted by our mountains, canyons and other picturesque scenery that is largely devoid of towers and other man-made distractions.
A standing-room only crowd attended a Baker County Planning Commission meeting Tuesday concerning two wind farms that could be built near Huntington and Lime. The meeting lasted more than four hours. Dozens of residents spoke about the proosals, and most opposed new wind farms.
Touted as a green solution to feed our nation's hunger for energy, wind farms are also blamed for killing millions of birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates 440,000 birds are killed nationwide each year by wind farms. The number is expected to reach one million per year by 2030. ..."What we don't want to be 10 - 15 years down the road is like the dams, another clean cheap form of energy that turns out to have huge impacts on salmon. It's very hard to go back and retrofit facilities once they're on the ground."