We wish to thank William P. Short III* for his invaluable contribution to this editorial.
The United States is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. If Congress and the White House are unable to reach agreement on spending by January 1, crushing tax increases and draconian budget cuts will go into effect sending the country's already weakened economy into another destructive recession.
Last month, unity was shattered within the wind industry when energy-giant Exelon Corporation broke ranks with other renewable-energy developers and asked Congress to let the production tax credit (PTC) expire in December. Exelon rightfully argued that the subsidy was distorting competitive wholesale energy markets and causing financial harm to other, more reliable clean energy sources.
This month, a coalition of brand name corporations sent Congressional leaders a letter urging extension of the wind production tax credit ('PTC'). It was the second such letter sent this year signed by many of the same companies and with the same message: Failure to extend the PTC will raise consumer electricity prices and harm the bottom lines of companies who purchase renewable energy.
1. Bald Eagle killed at U.S. Wildlife Refuge. In March, a dead bald eagle was found below a small 10-kilowatt wind turbine at the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Rock Hall, Md. Cause of death: blunt force trauma.
Wind proponents insist the industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy having doubled U.S. nameplate capacity since 2008.
The American Wind Energy Association pumped millions into an aggressive political campaign aimed at securing the PTC's extension. It released the Navigant jobs study, funded a full-time media war room and lined up President Obama, DOE's Secretary Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as wind industry hucksters. Coordinated endorsement letters signed by the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition and brand name corporations were sent to Washington calling for immediate action while newspapers around the country published editorials rehashing the same talking points on why the PTC should be extended beyond 2012.
The American Wind Energy Association has made extending the Production Tax Credit ('PTC') its primary focus this year. Documents available on the trade group's website show that about $4 million of its 2012 budget ($30 million) was directed toward securing extension of the PTC. With job growth the number one political issue in the United States, AWEA's strategic plan calls for rebranding of the wind industry as an economic engine that will produce steady job growth, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
Tens of thousands of acres across New York State have been transformed into sprawling electric generating facilities -- 18 in total -- where nearly 1,000 industrial-scale wind turbines consume the landscape and threaten communities in their way.
The debate surrounding the Production Tax Credit (PTC) intensified last quarter following several high-profile attempts by Congress to extend the credit before it expires at year-end. Industry warnings of precipitous declines in clean-tech investment and imminent job losses have reached a fevered pitch. The New York Times, for example, reflexively accused budget-hawks in Congress of being preoccupied with safeguarding the dominance of the oil and gas industries.
The health and safety of those living in proximity to industrial wind turbines are at risk due to a lack of objective, practicable siting standards.
The wind industry insists its turbines safely co-exist with birds; that the risk of bird mortality at a modern wind energy facility is low due to proper pre-construction assessments.
The Big Wind lobby has descended on Washington DC and its objective is singular -- secure a four-year extension of the Production Tax Credit ('PTC'), the 20-year ‘temporary' subsidy most credited for market growth in the wind sector. The PTC is due to expire at the end of this year.
If you haven't heard from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), you probably will.
There's desperation on the Hill.
In recent weeks, wind developer Terra-Gen terminated plans to build its Horseshoe Wind Farm in Illinois, NextERA suspended the permitting process for a 150-megawatt project in South Dakota and Iberdrola announced its Desert Wind Energy Project in North Carolina was delayed and might be scrapped altogether. In each case, company officials blamed current market conditions and the inability to secure a long-term power contract with area utilities.
While of course the wind farm may be one of those projects with such overwhelming policy benefits (and political support) as to trump all other considerations, even as they relate to safety, the record expresses no such proposition. -- U.S. Court of Appeals
Herkimer County, New York is the latest location to register wind turbine noise complaints. The source? Iberdrola's Hardscrabble wind facility (37 turbines) that went online earlier this year. Studies are underway to determine if the project is operating outside legal sound limits, but the larger question is 'Why?'. Why, with over 1,300 megawatts of wind installed in New York today and an extensive body of evidence showing turbine noise is causing deleterious impacts on people living near the towers, was Herkimer County fooled into thinking it would be spared?
U.S. air space has been made less safe by turbines and our national security compromised because of a reckless policy of siting wind towers within 50-miles of radar installations. Military radar experts in the field know the damage that’s been done. But with the debate surrounding energy policy dominated by politics and money, the military has bowed to the pressure.