Thursday, June 24, 2010

Township adds wind energy turbines to zoning code

By Jeff Gorman
Akron Ohio News

The Richfield Township Board of Trustees voted June 17 to add a section to the zoning code for wind energy systems.

This will set up the framework for township residents to create their energy through wind turbines, but don’t expect windmills to start popping up all over the township.

“For the average homeowner, it’s not conducive to build one,” said Andrew Laudato, president of Wind Tech Solutions, a company that works with individuals and companies to install wind energy systems.

Laudato attended a public hearing before the trustees voted on the zoning addition.

Still, Richfield Township Zoning Inspector Laurie Pinney said it was a good idea to enact the wind energy regulations.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” she said. “We’ve had a number of inquiries. The reason we started talking about this is because the state government took away our control over wind turbines that generate over 5 megawatts (5 million watts).

A 5-megawatt turbine is quite large, considering the one at the Great Lakes Science Center only creates 225 kilowatts, according to the center’s website. Other Northern Ohio wind turbines include one at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea (60 feet tall) and one at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center in Peninsula (40 feet tall).

Laudato said an ideal wind turbine regularly sees winds of at least 13 mph and is 80 feet tall.

“The higher, the better,” he said. “Under those circumstances, you can get a return on your investment in less than four years.”

Laudato said federal and state grants are available through 2016 for the construction of wind energy turbines. He said those grants can sometimes cover up to 95 of the tower’s costs.

“I think the pros outweigh the negatives,” said Trustee David Wyatt. “There is the possibility of interference with TV and radar signals.”

Laudato said the federal government has a goal of using wind energy as part of its plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent by 2025.

Pinney said in the future, a wind turbine could be used to power a subdivision of six to eight homes.

“Sometimes people see in the paper that the state legislature passed a tax exemption for wind energy systems, but those are for over 5 megawatts, so it’s easy to misinterpret,” she said.

After the trustees approved the zoning amendments, Trustee Chairwoman Laurie Peters Gilmore thanked Pinney and the Zoning Commission for their work.

Also during the meeting:
• The trustees approved a modified version of the one-year contract for police services with Richfield Village. The cost is $499,653.

Richfield Village Council approved the contract two days earlier. The trustees and attorney John Slagter made some changes, including new language to specify what would happen if there were no new deal after this contract expires. Village Council would have to ratify the changes before the new contract could go into effect.

The trustees also voted 2-1 to pay the village for police services for the first half of 2010. Gilmore, who voted “no,” said she did not want to make the payment in the absence of a finalized contract.

• The trustees also voted to spend $200 to send Pinney to Columbus for training on new accounting and payroll software.

• Wyatt said the organizers of the Sweet Corn Ride, which will take place July 25, will be able to use Rising Valley Park.

“We will have water and the gate will be open,” he said. “The park is in outstanding condition and it’s waiting for more users.”

• Township Administrator Linda Bowmer said the resurfacing of Whitethorn Circle is finished, with landscaping next on the schedule for completion.

• After an executive session with Slagter, the trustees voted to authorize him to take legal action against a resident who is allegedly violating the zoning code by running a business out of his home.

The next Richfield trustees’ meeting is scheduled for July 1 at 1:30 p.m. at the township offices, located behind the fire station on West Streetsboro Road.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

99MW wind farm dedicated in South Dakota

South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds joined local community leaders and energy industry organizations to dedicate a new 66-turbine wind farm near Groton yesterday.

The Day County Wind Energy Center has been developed by NextEra Energy Resources, the largest renewable energy producer in North America.

Built in five months and operational since April, the 99-megawatt facility is generating power for the Western Area Power Administration for the next three years, after which power will be provided to the Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

The windfarm is expected to produce enough power to supply 25,000 homes with renewable electricity.

Commenting on the “impressive” project, Governor Rounds said: “South Dakota has an abundance of wind, and we hope it will continue to be harnessed far and wide in the future to make clean energy, boost local economies, provide good jobs, and add to the already excellent quality of life enjoyed by South Dakota citizens.”

Wind-energy developers win break

Wind developers won a victory Tuesday when the operators of the Midwest's largest regional electrical grid abandoned a proposal to make them pay up to 20 percent of the cost of new high-voltage transmission projects to deliver renewable energy.

The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator on Tuesday unveiled to a large group of utilities, developers, energy generators and transmission line owners its latest proposal to share the costs of expensive high-voltage lines that renewable energy advocates hope will be built to deliver wind-generated energy from the windy Plains to the eastern United States.

An initial proposal called on energy generators in the system's 13-state territory and Manitoba to shoulder up to 20 percent of the cost of such projects, with 80 percent paid by all utilities buying the power in the territory. The territory stretches from Ohio to the Dakotas and includes Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

The 20 percent share would have been carried by all energy generators in the transmission system, whether they used wind, coal or natural gas to produce their power.

