Big Wind has its share of supporters in upstate

  "Bill Burke does not see what the uproar over wind turbines is about. A landowner in Lewis County’s Tug Hill region — famous for its astounding snow accumulations— Burke has lived near the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Project since January 2006. Seven turbines are sited on his 600 acres, split between the towns of Lowville and Harrisburg. So far, he’s seen few of the negative impacts — noise, vibrations — that wind project opponents often reference. But he’s seen plenty of positives: new jobs, lease payments and lower tax bills thanks to revenue from the developers, EDP Renewables, LLC and Avangrid Renewables.  “It’s been nothing but a positive experience,” said Burke, a former dairy farmer and Lewis County legislator. “We have 35 well-paying jobs out of the deal, and they’ll all local. The school and township and county all benefitted greatly from it. It’s just worked out well. The landowners are compensated well.” Cheryl Steckly, superintendent of Lowville Academy and Central School, said the school district has made dramatic improvements with the $27 million it’s receiving through a Payment In Lieu of Taxes agreement with the developers. They have added science labs, art facilities and a gallery, smart boards in every classroom, a turf football field and wireless internet. Every student from third grade up now has a ChromeBook for schoolwork. The district also was able to renovate its outdated facilities, making improvements to the gym, pool, roofing, heating and air conditioning and more. “The demands on our local taxpayers would not have allowed us to make improvements at the level we were able to,” Steckly said. “It’s very significant.” “I think people have been able to see the financial impact that this has had on a rural community,” she added. Residents of Sheldon — one of four Wyoming County towns hosting wind projects — have also seen a windfall from Invenergy’s 75-unit High Sheldon Wind Farm. Town Supervisor Brian Becker said the nearly $1 million-per-year, 20-year PILOT agreement meant the town could cut taxes to $0 from 2009 to 2016. Becker recounted hearing from one resident had been against the project, but changed his mind after his first goose-egg town tax bill. “There’s very few who are still critical of it,” Becker said. That was not the case when Invenergy proposed the project late last decade. At the time, Becker said, many residents were vocally opposed over concerns about the noise, vibrations and shadow flicker generated by wind turbines, and, of course, their impact on the horizon.  To gauge public opinion, Sheldon held an unofficial referendum. Only about 50 percent of the town voted, and of those, 60 percent were in favor and 40 percent against. “The way I look at it, 80 percent of the people were either for the wind turbines or they didn’t care enough to get out and vote,” Becker said. Since the project was constructed in 2009, Becker said Invenergy has been very responsive to residents’ complaints relating to noise or shadow flicker. He recalls Invenergy purchased drapes for a woman who experienced some shadow flicker, an effect caused when the turbines spin and cast moving shadows. “I give them an A-plus rating with their interactions here within the community,” Becker said. Meanwhile, Burke said the effects of turbines are sometimes exaggerated by their opponents.  Turbines do hum as the blades turn, but walk about 100 yards away and that hum turns to a whisper, Burke said. And, the ambient sound of daily life easily drowns out the low hum. “If you’re busy and you’ve got anything going on at all in your life, you don’t notice this stuff,” Burke said. “And you really don’t hear anything to start with, unless you’re really still and you want to hear something.” Burke has noticed shadow flicker, too. But he has found it lasts for only about 10 to 15 minutes per day, and only under very specific conditions.  “The sun has to be just right and no clouds in the sky,” he said. “You don’t get it every day.” Of course, the visual effect is undeniable. Turbines are big, white sore thumbs over a horizon of tree tops and farm fields.  Still, some don’t see them as eyesores. In Lewis County, Steckly said, a private swimming team has dubbed itself the Turbine Swim Club. “I think people see the turbines are part of our local community,” Steckly said. “It’s just part of our landscape.” “People have come to accept them,” Becker said. “One person who was against them because of aesthetics, he said, ‘I don’t see ‘em any longer; when I do, it’s to see what direction the wind is coming from.’”  Burke said that during construction of the Maple Ridge project, people flocked to the Tug Hill region to see the turbines go up. In 2005, turbines were still relatively rare in upstate New York.  “It was fascinating to watch,” Burke said. “We used to have a lot of visitors here.” Burke said construction was otherwise “uneventful.” Becker said the work was a major boost to the local economy. For months on end, nearly every restaurant, hotel and apartment in Sheldon and neighboring towns was full.  Altogether, Becker said, most residents are happy Invenergy sited its project there.  “I would recommend it,” Becker said. “I feel it is a positive. But this is a democracy, and the people in that community would have to vote yes or no. It’s up to them.”   Link to article here.

