US Chamber: NY Wind Projects Delayed

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, its new Project No Project report

assesses the broad range of energy projects that are being stalled, stopped, or outright killed nationwide due to “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) activism, a broken permitting process and a system that allows limitless challenges by opponents of development.

The study is nationwide in scope and discusses energy projects generally. New York wind projects which, per U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are unnecessarily stalled are:

  • Adirondack Wind Energy Park, Gore Mountain
  • Alabama Ledge Wind Farm
  • Cape Wyckoff Wind Project
  • Allegany Wind Farm Project
  • Hardscrabble Wind Farm
  • Horse Creek Wind Farm
  • Jericho Rise Wind Farm
  • Jones Beach Wind Farm
  • Jordanville Wind Farm
  • Marble River Wind Farm
  • Prattsburgh Wind Farm

What is needed, according to the Chamber, is

a careful consideration of how all these permitting obstacles and uncertainties and time delays can be addressed so as to speed up the processing, consideration, approval decisions, and development of many of the job creatingprojects whose progress has so far been denied.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, Project No Project — Progress Denied: The Potential Economic Impact of Permitting Challenges Facing Proposed Energy Projects

Albany Times Union article

Testimony on Wind Power: Opportunities and Impediments


Testimony on Wind Power: Opportunities and Impediments
New York City Council Oversight Hearings
Committees on Environmental Protection & Technology

Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.
Executive Director, The Sallan Foundation

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Here are three opportunities a smart grid offers for wind power. First, since the power of wind is stochastic, the power-source switching capacity of a smart grid would improve reliability and service by integrating electric power from multiple sources. Second, development and deployment of electric power storage batteries would permit the seamless integration of wind into the power grid and facilitate demand management. Third, IBM is analyzing its smart grid pilot project in Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula to gain insights into customer behavior when confronted with new rate structures that vary with time of day and system wide power demand. This analysis should prove useful for making wind power consumer friendly and making regulators better informed.


New York state wind power updates

From wind news and web sources:

New York State Gov. Paterson announced the passage of a three-way bill negotiated with the Legislature to improve net metering, which encourages the development of renewable energy systems. Net metering allows electricity customers with qualified renewable energy systems to sell excess electricity back to their local utility.

Per the Governor:

This legislation is the product of a “Net Metering Summit” that was convened by Governor Paterson last fall to facilitate an agreement between renewable energy installers and the State’s major utilities. The bill eliminates the peak load limitation on the size of non-residential solar and wind systems that are eligible to participate in the net metering program. Non-residential solar and wind systems will now be allowed up to 25 kilowatts with the interconnection charges capped at $350 and $750 for solar and wind, respectively. For systems above 25 kilowatts, up to the overall cap of 2,000 kilowatts, the customer would be responsible for the actual interconnection charges. (Office of the Governor, 2/23) (Link to NYS Assembly)

DOE releases updated New York Wind Map and Resource Potential.

Per Wind Powering America:

The Department of Energy’s Wind Program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (in collaboration with Albany-based AWS Truewind) published a new wind resource map for the state of New York. The new wind resource map shows the predicted mean annual wind speeds at 80-m height. Presented at a spatial resolution of 2.5 km (interpolated to a finer scale for display). Areas with annual average wind speeds around 6.5 m/s and greater at 80-m height are generally considered to have suitable wind resource for wind development.

Additionally, a national dataset was produced of estimated gross capacity factor (not adjusted for losses) at a spatial resolution of 200 m and heights of 80 m and 100 m. Using AWS Truewind’s gross capacity factor data, NREL estimated the windy land area and wind energy potential in various capacity factor ranges for each state. The table (Excel 75 KW) lists the estimates of windy land area with a gross capacity of 30% and greater at 80-m height and the wind energy potential from development of the “available” windy land area after exclusions.  (Wind  Powering America, 2/19)

Jefferson County legislature reportedly opposes NYPA Lake Ontario wind proposal. (News 10 Now, 2/17)

Summary of Sullivan County Community College $2M legal dispute with wind developer. (Times Herald Record online, 2/20)

Summary of Citizen Power Alliance 2/16/2010 (anti-large scale) wind conference (CPA, 2/16)

ABA Journal’s “The War of Winds” regarding on-land wind siting challenges. Includes considerable information about industrial wind projects in New York State. Disclosure: This Wind Power Law blogger was an interviewee. (American Bar Association Journal, February 2010)

