Granville is facing a truly momentous decision. The industrial wind turbine projects proposed for Granville represent the greatest potential long-term change this town might witness since its founding. Proponents of industrial wind turbine projects allege that wind power is safe, free, quiet, and green, and would be unobtrusive to Granville. We need to thoroughly study the situation to determine if these claims are true and applicable to Granville. The Committee for Responsible Energy Decisions (CRED), a non-profit group of concerned Granville citizens with no financial interests in these projects whatsoever, has completed such a study, the results of which are summarized by 18 key items, listed as follows:
(1) Granville’s capacity for industrial wind turbines;
(2) Property value decreases;
(3) Tax implications which may offset any gain from taxes on turbines;
(4) Consequences of Proposition 2 ½;
(5) Liability issues (for Town, Town officials, land owners);
(6) Health issues (potential for serous illnesses within a 2-3 mile radius from any one turbine);
(7) Safety issues (potential for catastrophic accidents);
(8) Visual impacts;
(9) Effect on U.S. oil consumption;
(10) Impact on “green” goals;
(11) Impact on electricity costs;
(12) Employment benefits;
(13) Wildlife issues;
(14) National Register Historic District considerations;
(15) Taxpayer-funded economic incentives to the industrial wind turbine developers and owners
(16) Abandonment of turbines on site;
(17) European experience; and
(18) Granville is being targeted for development
Background: Current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) laws and tax credits have created a demand to establish a substantial portion of our state’s electricity from renewable generating sources such as wind and solar. Previously, commercial scale industrial wind turbine farms were not pursued because they substantially increase electricity generation costs to ratepayers, making wind commercially non-competitive. With state- and federally-sponsored subsidies, economic viability has been artificially stimulated. Additionally, the state government has required utilities to obtain a portion of their electricity from wind (and other renewables). Wind power developers are aggressively pursuing, and competing for, wind farm sites to get electricity purchase agreements in place for sale to utilities which must meet the state’s legislated required quota of 15% by year 2015, with an additional 1% for every year thereafter, (Reference 35).
(1) Citizens Energy is proposing a wind development project in Granville. One Citizens Energy map shows 25 industrial wind turbines, (Reference 37).
It appears that a majority of these wind turbines will be placed on property owned by other municipalities. Taking into account that there are additional areas in Granville that could be suitable wind farm sites, and by overlaying the referenced Citizens Energy map across the rest of Granville, it appears that there is sufficient space available in Granville for a total of more than 50 industrial wind turbines if a second or third phase of the project, or a different project, is pursued. (Note: Citizens Energy has produced at least three different maps; the referenced map is one of these.)
(2) Installation of industrial wind turbines may cause a substantial decrease in property values.
Based on documented experience in other Eastern U.S. towns, and by estimating an approximate average of those published data, (References 1, 2, 3), it is judged herein that Granville can expect an AVERAGE decrease in property values of 30%, assuming full town coverage at the same density proposed by Citizens Energy, Item (1). Results of another study break it down more precisely, (Reference 32):
|Proximity to Wind Turbines||Reduction in Property Values*|
|within 0.2 miles||- 37%|
|within 0.2 – 0.4 miles||- 26%|
|within 1.8 miles||- 25%|
* An additional – 15% to – 25% reduction in property value will occur due to wind turbine infrastructure, high power transmission lines, substations, service traffic and additional roads.
For those properties which cannot be sold there is an effective decrease in property value of 100%.
(3) The introduction of industrial wind turbines into Granville could have major tax implications:
- Using the 30% reduction in property value figure total real property assessed values of Granville, (Reference 4), could be reduced by up to $53,890,613.00.
- This decrease in tax base could outweigh any benefit to the Town of taxes levied on industrial wind turbines, or alternatively, of a PILOT agreement.
- Resultant property taxes could then be redistributed FROM OWNERS of industrial wind turbine sites, which would see the biggest property value decreases and hence biggest tax decreases, TO NON-OWNERS.