But wind developers complained the share would have made their projects uneconomical compared with projects outside of the Midwest system. Wind farm developers said they would give up working in states like Minnesota, the Dakotas and Iowa and move projects to states like Kansas with more favorable cost-sharing plans.

After hearing complaints from the generators, system officials hinted last week that they might steeply reduce the generators' share.

They did just that, cutting the generators' cost share to zero by spreading out the cost across all the utilities that pull power off the grid.

The earlier proposal was a way to target the charges for large transmission projects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to generators that benefit from the system, said Jennifer Curran, executive director of transmission infrastructure strategy for the transmission system operator.

But the 20 percent charge would have put the system at a pricing disadvantage to neighboring grids that don't impose such a charge on their generators, according to Curran. That kind of inequity at the borders where power moves back and forth outweighed the benefit of charging the generators, she said.

The proposal announced Tuesday better aligns the Midwest system with other regional grids, agreed Beth Soholt, executive director of St. Paul-based Wind on the Wires, a regional wind industry association for Minnesota.

Wind developers still will have to pay 90 percent of the cost for smaller transmission lines needed to connect to the major lines, which has been true for years, she said.

Now the wind industry wants to see what specific projects qualify for the new cost-sharing arrangement. In particular, the industry is anxious to see if a $700 million to $725 million line proposed from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton — called the Brooking Line — qualifies.  That process may take up to a year.

In the meantime, system officials expects to submit the new cost-sharing proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 15 for approval. It could then take up to a year to approve the new rates.

Leslie Brooks Suzukamo can be reached at 651-228-5475.

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Industry says Wyoming wind taxes tops in Rockies

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Wyoming taxes on the wind energy industry would be the highest among Rocky Mountains states if all of Wyoming's pending taxes take effect, according to a new analysis by an industry group.

The Wyoming Power Producers Coalition is releasing its study in advance of wind tax discussions scheduled for next week by the Wyoming Legislature's Joint Revenue Interim Committee.
"Wyoming has a big policy discussion that needs to take place," said David Picard, a lobbyist for the coalition. "What amount of wind energy development do they want? Because clearly our analysis shows that Wyoming is much less competitive with our surrounding states."

The wind industry lost tax battles in the past two Wyoming legislative sessions. In 2009, lawmakers allowed a sales tax exemption for renewable energy projects to expire at the end of 2011. This year, lawmakers passed a $1 per megawatt hour wind energy generation tax that takes effect in 2012.

The industry calculations accounted for Wyoming's pending sales and generation taxes.

Post a CommentThe report says a 66-turbine wind farm producing 99 megawatts and costing $247.5 million to build would pay about $37.6 million in taxes in Wyoming over 20 years. The same wind farm would pay $8.4 million in taxes in Colorado, the state with the lowest tax burden for wind, according to the study.

The upfront sales tax burden is the most troublesome for wind developers, Picard said. The model project would pay about $11.8 million at a sales tax rate of 6 percent. Picard said developers must account for sales tax as part of their project financing, rather than pay it with operating revenues over time.

"It's that significant, steep initial investment that can make and break some of these projects," he said. The comparison did not include state corporate income tax, which Wyoming doesn't impose, because of the difficulty of accounting for different corporation's expenses and tax postures, coalition officials said.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal supported the sunset of the sales tax exemption and the imposition of a wind energy generation tax. The efficiency and strength of Wyoming's wind resource would make up for most tax consequences, said Ryan Lance, Freudenthal's deputy chief of staff.

The construction of electric transmission lines to export Wyoming wind power and the cost of delivering it to markets in California are much bigger obstructions to the industry in Wyoming, Lance said.

"There's still a significant gap - even with the tax being wholly dismissed from the equation - in terms of what we can sell it for into California and what they're willing to buy it for," Lance said.

During this year's legislative session, the Power Producers Coalition used the transmission argument when urging lawmakers to reject a wind generation tax and take more time to study the state's overall tax structure for wind. The transmission bottleneck and ongoing environmental regulatory issues related to sage grouse mean Wyoming has plenty of time to sort out its tax structure, developers argued.

Rep. Rodney "Pete" Anderson, chairman of the House Revenue Committee, said he found the industry study to be revealing, particularly the impact of sales taxes. The Pine Bluffs Republican said he views the Legislature's action earlier this year to be just the starting point for hashing out Wyoming's wind tax policy.

"We're going to take testimony from all interested parties," Anderson said. "We want to get that testimony and then we'll go from there. You know when you get that many legislators together it's hard to tell where it will go."

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