No Evidence of Residential Property Value

“This is the second of two major studies we have conducted on this topic [the first was published in 2009 — see below], and in both studies [using two different datasets] we find no statistical evidence that operating wind turbines have had any measureable impact on home sales prices,” says Ben Hoen, the lead author of the new report.

Hoen is a researcher in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Berkeley Lab.

The new study used a number of sophisticated techniques to control for other potential impacts on home prices, including collecting data that spanned well before the wind facilities’ development was announced to after they were constructed and operating. This allowed the researchers to control for any pre-existing differences in home sales prices across their sample and any changes that occurred due to the housing bubble.

This study, the most comprehensive to-date, builds on both the previous Berkeley Lab study as well a number of other academic and published U.S. studies, which also generally find no measureable impacts near operating turbines.

“Although there have been claims of significant property value impacts near operating wind turbines that regularly surface in the press or in local communities, strong evidence to support those claims has failed to materialize in all of the major U.S. studies conducted thus far,” says Hoen. “Moreover, our findings comport with the large set of studies that have investigated other potentially similar disamenities, such as high voltage transmission lines, land fills, and noisy roads, which suggest that widespread impacts from wind turbines would be either relatively small or non-existent.”

The report was authored by Ben Hoen (Berkeley Lab), Jason P. Brown (formerly USDA now Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City), Thomas Jackson (Texas A & M and Real Property Analytics), Ryan Wiser (Berkeley Lab), Mark Thayer (San Diego State University) and Peter Cappers (Berkeley Lab). The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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Creating a New Market

Clare Donohue spent her teenage years growing up in the Catskill Mountains hamlet of Roscoe where water was central to the area’s way of life. Her family often fished at a nearby reservoir and so many fly fishers liked to visit the spot where two pristine rivers converged that Roscoe dubbed itself “Trout Town USA.”

“When you walked into the house,” Donohue recalled, “the first thing you did was go to the sink and fill a glass of water. It was so delicious.”

Donohue, 52, runs a small business and has lived in New York City for the past 30 years. When she learned from friends three years ago that 85 well sites had been leased for future drilling for natural gas in a village close to Roscoe, she was concerned. She watched Gasland, Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated documentary, and later joined friends at a West Village community board meeting. There, officials from Spectra Energy sought to mollify local concerns about an underground natural gas pipeline that the company was bringing into the neighborhood.

“I just sat there unbelieving, because everybody was just calm and polite and they were all asking questions like whether the cement in the sidewalk would be put back the way it was, things that I thought were totally irrelevant in terms of the disaster that was being described. And I kept thinking, ’What is wrong here? Why aren’t people screaming?’”

Donohue has been raising her voice ever since as a co-founder of the Sane Energy Project, which she helped start with a dozen other activists to fight the Spectra pipeline. The group’s focus has since broadened as they confront a growing web of projects that could drive a surge in New York City’s use of natural gas obtained by fracking. In addition to Spectra, a second pipeline is slated to enter via the Rockaways and go up Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue. There is also a deep water liquefied natural gas import terminal proposed for off the coast of Long Island.

New Yorkers currently consume 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. And these new infrastructure projects would increase that by between 16 and 30 percent, according to a study commissioned by the mayor’s office.

“It is a strategy to hook the city on fracked gas,” said Occupy the Pipeline activist Patrick Robbins.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, requires injecting millions of gallons of water laced with an array of toxic chemicals deep into the earth to cause fissures that allow drillers to tap previously unreachable deposits of natural gas. The technology has been blamed for poisoning underground drinking water supplies in areas near well sites.

Large parts of central and southern New York State sit atop the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation that is believed to contain large reserves of natural gas. While activists have won a moratorium against fracking in New York and are fighting for a full ban, Pennsylvania landowners have seen a fracking boom in the past decade, especially as smaller operators have been gobbled up by transnational companies. These corporations, owning large acreage and seeking fast profits, drive the push for increased drilling.

While natural gas is heralded as a cleaner-burning “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future, it is in fact a potent greenhouse gas. When released directly into the atmosphere, it traps 72 times more heat than carbon dioxide and remains 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide after a century in the air.