- Town taxes on industrial wind turbines could be legislated away by the state, eliminating any potential revenues to the Town from industrial wind turbine owners and making the first bullet above moot.
(4) Potential consequences of Proposition 2 ½ should also be considered
Proposition 2 ½ has two components: (a) Levy Ceiling: current year taxes cannot exceed 2 ½ % of the total full and fair cash value of all taxable property in the community; and (b) Levy [Increase] Limit: levy increases are limited to 2 ½ % of the previous year’s levy total, Reference 42.
Concerning (a): 2 ½ % of 30% of the Town’s total levy in 2009 is $1,347,265.00. This number, subject to escalation for following years, represents the upper limit on property taxes which, potentially, could NO LONGER be collected by the Town each year, if a decrease in property values results from the development of industrial wind turbines. Consequently, the introduction of industrial wind turbines in Granville may actually REDUCE the amount of taxes that can be collected from EXISTING property owners by up to $1,347,265.00 per year without Town override. This could be balanced to some degree by increased tax revenue received from the industrial wind turbines themselves. However, to lessen the tax burden on the industrial wind turbine owner, the wind project developer may seek a deal with the Town called a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). This would be similar to the agreement the Town worked out many years ago with Springfield over the Granville watershed property for which the taxes to Springfield are fixed at a very low rate for all time. Such PILOT agreements can “…create a situation where ‘wind farm’ owners can appear magnanimous by making ‘voluntary’ payments to counties, towns and schools to help recover costs. Such payments tend to be much less than the taxes that have been forgiven,” (Reference 38). More worrisome is the possibility that future Massachusetts laws could prevent towns from receiving any tax revenues from wind turbines, even if a deal has already been made, e.g., New York State recently passed a moratorium, effectively eliminating PILOT payments to any town there for at least 15 years (Reference 35), eliminating a perceived advantage of industrial wind turbines. Consequently, industrial wind turbines may not provide tax relief to Granville.
Concerning (b): If, as expected, land owners with turbine installations on or near their properties experience a large reduction in property values, the Town may offset the resultant tax decreases for industrial wind turbine land owners by increasing taxes on all OTHER properties. The extent to which this balancing occurs is not controlled by Proposition 2 ½.
Land owners of industrial wind turbine sites may thus benefit twice: by increased income and by reduced taxes. Other land owners may see their property taxes increase and receive no additional income.
Point of information: Granville’s upward change in total taxes levied from 2000 to 2007 was 13%, the lowest of any town in the state of Massachusetts (Reference 31).
(5) There could be significant liability issues for the Town, Town Administration, and for property owners which should be addressed prior to installation of industrial wind turbines.
Most project developers do not indemnify (hold harmless) the Town, Town officials, or property owners for lawsuits, e.g., nuisance, noise, loss of property value, etc., filed by neighbors or other residents (Reference 5). The language within wind turbine siting agreements which “run with the land” may include “disturbance element agreements” which could hold the turbine operator blameless for the following nuisances: “noise, lights, air movement, odor, dust, vibration, traffic, view obstruction, light or air currents,” (Reference 33). Property owners may want to refer to: www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/agecon/market/ec1394.pdf.
(6) There are serious health Issues associated with living or working within at least a 2-3 mile radius of a wind turbine. Wind power plants should not be located near residences, schools or businesses.
[health] …, , , 36
One can cite other setbacks proposed by other states and other governments which are somewhat lower, e.g., 1.9 miles in the U.K., but it is not clear what criteria were used to arrive at those selections. This committee proposes use of a minimum 2-3 mile setback because it is scientifically based on U.S. data which have shown a correlation between setback and the development of serious medical conditions in humans.
(7) Due to the potential for catastrophic accidents, industrial wind turbines should never be located near residences, businesses, schools or roads.