ISU Research Finds Wind Farms Positively Impact Crops

March 5, 2018 AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University researchers have found that wind turbines located in agricultural fields are a plus for the crops growing around them. The overall effects on crops growing in wind farms appear to be positive said Gene Takle, Iowa State agronomy professor. He has led a team of plant and soil scientist along with extension specialists who have been looking into the effects since 2009. They started their work after seeing more wind farms and turbines pop up around the state. The new land use was positive for the landowners where they were located, but the researchers wondered if it was the same for the farmers growing crops. “It’s unusual because we’re continuing the previous land use and we’re adding another,” he said. “We’re sort of double-cropping because these can be thought of two forms of energy production. The Chinese do this when they plant soybeans in between horticultural crops. We’re planting turbines.” Continue reading

Wind Energy Takes Flight In The Heart Of Texas Oil Country

By Ari Shapiro and Matt Ozug Heard on All Things Considered Georgetown, Texas, is a conservative town in a conservative state. So it may come as something of a surprise that it's one of the first cities in America to be entirely powered by renewable energy. Mayor Dale Ross, a staunch Republican who attended President Trump's inauguration, says that decision came down to a love of green energy and "green rectangles" — cash. When Georgetown's old power contract was up in 2012, city managers looked at all their options. They realized wind and solar power are more predictable; the prices don't fluctuate like oil and gas. So, a municipality can sign a contract today and know what the bill is going to be for the next 25 years. That's especially appealing in a place like Georgetown, where a lot of retirees live on fixed incomes. "First and foremost it was a business decision," Ross says. City leaders say the debate over renewables never even mentioned climate change, a wedge issue in Texas politics. Continue reading

US Wind Industry Could Drive A Quarter-Million Jobs By 2020, Says Navigant

March 10th, 2017 by Joshua S Hill  A new analysis of the US wind energy sector by Navigant Consulting could see the sector drive up to 248,000 jobs and $85 billion in economic activity over the next four years. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) highlighted the new analysis by Navigant Consulting on Thursday, alongside its own white paper which highlighted the economic benefits the wind sector already delivers to the US economy — specifically, that the US wind industry currently supports more than 100,000 jobs across all 50 states. Navigant Consulting believes that that number will only increase, with 248,000 total jobs by 2020, helping to deliver 35,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity through 2020. Continue reading

Apex Clean Energy to Operate IKEA Canada Wind Farm, Wintering Hills

Wintering Hills Wind Farm. Photo courtesy of Teck. Project Is Third IKEA Partnership with Apex Apex Clean Energy (Apex) announced today a multi-year contract with IKEA Canada to manage and provide remote operations for the Wintering Hills wind farm located in Alberta, Canada. The 88 MW facility produces enough power to supply approximately 26,000 Canadian homes. IKEA US purchased two U.S. wind farms from Apex: the 165 MW Cameron Wind facility located in Cameron County, Texas, in November 2014; and the 98 MW Hoopeston Wind facility located in Hoopeston, Illinois, in April 2014. Apex operates and maintains both facilities. “This expansion of our Asset Management business sends a strong signal to the market,” said Mark Goodwin, president and CEO of Apex. Apex put more wind energy on the U.S. grid than any other company in 2015. Looking ahead, Apex also has the industry’s largest and most diverse pipeline of projects in active development. The Wintering Hills facility is the eleventh project in the Apex Asset Management fleet, bringing the total generation under management up to 1,729 MW. “Wind asset management is a science, and we’re able to use the science to safely and reliably push the boundaries of performance,” said Andrea Miller, vice president of asset management for Apex. “When it comes to getting maximum power and profit from a wind farm, we measure and analyze the data that others aren't, so we can take action on opportunities and realize gains that others don’t.” The Wintering Hills project consists of 55 General Electric 1.6 MW turbines, each with a hub height of 80 meters and a nominal speed of 16.8 rpm.

Two-thirds of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy over fossil fuels

Majority of Americans want U.S. focus to be on alternative energy Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 Approximately 65 percent of Americans prioritize the development of alternative energy sources compared with 27 percent who would put greater emphasis on expanding U.S. fossil fuel production, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. This marks a slight uptick in preference for alternative energy since December 2014. At that time, the Pew Research Center found that 60 percent of Americans stressed developing alternative energy over developing fossil fuel sources. The study demonstrates increased popular support for alternative energy at a time when President Trump is pledging to boost production from fossil fuel energy sources like coal. Trump's incoming administration was quick to post an energy policy summary on the White House website that calls for "reviving America's coal industry, which has been hurting for too long" (Greenwire, Jan. 20). "There's a perception that we're about to make major changes in energy policy," said Cary Funk, associate director of research on science and society at the Pew Research Center. "So I think these data are particularly important in terms of giving a portrait of where the public sits." Continue reading