Creating a New Market

With natural gas prices at a low and billions of dollars sunk into drill sites, the natural gas industry is looking for a way to increase demand, boost profits and garner more financial backers. Through that lens, New York City, a huge energy consumer, presents a golden opportunity.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2011 mandate to convert the boilers in New York City buildings to the “cleanest fuels” has set the stage for skyrocketing demand as many buildings switch to natural gas systems. The new heating oil regulations will ban the two dirtiest heating fuels available: Number 6 and Number 4. These heavy fuels create fine soot, known as particulate matter, which is highly polluting. Soot exacerbates asthma, irritates lungs and increases the risk of heart attacks and premature death.

The regulations will require New Yorkers to instead heat their buildings with either ultra-low sulfur Number 2 oil, biodiesel, natural gas or steam, according to PlaNYC.

The trouble, Donohue said, is that natural gas also produces particulate matter and at a higher rate than Number 2. In comparison, biofuel produces zero emissions and zero particulate matter. And while converting an average New York City building to biodiesel and Number 2 oil costs about $10,000 to $30,000, natural gas conversions can start at $500,000, a cost often transferred from landlord to tenant through rent hikes.

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Inland Power’s results differ with new energy standards

Wind turbines spinning on the Palouse are the final piece of Avista Utilities’ strategy to meet Washington’s new renewable energy standards.

Energy from the 58-turbine Palouse Wind farm, which started operations last year, has pushed the Spokane-based utility over the top. Even with future customer growth, Avista officials say they’ve lined up enough qualifying renewable energy to meet Initiative 937’s requirements through 2020.

Passed by voters in 2006, the initiative requires most utilities serving Washington customers to get 15 percent of their electricity from new renewable sources by 2020. The initiative’s goal is to diversify green energy production in Washington, prompting investment in wind, solar, geothermal and biomass in a state long dependent on hydropower, said Danielle Dixon, senior policy associate for the NW Energy Coalition in Seattle.

More than $8 billion has been spent on wind, solar and biomass development in Washington over the past 15 years, with the majority funneling into wind. At least part of that investment can be attributed to I-937’s passage, initiative backers say.

Some utilities “acquired early and acquired sufficiently,” which means they’ve blown past the upcoming deadlines, Dixon said.

In addition to Avista, Puget Sound Energy has enough resources in place to generate 15 percent of its electricity from new renewable resources, said Ray Lane, PSE spokesman. The utility, which serves about 1.1 million customers in the Interstate 5 corridor, built its own wind farms.

Avista provides electricity to about 237,000 Eastern Washington electric customers. The utility is ahead of the game for several reasons, said Jason Thackston, the company’s vice president for energy resources.

Avista was able to count toward I-937 requirements additional energy produced from the installation of new turbines at its Clark Fork River dams, because the turbines produce more kilowatts from the same river flow. Avista can also count energy from two long-term wind contracts, along with upcoming work at two Spokane River dams that will increase electrical output.

Through a legislative amendment, Avista will be able to count electricity produced at its existing Kettle Falls biomass plant toward the renewable tally beginning in 2016. However, the utility will have to document that the wood waste burned at the plant doesn’t come from old-growth forests, said Jessie Wuerst, an Avista spokeswoman.

Avista spent about $3.6 million last year to meet I-937’s requirements, according to information filed with the state. The cost represents less than 1 percent of a residential customer’s electric bill, officials said.

As a result of I-937, Avista invested sooner in new generating resources than it otherwise would have, Thackston said. But the utility got a good deal on its 30-year contract to purchase electricity from the Palouse Wind farm near Oakesdale, Wash., he said.

Buying energy from the Palouse was cheaper than Avista’s projected cost of putting up its own wind turbines on land it purchased near Reardan, Thackston said.

While Avista has met I-937’s requirements with relative ease, its smaller neighbor – Inland Power – is in a different situation.

Inland Power is an electric cooperative that serves 39,000 customers spread across 13 counties. Most are rural residents and 42 percent are low-income, said Chad Jensen, Inland Power’s chief executive officer.