There are few federal regulations governing industrial wind turbine design and operation, and there is no federal regulatory commission. Industrial wind turbines have experienced a significant number of catastrophic failures (References 11, 12, 13), including:
- Entire or partial collapse of turbine facilities;
- Blade failures;
- Inextinguishable fires enveloping the tower nacelle (most fire departments do not have the facilities to reach the nearly 500-foot height of an industrial wind turbine); and burning parts can be strewn over the landscape, and
- Property damage from propeller ice throws.
Average number of accidents per year: 124, (Reference 41)
Total fatalities from inception: 69, (Reference 41)
(8) Industrial wind turbines cause significant visual impacts.
A typical industrial wind turbine is 400 – 500 feet tall (the equivalent of a 40 – 50 story skyscraper) with a side profile equal to a 747 airplane, i.e., the industrial wind turbine propeller diameter exceeds the 747 wingspan, and the distance from nose to tail, see illustration below.
In the morning or evening hours, as the sun rises and sets, the blades cast a fast-moving rotating and strobing shadow (the industry calls this “flicker” which does not adequately describe the impact) which is very disturbing to neighbors and is the subject of studies investigating effects on humans and animals.
Industrial wind turbines require pulsating aircraft warning lights 24 hours per day. These lights may reflect off the blades, multiplying the pulsating effect by a factor of four. They are particularly bothersome at night.
(9) Use of industrial wind turbines would have virtually NO effect on U.S. oil consumption.
Less than 2% of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from oil-fired facilities (Reference 14). Consequently, even an infinite number of industrial wind turbines could not reduce our consumption of oil by more than 2%. U.S. consumption of oil is mainly affected by our use of automobiles and home heating.
(10) Industrial wind turbines cannot replace existing forms of electrical generating capacity.
“…wind’s key disadvantage…is its unpredictability and uncontrollability. Most of the time the wind does not blow at the right speeds to generate electricity. And even when it does, that is often at times when little electricity is not needed – in the middle of the night, for instance,” (Reference 39).
In the Northeast, wind blows enough to produce electricity only 15 to 30% of the time; and it is “fundamentally ‘out of phase’ with electricity demand” (wind is lowest during summer when demand is highest), creating a compounding effect which results in only 10% effective capacity, (Reference 18).
Because industrial wind turbines produce power intermittently, they cannot be relied upon by utilities for electrical base loading capacity. Consequently, coal, gas and nuclear plants which typically operate at 80 – 90% capacity must be kept running in reserve standby, or spinning reserve.
The “U.S. Energy Information Administration [Annual Energy Outlook 2007] estimates that by 2030 wind will supply only 00.4% of U.S. energy consumption,” (Reference 18). This compares to the required minimum of 15% of total electricity generated by renewable energy sources also by the year 2020 legislated by Massachusetts law, (Reference 20). Consequently, there is a “disconnect” between the political initiative and a realistic expectation of existing and future technologies. Utilities are trying hard to inform Massachusetts legislators of the utter lack of practicality and exorbitant cost associated with this requirement.
Additionally, unlike conventional power plants, industrial wind turbine projects take electricity from the grid to operate their own facilities. But because the amount of this electricity is not publicized by the wind developers or the utility owners, it is difficult to determine how much incoming electricity is required to run the facility. However, it is widely believed to be a significant percentage of the plant output and represents a major cost component to the ratepayer.
(11) Electricity generated by industrial wind turbines is extraordinarily expensive to consumers.
The cost of producing wind generated electricity is almost twice as expensive as coal or nuclear powered electrical generating facilities, (Reference 42). The consequences will be higher prices for the ratepayer, higher prices for goods and services, and ultimately fewer jobs. The cost of electricity in Massachusetts is already the fourth highest in the nation, (Reference 17).
(12) Long term project employment is minimal.
Construction projects do bring in a significant number of construction workers during the industrial wind turbine project construction phase – although those can come from out-of-state, as seen on the Brodie wind power plant built in the Massachusetts town of Hancock. Afterwards only one worker on average is employed long term for every 15 wind turbines, and that worker is low level and the job is low paying (Reference 18).
