Tuesday, January 28, 2014

First Wind Marks Five Years of Commercial Operations at Cohocton Wind


What do you expect from the mainstream press!
 — First Wind, an independent U.S.-based renewable energy company, today recognized the fifth anniversary of successful commercial operations at its 125 megawatt (MW) Cohocton Wind project in Steuben County, New York. Construction of the 50 turbine project began in the fall of 2007, and Cohocton Wind began commercial operations in January of 2009. The project produces enough clean, cost-competitive energy to power over 35,000 homes each year.
“As our largest operating wind project in the Northeast, and our second project to achieve commercial operations in New York, Cohocton Wind has been an integral part of our generation portfolio and we are very proud to recognize this milestone today,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. “In the five years since the project went online, as well as in the development and construction periods, we are thrilled to see how this project has not only delivered renewable, cost-competitive energy to ratepayers, but has also served as a significant source to further local economic development for the Town of Cohocton and surrounding Steuben County communities while supporting New York’s ambitious clean energy goals.”
Since 2009, the Cohocton Wind project has provided significant local revenue and benefits by generating more than 200 jobs during construction, providing for 10 permanent operational positions, and helping to stimulate the local business economy. Cohocton Wind also provides substantial tax revenue for the Town of Cohocton, generating a total of at least $14 million in tax payments over a period of 20 years, with almost $4 million paid in the first five years. It also serves as a source of tax revenue for local schools, Town of Cohocton Special Districts, and Steuben County government, thereby reducing pressure on property taxes while helping to improve schools and strengthen local services.
To date, the town of Cohocton has been able to reduce property taxes by 60 percent, purchase all new highway equipment, pay off all debts, improve the local community park, start a new paid ambulance service, rebuild aging infrastructure, and generally improve services. Below is a summary of some of the notable milestones achieved during the five years of successful commercial operations of the Cohocton Wind project.
Project Benefits and Highlights
  • The renewable power generated has been supplying clean, renewable electricity to approximately 35,000 New York homes annually since the project went online.
  • The Cohocton Wind project provides significant local revenue, including over $14 million in tax payments to the Town of Cohocton over the course of 20 years. The property tax revenues fund county infrastructure, conservation, and economic development projects.
  • In addition to the payments to the Town, First Wind also makes annual lease payments to landowners.
  • Based on data recently published by the U.S. EPA’s Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database (E-GRID), generating an equivalent amount of electric energy from a traditional fossil fuel burning facility would have required about 2,213,000 barrels of oil or 637,400 tons of coal over the five year period, yet has none of the associated toxicity, health, or cost issues.
  • As an active member of the Cohocton community, First Wind has donated over $50,000 to local food pantries, the Cohocton Lego Robotics Club, the Cohocton Lions Club, the Cohocton Fire Department, the Cohocton Historical Society, the Sons of the American Legion Post 805, multiple Wayland Cohocton Central School programs, and others.
  • First Wind provided $150,000 toward the revitalization of The Larrowe House, which is a local historic landmark.
  • Each year First Wind has provided a $3,000 scholarship to a graduating senior from Wayland Cohocton Central School.
In addition to the 125 MW Cohocton Wind project, First Wind also operates the combined 35 MW Steel Winds I and II projects in Lackawanna and Hamburg Counties, New York, along the shores of Lake Erie.

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2014/01/28/5620563/first-wind-marks-five-years-of.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Let the wind subsidy blow away

In the early 1990s, with dreams of cheap and clean wind energy ascendant, Congress lavished a generous subsidy on power from the tall, twirling turbines. The wind industry responded, and since then has increased its installed generating capacity 30-fold.

For 20-plus years the subsidy has been intermittent, although not as unreliable as the winds that drive the turbines. The most recent authorization, a 2013 extension tucked into the federal budget deal that avoided the so-called fiscal cliff, expired Dec. 31. Applause, please, for our do-little Congress: What's known as the wind production tax credit has long outlived any public policy usefulness. Lawmakers now being urged by industry lobbyists to renew the subsidy retroactively instead should let it blow away.

We say this with no animus toward the bucolic concept of wind energy, whose clean-and-green image is to electrical generation what puppies and kittens are to the animal kingdom. Our concern is the reality of subsidized wind energy at a time when natural gas is more plentiful, and cheaper, than Washington could envision in the 1990s. Today wind generation is a comparatively expensive proposition that, whenever its tax subsidy temporarily has vanished, has seen the new construction of wind farms all but vanish too. These welfare payments to the industry have incentivized private investors to sink money into wind projects that, without the federal freebie, they're eager (and probably smart) to avoid.

Like its cousins, the ethanol and solar industries, the wind lobby basks in political correctness and political favoritism: Big Wind, too, has grown comfortable in its dependence on federal and state governments that decide which energy industries will be winners or losers — discrimination enforced by squeezing taxpayers or rigging regulations.

News about eagles killed by turbines is an issue separate from government coddling, but one now emerging as a public relations debacle. In late November, Duke Energy agreed to pay $1 million in fines in the first criminal case brought against a wind company over the killings of federally protected birds, 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds slain at two wind projects in Wyoming. Robert G. Dreher, an acting assistant U.S. attorney general, explained the violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act: "In this plea agreement, Duke Energy Renewables acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths."

Duke said it is working with federal officials and field biologists to determine when it should shut down its turbines to limit bird deaths. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is investigating similar cases elsewhere — and has referred seven of them to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution.

Motor vehicle drivers, illegal hunters and deaths by poisoning kill more eagles than turbines do. But growing publicity about wind farms chewing up eagles undercuts the industry's promotion of itself as environmentally friendly. The National Audubon Society and other conservation groups are especially exercised about a new federal rule, announced in December, that lets wind farms obtain 30-year permits to lawfully kill bald and golden eagles. Many Americans who only have heard about neighbors of wind farms criticizing the turbines' thrumming noises will have a far easier time relating to criminal cases based on huge blades pulverizing wildlife.

All of which pins the Obama administration between its dueling political loyalists: environmentalists learning about the 30-year eagle kill permits, and fans of renewable energy sources that don't spew carbon dioxide.

Wind energy's peculiar problem is that, because wind blows erratically, companies that rely on it also need backup generating capacity — typically fossil-fueled — for days when customers want electricity but the air is still.

The obvious solution here is for Congress and the White House to stop manipulating the tax code as America's de facto energy policy: Thorough federal tax reform should sunset this arbitrary favoritism for wind energy and other politically favored industries.

Late in 2013, Big Wind fought fiercely to renew its expiring subsidy but failed. We hope that means many members of Congress see this as a mature industry that long ago outgrew its infancy and understand that the nation's new wealth of lower-cost natural gas has profoundly rewritten U.S. energy economics.

The wind lobbyists will be back in 2014, pleading for more handouts from American taxpayers. Tell your members of Congress that a government $17 trillion in debt — and still borrowing heavily — can't afford to keep protecting this industry from cheaper competition.