Inland Power is already one of the nation’s greenest utilities, purchasing 81 percent of its electricity from federal hydroeletric dams, Jensen said. Because its customer base is relatively stable, complying with I-937 will force the utility to invest in renewable energy it doesn’t need, he said.

“It’s a frustrating piece of legislation,” Jensen said. “We’re having trouble getting sensible changes that we think should be easy tweaks.”

Inland Power lobbied the Legislature this year, saying that upgrades at federal hydroelectric facilities should count toward the utility’s I-937 requirements. That’s one of the inequities in the initiative, Jensen said: If utilities own the dam, they get credit for upgrades that increase electrical output. If they don’t own the dam, they can’t count the upgrades toward I-937.

Inland Power is spending nearly $3.4 million to help finance major upgrades at Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams, two federal dams on the Columbia River that produce power the utility purchases.

Though Inland Power couldn’t get the Legislature to adopt the change this year, Jensen said the utility will continue to push for an amendment. More than 50 bills related to I-937 were introduced during the last legislative session, which hampered the effort, he said.

“There were so many bills trying to change Initiative 937 that we couldn’t get any traction,” Jensen said.

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Ohio’s Lake Erie windmills

An environmental riddle is brewing off the shores of Lake Erie, and its answer is blowing in the wind.

The planned launch of a wind turbine demonstration project seven miles off of Cleveland’s lakeshore in Ohio – the first of its kind on the Great Lakes – has politicians, developers and labor there on board.

That’s a totally different vibe from what took place in Buffalo Niagara in 2009 and 2010, when the New York Power Authority gauged interest in a similar project in lakes Erie and Ontario. Local governments here quickly scuttled the idea after intense political pressure from a well-organized group of local lakeshore residents.

The environmentalist community, meanwhile, still searches for a Solomonic solution to the question of harnessing wind on the Great Lakes.

Can support for coveted renewable energy that reduces reliance on fossil fuels outweigh potential collateral damage to birds, bats and fish – not to mention aesthetic and noise considerations, as well as possible water pollution?

It’s a tough one, but Lynda Schneekloth of the Sierra Club’s Niagara Group thinks so.

“If we don’t switch from fossil fuels, all the fish in the lake are going to die anyway,” Schneekloth said. “Anything that gets us off of fossil fuels should be tried now.”

Citing a climate change “emergency,” Schneekloth says projects like wind farms in the lakes should be fast-tracked without having them mired down in years of public debate.

Others disagree.

“It could be a disaster,” said Sharen Trembath, a Southtowns resident who leads the area’s annual Great Lakes Beach Sweep and helped spearhead efforts to quash the Power Authority’s plans to install turbines in Lake Erie a couple years ago. “It’s giving up one natural resource for another.”

Added Tom Marks, a local charter boat captain who also opposed the former Power Authority plan: “There are environmental hazards with locating the turbines in the lake.”

Offshore hazards

Here are some of the concerns about offshore wind development, according to Marks, Trembath and the 2010 and 2011 resolutions put forth by Niagara, Erie and Chautauqua county legislatures as well as several lakeshore towns opposing them:

Disruption of the flight patterns of some migrating birds and some of recently resurgent species, such as bald eagles.Interference with boating and fishing.Stirring up “a 40-year cap” on toxic sediment in the lake bed left behind from the region’s industrial heyday.Potential for damage to the turbines and the lakeshore from fire, electrical shock or other problems from large power cables stretched along the lake bed, and leakage from an oil cartridge that Trembath calls “the size of a bus.”

What’s more, dissenters say, windmills are just not that efficient, don’t create jobs, can only operate when winds reach specific speeds and can be expensive.

And, they add, they’re eye pollution.

“I’ve spent my life taking care of the lake’s environment,” Trembath said. “I don’t want it filled with turbines.”

In Ohio, however, many don’t see it that way.

The Cleveland-based Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. has received support in Northeast Ohio for its “Icebreaker” project, which it says “is a blueprint to position Ohio as the leader in the region.”

The demonstration project calls for six 3-megawatt, American-made wind turbines to be placed offshore of downtown Cleveland, with full operation beginning in 2017. In contrast, Lackawanna’s on-shore “Steel Winds” consists of more than a dozen 2.5-megawatt turbines.