(13) The effect on local wildlife appears to be significant.
Birds can be killed by the rotating propellers. Example: “Altamont’s [California] turbines have since 2008 been tethered four months of every year in an effort to protect migrating birds after environmentalists filed suit. According to the … Audubon Society, 75 to 110 golden eagles, 380 burrowing owls, 300 red-tailed hawks, and 333 American kestrels (falcons), are killed by Altamont turbines annually. A July 2008 study by the Alameda County Community Development Agency points to 10,000 annual bird deaths in Altamont Pass wind turbines,” (Reference 22). Apparently, the Altamont turbine design is lower to the ground and more dangerous to birds than current designs; however, that experience confirms that turbine design and placement are factors that need to be considered in order to protect birds.
Mammals may be affected like humans. “Long term studies by European biologists indicate that habitat disturbance and abandonment takes place around wind turbine developments … basic survival functions [of animals] such as hunting, self-protection and reproduction are interrupted by low frequency noise exposure. The only effective mitigation is to adequately separate wind turbine developments from sensitive wildlife habitats …,” (Reference 26). Eyewitness accounts by residents near the Tug Hill Project, New York, have stated that deer, turkeys, etc. have partially or totally disappeared, (Reference 27).
(14) Federal- or state-funded projects within sight of National Register Districts
are subject to review by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) to determine acceptability.
Granville has three National Register Historic Districts (Granville Village, Center Granville, and West Granville). According to federal regulation, projects which are undertaken using town, state, or federal funding, such as an industrial wind turbine project, would be subject to review by the MHC for impact on the historic inventories in these districts (Reference 21).
(15) Current economic incentives to develop industrial wind turbine projects are based largely on mandates, tax credits, and government subsidies which do not last the lifetime of the facility. Maintenance costs can be critical.
“Wind energy facilities are built using debt financing that depends on …state and federal tax subsidies and other publicly-financed entitlements. These [industrial wind turbine] facilities will never pay for their costs and essentially transfer the financial burden onto electrical rate payers and taxpayers,” (Reference 22).
U.S. wind farm development began mostly in California, where incentives were very high. “From 1981 through 1985 federal and state tax subsidies in California were so great that …investors could recover up to 50 percent of a wind turbine’s cost …” Today, 14,000 (Reference 24) “… abandoned wind turbines … litter the landscape of wind energy’s California ‘big three’ locations – Altamont Pass, Tehachapi, and San Gorgonio – considered among the world’s best wind sites,” (Reference 23). Wind farm development has progressed under similar artificial financial support schemes from California to Maine.
The situation is made profitable to the project owner by tax breaks and subsidies provided by federal, state and local governments, Reference (38). These are paid by the taxpayers:
- Federal income tax credit against the bottom line for depreciation over five years (instead of the normal 20 years for conventional power plants);
- Reduction in state corporate income tax (resulting from accelerated depreciation);
- Federal subsidies, e.g., Renewable Energy Production Incentive (REPI);
- State subsidies, e.g., grants and loans from Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust; and
- “Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) … force suppliers of electricity to purchase electricity from “wind farms’ or other ‘renewable’ energy facilities generally without regard to its higher cost.”
(16) Responsibility for dismantling and removing industrial wind turbines when they reach their service limit or exceed their financial viability is a significant issue. More and more frequently, the turbines are simply abandoned by the developer.
Cost of maintenance has been another issue. The Kamaoa Wind Farm turbine facility is located on the southern tip of Big Island, Hawaii, where the wind is so steady and strong, that the trees grow sideways – seemingly an ideal location for an industrial wind turbine facility. However, maintenance became an issue, and although one may argue that design improvements have been made to wind turbines since installation of the Kamaoa facility, “… by 2004, the on-going maintenance was so expensive that Kamaoa was abandoned. In 2006, transmission was cut off by Hawaii Electric and the turbines were left to rust. Kamaoa is but one of six such sites … in Hawaii,” (Reference 24).