NYS and related wind power updates

FirstWind abandons plans for Prattsburgh 50-turbine project. (Stueben Courier, 1/24)

Just Energy, an energy retailer, will be purchasing power from FirstWind’s Steel Winds I wind energy project, in Lackawanna, New York. Under a five-year power purchase agreement, Just Energy will buy all of the electrical output and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from First Wind’s Steel Winds I wind energy project. (CleanTech, 1/27)

Mitsubishi “has pulled off a come-from-behind victory in a wind turbine patent case against [Schenectady’s] General Electric (GE) in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).”  (Green Patent Blog, 1/27)

Michigan Public Service Commission issues Report on the Impact of Setback Requirements and Noise Limitations in Wind Zones in Michigan on January 27, 2010. This report was submitted to the Legislature in accordance with 2008 PA 295, Michigan’s Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act. The Commission

recommends that decisions regarding appropriate setback distances and noise levels should remain under the province of local planning and zoning authorities at this time. However, there is a clear need for the dissemination of current scientific information on this issue to decision-makers. (p.2)

Kansas commercial wind zoning ban and more

Commercial wind zoning ban in Kansas

In what may be a first in the nation, the Kansas Supreme Court approved a county’s outright zoning ban of industrial wind turbines, defined as those over 120 feet or 100kw or “more than one Wind Energy Conversion System of any size proposed and/or constructed by the same person or group of persons on the same or adjoining parcels or as a unified or single generating system”. Owners of land and of wind rights had challenged county zoning decisions banning such facilities.

On the appeal of a lower court case won by the county, the court unanimously upheld as reasonable under state statute Wabaunsee County’s decision to ban such turbines. The county is home to the Flint Hills and some of the last remaining tall grass prairie -and its denizen, the prairie chicken- in the country.

The court agreed that the Board of County Commissioner’s “findings could reasonably have been found to justify its decision: that the commercial wind farms would adversely, if not dramatically, affect the aesthetics of the county and for that reason should be prohibited.” It also opined that relevant factors included commercial wind farm noncompliance with the county’s comprehensive plan and that a ban was in keeping with the wishes of residents.

The court noted that reasonableness of action by the Board was presumed; overcoming the presumption appears to require what in New York state would be the presentation of sufficient factors demonstrating an arbitrary and capricious action. Another factor viewed favorably the court was that the zoning allowed smaller turbines; the county’s was not an outright ban of all wind facilities.

The court  has ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs on federal issues: “whether the [lower] district court erred in dismissing the claims alleging that the Board’s decision amending the zoning regulations violated the Takings Clause and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.” Per the court, briefs on those issues are due December 11 and a second round of oral arguments has been scheduled for January 27, 2010.

The case is Zimmerman et al. v. Wabaunsee County (Appeal No. 98,847, 10/30/2009)

Wind Education

KidWind and Pandion announce “WindWise Education” program for grades 6-12. “Pandion and KidWind launched WindWise Education at the annual conference of the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS) on November 2, 2009. WindWise Education is a comprehensive curriculum for grades 6 to 12 that explores the dynamic field of wind through hands on physics, engineering, biology, math, and earth science activities.” I’ve met the KidWind folks; they are a dedicated group.  (Pandion, 11/2009)

Berkeley Lab releases “Wind Technologies Market Report”

New Study Sheds Light on the Growing U.S. Wind Power Market

Berkeley, California – For the fourth consecutive year, the U.S. was home to the fastest-growing wind power market in the world in 2008, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Specifically, U.S. wind power capacity additions increased by 60 percent in 2008, representing a $16 billion investment in new wind projects. “At this pace, wind is on a path to becoming a significant contributor to the U.S. power mix,” notes report author Ryan Wiser, of Berkeley Lab. Wind projects accounted for 42% of all new electric generating capacity added in the U.S. in 2008, and wind now delivers nearly 2% of the nation’s electricity supply.

The 2008 edition of the “Wind Technologies Market Report” provides a comprehensive overview of developments in the rapidly evolving U.S. wind power market. The need for such a report has become apparent in the past few years, as the wind power industry has entered an era of unprecedented growth, both globally and in the United States. At the same time, the last year has been one of upheaval, with the global financial crisis impacting near-term growth prospects for the wind industry, and with federal policy changes enacted to push the industry towards continued aggressive expansion. “With the market evolving at such a rapid pace, keeping up with trends in the marketplace has become increasingly difficult,” notes report co-author Mark Bolinger. “Yet, the need for timely, objective information on the industry and its progress has never been greater…this report seeks to fill this need.”

