One hundred years ago, the poet W.B. Yeats wrote a poem called the Second Coming where he says, “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” Some scholars think this line meant that the forces that should bring order are failing to do so. We have a sense of déjà vu with epic wind battles taking place everywhere we look as the wind lobby marches on to demolish local governments. In Ohio, we wait for the legislature to introduce a bill to give local communities the right of referendum. In Iowa, where Madison County will soon be deciding whether to place a moratorium on industrial wind, Governor, Kim Reynolds says “This is a local decision, so that’s exactly what they should be doing,” Reynolds said permits for wind turbine towers are issued by local, not state officials. “This is something that local governments will be deciding,” Reynolds said. “They’re the ones that grant them and can make the decision not to.” Will the “center hold”?
And yet, in Indiana where local governments have enjoyed the right to determine their own future, a new state energy policy task force is meeting to develop a statewide energy plan. Topics will include impacts on the state if it transitions away from coal and how local ordinances are affecting the siting of wind farms in Indiana. Expect an enormous battle if the state tries to take away local control and force wind projects down the throats of its citizens. On August 20, nine companies—Berry Global, Best Buy, Cummins, Eli Lilly, General Motors, Salesforce, Skjodt-Barrett, Unilever, and Walmart—sent a letter to Governor Holcomb and members of Indiana’s Twenty-First Century Energy Policy Development Task Force, supporting greater access to renewable energy in the Hoosier state. The companies ask the Task Force to examine existing barriers to renewable energy deployment, and support efforts to lower costs and increase reliability and resilience for all customers.
Struggles like this are being exacerbated by corporations who want to virtue signal and boast that they are powered by renewables. According to a new report from Wood Mackenzie and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), we’re at the beginning stage of a corporate renewables procurement boom, driven not just by goals around mitigating climate change but also by highly competitive renewable project economics. In the report, Analysis of Commercial and Industrial Wind Energy Demand in the United States, Wood Mackenzie estimates that up to 85 gigawatts of renewable energy demand exists within the largest U.S. companies through 2030. According to the report, corporate leaders such as AT&T, General Motors and Facebook contracted more than six gigawatts of power purchase agreements (PPAs) in 2018 alone, representing a new record. The report’s Executive Summary is attached.
Against the foregoing, Robert Bryce writes a timely piece called “Big Wind’s Big Headwinds”. Worldwide, people are taking note of wind’s impacts on wildlife and habitat. Even Germany, regarded as the most aggressive wind champion, is concerned. “Die Welt reports that the main cause of the slowdown is “the legal resistance of wildlife and forest conservationists fighting new wind farms.” More than 70 percent of the legal objections are based “on species conservation, especially the threat to endangered bird and bat species.” In addition, some 17 percent of the legal objections to new wind projects are due to concerns about the noise generated by the turbines. In all, some 11,000 megawatts of new wind energy capacity in Germany is being held up due to fights over permits.”
In this context, all eyes are on the Lake Erie Icebreaker project as it is now understood that “First, the science provided by the applicant, which quantifies birds in flight near the proposed site of the turbines, is imperfect and understates the risk. Second, the technology and methods for detecting, identifying, and quantifying bird and bat fatalities resulting from collisions with offshore turbines are in their infancy for pre-construction and currently non-existent for post-construction monitoring. These efforts are inadequate to gather this critically important data.” This application should be rejected!
Several articles cover the ongoing Iowa debate over health effects. One point repeatedly made is that there are no studies which prove turbines do not have adverse health impacts. Ironically, the Ohio Environmental Council and its allies at Ohio Policy Matters are pushing the need for more wind and solar to combat climate change for the sake of the children. They have issued a report which is attached. We glimpsed a bit of this attack during the HB 6 hearings from legislators opposed to the local referendum. They tied the health of children to their opposition to local control. Presumably, these folks would also support shortened setbacks which would foist health impacts on rural children in the name of resolving health concerns for urban children. Even more ridiculous is the notion that wind and solar can combat climate change.