No ‘Green’ New Deal: Rural America Rejects Wind Industry’s Community Wrecking Agenda
The wind industry’s efforts to destroy America’s rural communities have been brought to a shuddering halt. Across the States, well-organised pro-community and pro-reliable energy groups have won victory after victory, sending crony capitalists and subsidy-seeking carpetbaggers packing.
That hard-working farmers and rural folk would reject the pitch that 600-700 foot high wind turbines and endless seas of solar panels would soon bring peace and prosperity to their daily lives, is no surprise.
The American wind and solar industries have been completely wrongfooted and apparently have no idea what their next move should be.
Robert Bryce gives an update on the battle for America’s heartland.
Wind Projects Rejected In Nebraska And Ohio, Wind Rejections Across U.S. Now Total 328 Since 2015
29 April 2022
The rejections of large-scale wind projects continue. On Tuesday, county commissioners in Otoe County, Nebraska voted to impose a one-year moratorium on applications for wind projects. The vote in Otoe County is the fifth rejection in 2022. It also marks the 328th time that government entities from Maine to Hawaii have rejected or restricted wind projects since 2015. All of these rejections are documented in the Renewable Rejection Database which also includes some of the solar rejections that have occurred over the past few years.
Before going further, let me be clear: you won’t hear about these hundreds of rejections from the Sierra Club. Nor will you read about it in the New York Times even though the resistance to the encroachment of big renewable projects is so widespread, and so many communities in New York are rejecting wind and solar projects, that the state has pushed through regulations that give Albany bureaucrats the authority to override objections of local communities and issue permits for renewable projects. Nor will you hear about the widespread resistance to renewables on National Public Radio, which as I explained in a March 7 article for Quillette, has been publishing pro-wind propaganda that is masquerading as news. Nor will you hear about it from academics at elite universities like Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Texas, who are producing elaborate net-zero models that require deploying massive amounts of wind-energy capacity.
Despite the refusal of big media outlets to fairly cover these rejections, land-use conflicts are the binding constraint on the growth of renewable energy.
These rejections are important for many reasons. First among them: the wind industry is in the midst of an affordability crisis. Earlier this week, Bloomberg published a story that said the biggest players in the industry, including Vestas, General Electric, and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, are “reeling from high raw material and logistics costs, changes in key clean-power subsidies, years of pressure on turbine prices and an expensive arms race to build ever-bigger machines.” It quoted the CEO of the Global Wind Energy Council who said the industry is facing “a colossal market failure,” and that there is a growing gap between the deployment of wind energy and the targets being set by various governments and policymakers. The article also said GE’s “onshore wind business has deteriorated amid inflation pressures, supply chain challenges and the expiration of a key U.S. tax credit.”
Earlier this month during a wind-energy conference in Europe, Sheri Hickok, a top executive at GE Renewable Energy, said “The state of the supply chain is ultimately unhealthy right now…It is unhealthy because we have an inflationary market that is beyond what anybody anticipated even last year. Steel is going up three times.”
Second, the wind industry is lobbying to extend, yet again, the federal production tax credit, which is the single most-expensive energy-related provision in the tax code. On Tuesday, Politico published an article headlined “Greens Groups’ climate Hail Mary,” which said activist groups are “blitzing Capitol Hill this week to press Democrats on salvaging the core clean energy components” of the Build Back Better legislation that was killed last year.
Those groups and their Big Wind allies want an extension of the PTC, which expired at the beginning of this year. The PTC was supposed to be a temporary subsidy to help launch the wind industry. But it has already been extended 13 times. The ongoing extensions of the PTC are contrary to what Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, said back in 2015: “As the father of the first wind-energy tax credit in 1992, I can say that the tax credit was never meant to be permanent.”
A third reason why these conflicts are important: earlier this month, NextEra Energy, the world’s biggest producer of renewable energy, was prosecuted for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The company was prosecuted after killing at least 150 Bald and Golden Eagles at its wind projects. The prosecution is long overdue and shows, yet again, that more wind turbines mean more destruction of our wildlife. As I have written many times, federal taxpayers should not be subsidizing the slaughter of our birds and bats.
The wind sector is being squeezed on multiple fronts. But the motivated opposition in rural America to the industry’s land grab is perhaps the single most important issue. It’s easy to understand why rural landowners don’t want wind turbines in their neighborhoods: they don’t want to endure the noise pollution from the giant machines. Further, they are rightly concerned about the erosion of their property values and the destruction of their viewsheds by forests of 600-foot-high wind turbines.
Wind energy’s fundamental problem is due to basic physics: it has low power density. That means it needs vast amounts of land to produce significant quantities of juice. But it’s effectively impossible to build wind projects in California and Vermont. Offshore wind has been hyped for years, but today the U.S. only has about 30 megawatts of offshore capacity and the sector’s expansion plans are being challenged in court. Onshore, the backlash is particularly apparent in states like Nebraska, Ohio, and Iowa.
An April 26 article on the vote in Otoe County written by Dan Swanson for Newschannelnebraska.com, said Nebraskans are objecting to a proposed wind project that could include up to 56 turbines standing 650-feet high near the town of Panama. It quoted a crop duster named Chad Woolvoord, who told them “These wind turbines are never in straight lines and for me to be flying 150 mph, eight feet off of the ground in wind turbines, which are obstacles in the fields that are moving, it’s playing Russian Roulette with your life.”
It also quoted Travis Filing, the mayor of Panama, who said “We need to stop these wind farms. These wind farms are a massive problem. They are causing property values to crush. They are causing illness. They are causing problems with livestock.”
In Ohio, according to an article written by Rachel Wagoner for Farm and Dairy, the Siting Board recognized that the wind project “faced strong local opposition, which board chair Jenifer French said played a part in the decision to deny the application. Residents were concerned that sinking the turbine pilings into the ground could damage the fragile karst and consequently damage or contaminate their groundwater source that is fed by the karst aquifer.” Also in March, county commissioners in Auglaize County, Ohio began the hearing process for wind and solar exclusion zones in that county.
On May 5, county commissioners in Crawford County, Ohio, are expected to vote on a wind project being proposed by Apex Clean Energy, a firm whose projects have faced staunch opposition in local communities in New York and other states. Apex gained notoriety in New York for its failure to disclose the presence of known Bald Eagle nests on Galloo Island where it wanted to install multiple wind turbines.
Meanwhile, in Iowa, MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A, is playing hardball to force local communities to accept wind turbines. In Madison County, the province that’s famous for its covered wooden bridges, MidAmerican sued the county as part of its effort to force the county to accept wind turbines the county doesn’t want. As I reported in these pages last month, the company’s lawsuit helped convince one of the county’s supervisors to change her position. Fearing the county might lose, the supervisor agreed to a deal under which the utility may build another 30 turbines in Madison County and in doing so, collect as much as $80 million in tax credits.
The bottom line here is obvious: over the past eight years rural communities have been rejecting Big Wind and they have done so hundreds of times. Those 328 rejections contradict the never-ending claims that solar and wind projects are “green” and that rural communities are welcoming them. The truth, as can be seen in the Rural Rejection Database, is that communities all across the country do not want large renewable projects. The projects are so unpopular that companies like NextEra Energy and MidAmerican are routinely suing rural communities to force them to accept Big Wind and Big Solar projects.
Furthermore, the 328 rejections also demonstrate, yet again, the hopelessness of attempting to deploy massive amounts of wind and solar in the hope that they will save us from climate change. As Rockefeller University’s Jesse Ausubel has rightly put it, “wind and solar may be renewable, but they are not green.’”
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: if we are serious about reducing emissions, we need to get serious about nuclear energy and we need to do so right now.