Drawing from a variety of sources, this report analyzes trends in wind power capacity growth, turbine size, turbine prices, installed project costs, project performance, wind power prices, and how wind prices compare to the price of conventional generation. It also describes developer consolidation trends, current ownership and financing structures, and trends among major wind power purchasers. Finally, the report examines other factors impacting the domestic wind power market, including grid integration, transmission issues, and policy drivers. The report concludes with a preview of possible near- to medium-term market developments….

2008 Wind Technologies Market Report

PowerPoint presentation summarizing key findings

Department of Energy’s press release

Guest article: Ontario, Canada set to become a wind power-house

What follows is a guest post from Toronto-based attorney Sven Hombach of the National Renewable Energy Group of the Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP law firm regarding the groundbreaking renewable energy legislation promulgated earlier this year in the province of Ontario, Canada, New York state’s “neighbor to the north”. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of Clifford Rohde. If you would like to submit a guest article of potential interest to followers of wind power developments in New York State, please contact Clifford Rohde.

Ontario set to become a wind power-house

What do you get when an Ontario politician visits several European countries on a quixotic journey for wind farms? You get a surprisingly ambitious piece of legislation designed to bring the Province to the forefront of renewable energy in North America.

Following the European tour of Ontario Minister of Energy George Smitherman, the Province of Ontario introduced “Bill 150 – the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009” this past February in the wake of a commitment to phase out coal-fired power generation in the Province by 2014. Less than three months later, Bill 150 has been reviewed, revised, and passed into law. While the detailed technical regulations are still being developed, the framework is already in place and heralds a new era of wind power incentives.

The Feed-In Tariff – Take it to the Bank

The heart and soul of Bill 150 is the creation of a European-style feed-in tariff by which the Ontario Power Authority enters into 20-year Power Purchase Agreements (“PPAs”) for certain prices per kWh. For wind power, the proposed prices are:

  • On-Shore Wind Power: 13.5 cents/kWh
  • Off-Shore Wind Power: 19 cents/kWh
  • Community-based or aboriginal wind projects up to 10 MW: 14.4 cents/kWh

The biggest implication of the feed-in tariff program is that project proponents will be able to provide lenders with a firm commitment by an entity at arm’s length with government to purchase power for virtually the entire life span of a project. In the current risk-adverse lending environment, a signed PPA can be expected to make financing much easier than it has been in the past.

Wind Power Siting – Reducing NIMBY

Anti-wind power interest groups and municipalities in Ontario have traditionally been able to use the municipal zoning process to their advantage to block certain projects. With the specific intention of reducing NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”), Bill 150 empowers the Province to invalidate municipal zoning bylaws designed to prevent otherwise meritorious renewable energy projects. This provision has received substantial criticism for disenfranchising local opposition and the conflict this creates. In order to alleviate such concerns, the final version of Bill 150 contains an added clause requiring the provisions of the statute to be applied “in a spirit that promotes community consultation”.

The environmental appeals process has also frequently been used by third party wind power opponents attempting to prevent or delay projects. In order to continue to allow legitimate appeals but curb frivolous ones, the jurisdiction of the provincial Environmental Review Tribunal has been limited to instances where an approval “will cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life, human health or safety of the natural environment,” as opposed to the current more lenient appeal clause.

Grid Access – Power to the People

The connection of generating facilities to the electrical grid has always been a bottleneck requiring developers to wait in line. While projects were provided with a queue position, this position by no means guaranteed timely connection. While Bill 150 does not address the core problem of the matter —namely limited resources to construct new infrastructure— it provides renewable energy projects with a competitive advantage over traditional sources of energy. Bill 150 specifies that renewable energy projects receive priority access to the grid, thus allowing them to jump the queue. However, there will not be any relative priority between renewable energy projects themselves.

What’s Next?

All of the various ministries and agencies tasked with implementing Bill 150 are working on developing the required technical regulations, which are expected to be released in draft during the second half of 2009. Project proponents and opponents, lenders, and lawyers alike are eagerly awaiting the release of the proposed “nuts & bolts”, as there will be an opportunity for public consultation. One thing, however, is clear: if coal, which currently accounts for 15 percent of all electricity generated in Ontario, is to be phased out by 2014 as planned, there will be tremendous opportunities for wind power to fill the void.