This essay is the second in a series aimed at exposing abuses by the Obama administration in its effort to force wind power on the public. Here we examine the rules governing the wind production tax credit (the PTC)—in particular, the IRS guidance for PTC eligibility— and changes the new Trump administration might consider.
“Obama’s green energy agenda meant advancing wind interests at any cost, and it shows. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) now estimates the total cost of the wind production tax credit in the years 2016–2020 at $23.7 billion.”
After billions in public hand-outs spanning nearly four decades, big wind has never been able to stand on its own and there's no reason to believe this will change. ...If yanking the handouts causes the industry to flat line then so be it. The US has elected a businessman at the helm who understands what it means to cut your losses. It’s time we did exactly that!
“With each oversized, out-of-scale, in-your-face wind project presented, scores of people join the not-so-quiet ‘war on wind’ raging nationwide…. While Big Media and Big Wind are busy forcing the vision they want, communities are taking aggressive action to limit wind’s negative impacts and will ultimately lead to far fewer projects being built.”
According to the American Wind Energy Association, more than 15,000 MW of new wind is currently under construction or in advanced stages of development. Under the IRS’ loose rules, the number of MWs eligible for the full subsidy could easily double that. Yet, this change was not subject to public input or any type of budget scoring.
The American Wind Energy Association (‘AWEA’) claims big wind had a spectacular 2015, but we looked past the slick advertising and found the same boastful AWEA rhetoric, this time with extra pixie dust applied.
In December, 2015, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (‘SEC’) adopted new rules governing the siting of energy projects in the state, including wind energy facilities. The new rules represent the culmination of 2+ years of intense focus by stakeholders with widely varying interests. In that time, the SEC conducted months of hearings and deliberative sessions, all open to public, where thousands of pages of detailed comments were debated and ultimately distilled down to standards intended to better quantify the data presented by applicants, reduce subjectivity and lead to more informed, and more consistent decisions on energy facility siting.
Windaction.org has updated its database of US wind production and capacity factors to include the years from 2011 through to 2015. The data are based on monthly energy output figures released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Aggregate annual capacity factors for each state and for the nation can be found here. A spreadsheet of each project for which production is reported can also be downloaded from the page.
Our representatives know that the PTC is wildly unpopular. They’ve heard all the arguments. ..A stand-alone floor vote on the PTC would have put an end to its nonsense, but Congress preferred instead to coddle this costly giveaway safely in the corpulent folds of other, must-pass extender language.
“Offshore wind is essentially a government-made market that would not exist in the U.S. but for a massive intervention from Washington and an ‘at-any-cost’ mentality at the state level. Of the alleged 15,650 MW of offshore wind in DOE’s pipeline, a very small fraction represents projects proffered by private entities.”
Accepting these mitigation measures without fully understanding their effectiveness could place the lives and property of Nebraskans at risk.
Contrary to claims about fossil fuel being heavily subsidized for decades, no traditional source of electric generation has ever received an open-ended, unlimited subsidy like the PTC for every kilowatt hour of energy put on the grid.
Last April, Reuters and others reported poor winds in some western states during the first quarter of 2015. We checked the preliminary production data released by the Energy Information Administration for that period and, sure enough, the production numbers were way down. The attached spreadsheet compares Q1'15 performance against the same period in 2014. A summary of the capacity factors for the states reporting wind project information is provided below. The full data can be accessed by downloading the attachment on this page. Texas, California, Iowa, Oklahoma and Illinois, which account for 50% of total installed wind in the US, each experienced significant reductions in output for the first quarter. NextEra Energy confirmed the reduction in Texas performance during its first quarter earnings conference call.
The output of DOE's models are easy to promote but reality paints a very different picture. DOE's Vision assumes 7 GW of wind built per year between 2014 and 2020, followed by 12 gigawatts per year between 2020 and 2030, and 17 GW every year after until 2050. The Agency points to the progress since 2009 as proof that a more aggressive wind roll-out is possible. But in many ways, the success of U.S. wind in those years is the very reason wind development will not grow, but continue to slow.
“Before Americans are asked to pay more billions for an energy resource that still, after 23 years, cannot stand on its own two feet, Congress should ask DOE to get out of the vision business and report on the practicality of wind energy reaching even 10% of the U.S. power market.”
Clearly, the interpretation of what constitutes “begin construction” is important, yet at no time during the two years since the PTC was extended with this wording did the IRS bother to seek public comment under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), the federal statute that requires federal agencies to provide notice and an opportunity to comment before promulgating rules.
Cape Wind was the wrong project, at the wrong time, and the wrong place. It was too big and costly. Its impacts were poorly mitigated and its benefits highly questionable. In the end, it was the regulatory arrogance of the Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and the Obama Administrations that did the most harm. A lot of people were offended and willing to stand up to the abuses. Remember, it was Massachusetts’ spirit that triggered the Revolutionary War.
The Canadian government is correct that there is a need to understand ‘the potential health impacts and community concerns that underscore public resistance’ to wind energy. But Canadians and others will not be Grubered by phony studies.
The debate is no longer about the fear of change or aesthetics. It’s about preserving the health, safety, and welfare of communities from developers hell-bent on sticking turbines on every free acre with transmission access no matter who’s in the way. More than twelve active lawsuits are pending against wind projects in as many states, and more are sure to follow.
The true intent of AWWI's study is not about accurate mortality estimates. It's about deflecting the problem. The fact is, many more birds (and bats) are dying at operating wind plants than we know. Now is not the time to relax our concern. Rather, we should be demanding that the industry be held accountable for bird mortality once and for all!