Keep wind revenue in the state!

December 30th, 2011


Wind in Minnesota is like a Suzlon turbine (above).  If we’re subsidizing Minnesota wind projects, siting without regard for impacts on neighbors and community, putting them up without environmental review and giving them perks for being “locally grown,” and the profits are funneled to T. Boone Pickens in Texas who already has more than enough money, what is the point???  That’s NOT the kind of project we should be promoting.

In the STrib today, one Commentary from elected Representatives and a Senator from the area of a wind project… and one from a “wind industry trade group.”

If you click on the articles, you can go to STrib site and leave comments.

As Alan just said, it’s hard to argue with what these guys said (and believe me, there ARE things we DO argue with them about).  Kudos to our elected officials, very well done:

The bounties of renewable energy need to stay at home

Updated: December 29, 2011 – 8:15 PM

The wind project in Goodhue County featured in the Dec. 19 story continues to spark controversy and outrage among citizens living near the site where 50 giant wind turbines will be placed if Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens has his way.

Instead of contributing to the community, the project is tearing it apart.

But at the same time, it has brought together a unique alliance of landowners, concerned farmers and citizens across the political spectrum.

The 78-megawatt AWA Goodhue Wind project led by Pickens raises questions over the status and intentions of Minnesota’s Community Based Energy (C-BED) program. When Minnesota adopted its C-BED statute in 2005, elected officials had good intentions.

The purpose was to expand renewable energy — while protecting communities from large, remote companies whose goal is to extract resources. The idea was that renewable-energy projects would have local ownership to keep economic benefits within the community.

If a renewable-energy project is granted C-BED status, owners can charge Xcel Energy higher rates to buy energy through a private contract. Xcel passes on those higher costs to ratepayers.

However, the private contract conceals the added costs, since it’s considered “trade secret” information.

Problems arise when out-of-state investors take advantage of the lack of transparency in existing statutes, which permit wind developers and utilities to charge higher rates for locally owned renewable energy.

This is precisely what’s happening in Goodhue County.

Although the Goodhue County project may have initially qualified as a C-BED project, it has dramatically changed since it began in 2008.

Today, it may fail to fulfill the C-BED criteria, and unfortunately, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has turned a blind eye.

C-BED law dictates that no single qualifying owner can own more than 15 percent of a C-BED wind energy project. The Goodhue project began small and locally owned but transformed into a large wind development plan.

Instead of the financial benefits of this renewable-energy project staying in Goodhue County, they’ll likely be sent to a billionaire with a Texas address.

We have requested a Public Utilities Commission investigative hearing into the C-BED eligibility of the Goodhue project. In addition, we encourage our House and Senate colleagues to join us in calling for an examination of C-BED statutes through a legislative hearing.

Our intentions are not to attack wind energy. We aim to ensure public trust in the renewable-energy industry. C-BED must bring value in an accountable and transparent way.

As renewable-energy projects evolve, they must be reevaluated to ensure that they still meet the requirements of a C-BED project.

We have a duty to protect our citizens from out-of-state corporations taking advantage of local resources. Doing so will ensure that the additional dollars paid by Minnesota ratepayers for C-BED energy will remain in our communities.

State and local officials must work together to guarantee that only projects that are truly community-based and community-supported move forward with a C-BED status.

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Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, and Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, are members of the Minnesota House. John Howe, R-Red Wing, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.

And then there’s one from Beth Soholt, wind industry trade group “Wind on the Wires,” spin off of the Izaak Walton League, and holder of one of the jobs created by wind:

What is wind energy worth to Minnesotans?

Article by: BETH SOHOLT
Updated: December 29, 2011 – 8:22 PM

The community benefits are evident, and the subsidies are reasonable.

A recent article by Star Tribune Washington Bureau correspondent Kevin Diaz highlighted the debate in Washington over the renewable-energy Production Tax Credit (“Wind projects prompt fight in Congress over subsidies,” Dec. 19).

Unfortunately, the story paid little attention to the economic and energy benefits that Minnesotans have experienced during the life of this successful program.

Wind farms across Minnesota have been welcomed by many communities. Residents and local governments witness the economic benefits firsthand. Schools and businesses see an increase in revenue.

An expanded tax base allows counties to invest in parks, roads and other community projects.

In Worthington, Nancy Vaske, the general manager of the AmericInn, a landowner in the Nobles Wind Project, emphasized in a statement to Wind on the Wires (an industry trade group) the benefit her community received:

“We had many [project] employees staying at our property the entire time. All the other motels were very busy as well. All of the workers used our local restaurants, and shopped at all our stores,” she said. Worthington and surrounding communities have seen a boom in recent years due to the wind industry.

As for the energy produced, Vaske continued: “The claim that none of the wind towers will benefit the local people is not true. We will all benefit because this is helping all of us not depend on other counties for our energy needs. When I see my tower turning I think not of personal gain but of the energy we are not depending on someone else for.”

Minnesota has been a leader in wind energy development since the early 1990s.

This leadership has yielded a commitment from wind developers, manufacturers and construction companies to locate and expand their businesses in and around the state. Mortenson Construction, a Minnesota-based company, is a national leader in wind farm construction.

At a time when the state is doing all it can to attract good-paying jobs, would you have these companies take their business elsewhere?

On the matter of subsidies, readers should know that the results-based Production Tax Credit is only a fraction of the subsidy that other forms of energy production have been receiving for decades.

Businesses need a certain level of certainty in order to grow and hire. The federal government has provided such certainty to oil and gas companies for decades with permanent subsidies through the tax code. We’d like to level the playing field.

A recent study, “What Would Jefferson Do?” by DBL Investors, states that the current incentives for renewable energy “do not constitute an over-subsidized outlier when compared to the historical norm for emerging sources of energy. For example … the federal commitment to [oil and gas] was five times greater than the federal commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of each [incentive’s] life, and it was more than 10 times greater for nuclear.”

Over the last decade, the wind industry has added thousands of jobs. With an extension of the tax credit, it is poised to create or save 54,000 jobs in the next four years.

Furthermore, a new study by Navigant Consulting finds that if Congress allows the tax credit to expire, major job losses will be immediate.

This not only threatens nearly 100,000 jobs the wind industry will otherwise have in the near term, but also the 500,000 jobs the Bush administration found would result if wind produced 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030, which the industry is on track to achieve.

The Navigant study also concludes that the tax credit extension would cost about $13.6 billion but would result in approximately $25.6 billion in investment and tax revenue.

The bottom line is that wind energy in Minnesota is sound business and smart policy. It’s good for consumers.

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Beth Soholt is executive director of Wind on the Wires.