Wind power “all about the money”: Vermont editorial

Environmental benefits of wind power development very small, but negative impacts on economy and environment are high, says an editorial in The Caledonian Record, Vermont.

Laurel Mountain wind 'farm': all about money, nothing for environment
Laurel Mountain wind ‘farm’: all about money, nothing for environment

Caledonian Record, April 2, 2016

On Thursday the Vermont Senate passed a measure professing to give communities more say in siting wind and solar projects. The bill would allow cities and towns to direct the location of renewable energy projects without giving them veto power.

It’s a response to public outcry that renewable energy projects are often built over strong objections from host municipalities. Critics of the existing process say the Vermont Public Service Board is a rubber stamp and abets big energy developers as they steamroll communities.

It’s hard to argue the point. Since Vermont codified its commitment to renewable energy projects, the PSB – in every case – has found renewable projects to be for the “public good.” Even when it means tearing holes in mountains that would never be allowed under Act 250 (which energy projects aren’t subject to).

Those holes, according to pro-renewable lobbyist Olivia Campbell Anderson, are worth it in Vermont’s blind pursuit of green energy. Anderson insists these mega-projects are necessary “to reduce climate pollution and increase self-reliance.”

Since Anderson is in the business (and it’s really BIG business), she of course knows the following things:

1) The small benefit of wind energy can’t ever justify their overall inefficiency or heavily subsidized expense.

2) Wind projects are a bad fit for Vermont’s climate, make no sense economically, and yield zero impact on net carbon footprint.

3) Well-known and understood transmission and infrastructure limitations mean the New England grid operator has to limit the amount of power it can absorb from Vermont’s boutique projects.

4) Taxpayers and ratepayers are getting fleeced at every turn of the turbine.

No green jobs, no environmental benefit

5) There aren’t “green jobs” associated with power generation.

6) After a quarter decade, and billions of tax subsidies through the wind Production Tax Credit, wind farms aren’t competitive anywhere in the United States.

7) Developments are irreconcilable with the spirit, and the letter, of Act 250 land protections. Which is precisely why Shumlin and his energy cronies have resisted every attempt to impose Act 250 requirements for wind and solar projects.

8) Wind tax credits (as one critic explained) “are nothing more than a cost imposed on all taxpayers in order to accommodate development of a politically well-connected, high-priced, low-value resource that cannot meet our electric capacity needs.”

9) Most of the state’s carbon footprint derives from vehicles and heating our homes in winter. As such, expensive and inefficient wind projects yield no meaningful effect on aggregate carbon emissions.

10) Wind energy is notoriously intermittent and unreliable, requiring fossil-fuel powered backup plants when the wind doesn’t blow.

11) Vermont sells all of its Renewable Energy Credits out of state, meaning Vermont hosts a whole bunch of industrial developments but gets to claim none of the energy produced by them. So much for “self-reliance.”

12) Shumlin’s grand plan that calls for Vermont’s energy use to come from 90 percent renewable sources by 2050 is not only un-achievable, but the tax subsidies that it will require in the intervening failed effort to reach it will cost Vermont taxpayers an unforgivable and unsustainable fortune.

The only winners with wind power are the developers

13) Wind is only a winner for developers – earning tax credits, naked subsidies, and guaranteed (fixed) consumption by ratepayers.

14) Wind projects distort energy markets and require such intensive energy to develop that nobody believes them to actually be “green.”

15) Wind development is the ultimate zoning issue and has enormous impact on surrounding communities.

16) Communities are being torn apart by bad public policy, big government subsidies and a misguided pursuit of “green energy.”

So despite all Anderson’s lofty talk of saving the world from global warming, these renewable energy projects have always been about the money. Throw up a bunch of renewable energy projects, hustle the tax credits and subsidies, and charge ratepayers exorbitant fees for intermittent power. Communities and mountains be damned.

Based on all of these facts, it would seem like the Senate’s recent bill is more in keeping with our notion of the “Vermont Way.” Namely, that bureaucrats, foreign investors and hotshot energy lobbyists shouldn’t have more say about what happens in our communities than the people living there.

But we actually think that John McClaughry said it best in an email he sent this week to Caledonia County Senators Joe Benning and Jane Kitchel.

He wrote: “give towns more input” is an absolute fool’s errand and there is NO need to find tax dollars to feed this foolishness. Simply take away the Big Wind Production Tax Credit (2.3 c/kwhr) and there will NEVER be another wind turbine built in Vermont. A one page tax bill would do the job. Can’t ANY of our 180 legislators figure this out?”

Great question, John.

Comments

Sommer
Reply

Excellent article!

I’m so grateful for thorough analysis!

Barbara
Reply

And Vermont wants Canadian hydro-power to go along with their IWTs,

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