“Once permits are secured, ownership of wind plants is typically transferred to single-asset LLCs to insulate the developer, wind company, and subsequent wind plant owners from legal liability beyond the value of the turbines themselves. This has the effect of insulating the wind company and subsequent owners from any litigation for damages, as the depreciated value of the turbines becomes marginal. It also leaves the landowner without financial recourse should the owner abandon the wind installation, rather than clearing the turbines and restoring the land to the former condition. Some jurisdiction[s] protect against this eventuality by requiring an escrow in the amount of the estimated total cost of decommissioning. But most jurisdictions require only a fractional escrow. (An escrow requirement of 25%, for example, gives the wind plant owner a 75% discount for simply “walking away,” rather than decommissioning responsibly.),” (Reference 18). When the tax breaks expire, the windplant owners may abandon the windplants, and “…where the escrow is inadequate to cover decommissioning, the landowner [and the Town] will likely be left holding the bag,” (Reference 18).
(17) European experience precedes the U.S.
Europe was essentially the first to develop industrial wind turbine technology. Consequently, the EU countries have also been the first to witness and endure the associated problems.
“Despite their being cited as the shining example of what can be accomplished with wind power, the Danish government has cancelled plans for three offshore wind farms planned for 2008 and has scheduled the withdrawal of subsidies from existing sites. Development of onshore wind plants in Denmark has effectively stopped …Spain began withdrawing subsidies in 2002. Germany reduced the tax breaks to wind power, and domestic construction drastically slowed in 2004. Switzerland also is cutting subsidies as too expensive for the lack of significant benefit. The Netherlands decommissioned 90 turbines in 2004. Many Japanese utilities severely limit the amount of wind-generated power they buy, because of the instability they cause [to the grid]. For the same reason, Ireland in December 2003 halted all new wind-power connections to the national grid…In 2005, Spanish utilities began refusing new wind power connections. In 2006, the Spanish government ended – by emergency decree – its subsidies and price supports for big wind. In 2004, Australia reduced the level of renewable energy that utilities are required to buy, dramatically slowing wind-project applications. A German Energy Agency study released in February 2005 after some delay stated that increasing the amount of wind power would increase consumer costs 3.7 times more than otherwise … In Germany, utilities are forced to buy renewable energy at sometimes more than 10 times the cost of conventional power, in France 3 times. In the U.K.…rather than providing cheaper energy, wind power costs the electric companies 50 pounds per megawatt-hour, compared to 15 pounds for conventional power [or an increase of 3.3 times],” (Reference 25).
Additionally, Denmark “…adopted…policy in 2008 – 2009 for developers to pay compensation for loss of value of real property following erection of the wind turbine, if that property loss is greater than 1%,” (Reference 40). No such policy exists in the U.S.
(18) Granville is a targeted community
Current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) laws and tax credits have created a demand to obtain a portion of Massachusetts’ electricity from renewable generating sources such as wind and solar. Historically, industrial wind turbine facilities have not been pursued in this state because they will cause a substantial increase in electricity costs. However, utilities are now required by law to obtain a portion of their electricity from wind (and other renewable energy resources), and the resultant increase in electricity costs will be passed on to the rate payers. Wind power companies are aggressively pursuing industrial wind turbine facility sites to get electricity purchase agreements in place before the required quota of renewable generation is filled up. Granville has become a target for development of industrial wind turbine facilities because of its open spaces, existing power lines, and small town government.