Our First Open House: A Chance to Meet the Community

We would like to thank everyone who attended the very first Heritage Wind open house last week! The event was standing room only at the Barre Town Hall for much of the time, and we had some great questions and input from attendees. We're looking forward to our next open house, which is set for Saturday, February 11 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at our new office, located at 49 North Main Street in Albion. Thanks also to the Town of Barre, which allowed us to host the open house at the Barre Town Hall, and the Orleans Hub, Batavia Daily News, and Channel 13, all of which covered the event. Here are a few pictures from the Orleans Hub article:  Photos by Tom Rivers of the Orleans Hub Continue reading

Renewable generation capacity expected to account for most 2016 capacity additions

Originally published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration Once final data are in, EIA expects 24 gigawatts (GW) of new generating capacity to be added to the power grid during 2016. For the third consecutive year, more than half of these additions are renewable technologies, especially wind and solar. Of the 2016 renewable additions, nearly 60% were scheduled to come online during the fourth quarter. Renewable capacity additions are often highest in the final months of the year, in part, because of timing qualifications for federal, state, or local tax incentives. Estimated fourth-quarter capacity additions for 2016 are based on planned additions reported to EIA and are subject to change based on actual project schedules. Monthly U.S. renewable electricity generation peaked in March as high precipitation and melting snowpack led to a monthly peak in hydroelectric generation and strong wind resources led to a monthly peak in wind generation. Most renewable generation comes from the Western census division, which accounted for the majority of the hydroelectric (63%) and solar (77%) generation in the United States in 2016. Wind generation was more evenly spread across the country with 37% occurring in the Midwest, 35% in the South, 24% in the West, and the remaining 4% in the Northeast. Continue reading

Cheers to a great 2016 and an even better 2017

By Greg Alvarez American Wind Energy Association As we close the book on 2016, let’s take stock of where wind power stands and reflect on some of the year’s biggest trends. Here’s what really stuck out to us here at AWEA: 1. Wind turbine technician became by far America’s fastest growing job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the occupation will grow by 108 percent over the next decade. That blows past the second fastest growing job, occupational therapy assistant, projected to grow by 42 percent in the same time frame. Overall, wind power supported 88,000 well-paying jobs at the start of 2016 in all 50 states. 21,000 of these are manufacturing jobs at more than 500 factories that build wind turbines and parts for them. 2. States really wanted more wind power. Across the country, a number of state governments strengthened their renewable portfolio standards (RPS). These actions will bring more low-cost, clean wind energy to millions of families and businesses. Oregon started the trend in February, upping it RPS to 50 percent. Rhode Island, New York, Washington, D.C. and Michigan all followed suit over the course of 2016. Massachusetts also passed an important bill that will spur offshore wind development and add other renewables to the state’s energy mix. Here’s a full picture of nationwide RPSs. 3. Fortune 500 companies thirsted for more wind power too. A few notable examples: Google announced renewables will meet 100 percent of its worldwide energy needs in 2017. Wind will supply 95 percent of that electricity. Microsoft made its largest wind purchase ever. GM pledged to move toward 100 percent renewable energy, and bought enough wind power to make 1,100 SUVs a day at its Arlington, Texas factory. Chart courtesy of Bloomberg The rationale for these purchases? They’re good for bottom lines. “(W)ind costs have gone down in the last three or four years to the point where they are the lowest-cost source of power on the grid,” said Rob Threlkeld, GM’s global manager of renewable energy. 4. Americans love wind power. Poll after poll showed strong bipartisan support for wind energy growth. 83 percent of Americans want to see more wind, according to a recent Pew poll, just one data point among many that all confirmed wind’s popularity crosses both geographical and political lines.  5. Wind growth continued, supplying an even greater share of the country’s electricity. There’s now enough wind energy in the U.S. to power 20 million homes, or 75 gigawatts of total installed capacity. Iowa continues to lead the way, where wind now generates 35 percent of the state’s electricity. Oklahoma joined Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota as states creating at least 20 percent of their electricity using wind. Overall, a dozen states stand at 10 percent or more. 6. Offshore wind power came to the U.S.  Deepwater Wind’s Block Island wind farm came online at the end of 2016, ushering in a new era of American power generation. Another 13 offshore projects on both coasts and in the Great Lakes remain in various stages of development. Just this month, an offshore wind development parcel off the coast of Long Island fetched a record-shattering $42 million bid at auction.

Accelerating the Shift to Clean Energy

Heritage Wind and its parent company, Apex Clean Energy, are committed to accelerating the shift to clean energy, here in New York and across the country. Our newest publication, Accelerate: Clean Energy Insight, covers all different aspects of wind farm development, from securing financing to optimizing turbine performance to delivering community benefits. Check out the first volume here.