- D. Ellingson, Rockford Register Star, July 8, 2008
- P. Sellars, “Turbines Cast Shadow Over Land Values, April 16, 2003
- BCCRWE, “The Truth About Wind Energy Will Blow You Away”
- 2009 [Granville] Annual Report, p. 26
- E. Tillinghast, Green Berkshires, in remarks made August 19, 2010
- R. Cockle, “Wind Whips Up Health Fears,” August 10, 2008
- N. Pierpont, MD, PhD, “Wind Turbine Syndrome,” March 7, 2006
- Prof. M. Alves-Pereira, New University of Lisbon, Portugal, “Industrial Wind Turbines, Infrasound and Vibro-Acoustic Disease (VAD), August 2007
- Dr. A. Harr, et al, “Noise Radiation from Wind Turbines Installed Near Homes: Effects on Health,” February 2009
- C. Gueniot, “Repercussions of Wind Turbine Operations on Human Health,” March 20, 2006
- H. Seifert, “Risk Analysis of Ice Throw from Wind Turbines,” April 11, 2003
- “Man Dies in Wind Tower Fire,” API, November 11, 2005
- D. Adams, “Why Do Wind Turbines Confuse Military Radar,” March , 2004
- “Annual Energy Outlook 2006,” U.S. Energy Information Administration
- “Less for More: The Rube Goldberg Nature of Industrial Wind Development”
- “GE’s System Performance” to NY State Energy Personnel and Development Authority
- U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2004; 2007
- “Wind Puffery: Wind Salesmen’s Talking Points and the Facts That Refute Them”
- “Preserving Granville, An Historic Resource Protection Manual,” Pioneer Planning Commission, July 1989
- “Green Communities Act,” July 2, 2008
- Confirmed by Massachusetts Historical Commission, July 2010
- Letter, M. Waggaman to T. Murray, “Oppose Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, H 4955,” September 1, 2010
- A. Walden, “Wind Energy Ghosts,” American Thinker, August 31, 2010
- J. Shaefer, “Wind Energy: Freedom from Fossil Fuels or Tempest in a Teapot? Part II,” August 23, 2010
- E. Rosenbloom, “A Problem with Wind Power,” 2007
- Stelling, Keith MA, MNIMH, MCPP (2009)
- Eyewitness accounts, “The Voices of Tug Hill,” National Wind Watch DVD, 2005
- Richard R. James, “Comments on WEPCO’s Glacier Hills Application and Supporting Documents Regarding Wind Turbine Noise and Its Impact on the Community,” available at www.psc.state.wi, 2009.
- Colby, W. David, MD, “Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects: An Expert Panel Review,” American Wind Energy Association; Canadian Wind Energy Association, 2009
- Maynard, Robert and Morehouse, Andrew, “Environmental Noise and Health in the U.K.,” U.K. Health Protection Agency on behalf of an ad hoc Expert Group on the Effects of Environmental Noise on Health, 2009
- State Department of Revenue, 2008 Globe Newspaper Company, copyrighted (to view data, it can be found on Google by inserting “Massachusetts Proposition Two and a Half”.)
- Gardner Appraisal Group, Inc., February 13, 2009
- “Welcome to Mars Hill [wind turbine project],” DVD by Schoharie Valley Watch, Richmondville, NY
- myDESIRE, “Massachusetts Incentives/Policies for Renewables & Efficiency,” August 30, 2010
- Schoharie Valley Advocacy, July 2010
- Michael S. McCann, State Certified General Real Estate Appraiser, June 8, 2010
- Citizens Energy, Map entitled: “Potential Wind Turbine Locations in Granville, Southwick and Westfield,” no date
- Glenn R. Schleede, “The True Cost of Electricity from Wind Power and Windmill ‘Availability’ Factors,” P. 5, April 2003
- Andrew Gilligan, “An ill wind blows for Denmark’s green energy revolution,” September 12, 2010
- “Denmark: public policy regarding loss of value to real property due to wind turbines,” January 1, 2009
- “Summary of Wind Turbine Accident data to 30 June 2010,” Caithness Windfarms Information Forum 2010
“Comparative Costs of Electricity Generation (graph),” March 2006, NorTexWind.org