Bolstered with $4 million in startup money from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Cleveland company Thursday launched its “POWER Pledge program” to continue building “local stakeholder support” for the wind farm. About 5,000 supporters in Northeast Ohio have already pledged to buy electricity, at higher prices, from Icebreaker’s offshore farm, said Lorry Wagner, president of the Lake Erie energy company.

“Community engagement and support are critical to our success,” said Wagner, “and the support we have received for the POWER Pledge is very encouraging for the future of offshore wind in the Great Lakes.”

Three of seven wind demonstration projects nationwide – of which Cleveland is one – are scheduled for selection by the DOE next year for an additional $46.7 million award to build out the balance of the offshore project. Either way, however, Wagner said his company has invested time and resources in the belief that offshore wind will happen near Cleveland with or without the extra federal money.

By 2030, Wagner expects that his company could be managing “a few hundred” offshore wind turbines in Lake Erie.

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wind energy for $18 million

Bay City will purchase a chunk of its electric power from a Gratiot County wind-turbine farm.

The Bay City Commission on Monday, Aug. 19, voted 7-2 to buy $18 million in electricity generated by the Beebe Community Wind Farm near Ithaca during the next 20 years.

Bay City Electric, Light & Power must comply with a state mandate to provide at least 10 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015. The utility has 20,200 customers.

Phil Newton, the city’s electric utility director, has called the contract and its accompanying price a good deal because the cost is lower than he’s seen from other wind developers.

Other communities have already purchased Beebe’s wind farm energy include Holland. The West Michigan community joined four other member utilities of the Michigan Public Power Agency earlier this year in purchasing 26.4 megawatts of power from Beebe.

Bay City’s agreement would be to purchase 4.8 megawatts through the MPPA, a supply agency the city and other smaller municipalities belong to as a group. The initial year will cost Bay City about $45 a megawatt hour, for a total of $700,000.

Commissioners Elizabeth Peters and Chad Sibley protested the length of the agreement. Peters wanted to see an opt-out clause in the contract.

“Energy prices are going to go down,” Sibley said. “At this point, locking (the city) into a 20-year commitment might not be in our best interest.”

Newton previously said Bay City’s 2013 average cost to purchase power was $59 a megawatt hour. Landfill gases run at $85 a megawatt hour and coal-based power costs the city about $54 per megawatt hour, he said.

The cost of the wind-turbine energy increases during the contract’s 20-year term, rising to about $72 per megawatt hour in the final year.

Workers at Siemens Energy, a plant in Hutchinson, will build portions of wind turbines for a project in the northwest United States.

Siemens has an order from Portland General Electric company, a public utility in Oregon.

Hutchinson workers will build the nacelles and hubs for 116 wind turbines. Crews will start installing the wind turbines in 2014. Once the project is completed, it’s expected to generate enough power for 84,000 households.

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Tamil Nadu shows signs of losing its footing

Tamil Nadu may find its pole position in captive wind energy under threat as companies are reluctant to add to capacity nor is the sector attractive enough for third-party wind power developers.

That could see the state falter in its bid to add 6,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2016-17) to take it to 13,000MW from 7,162.3MW now.
Gujarat and Maharastra, which are a distant second and third in the rankings, could take advantage of this to gain on Tamil Nadu, experts said.

Madras Cements Ltd, the second largest cement maker in south India, has a wind energy capacity of 159MW. It doesn’t intend to add to this, but will instead invest in thermal energy, said a senior company executive who didn’t want to be named.

It costs Rs.5 crore to set up 1MW of thermal energy capacity and Rs.6 crore for equivalent wind energy capacity, according to Amol Kotwal, deputy director of energy and power systems at Frost and Sullivan, a business consulting firm. Inadequate infrastructure, delayed payments, and lack of incentives are discouraging further investment in the sector, critical for a power-deficient country that needs to boost energy capacity.

The trend in Tamil Nadu also reflects a wider disenchantment with the promise of wind energy as a source of seemingly “free” energy.

Madras Cements plans to enhance the capacity of the thermal power plants at Alathiyur, Jayanthipuram and Ariyalur by adding one turbine each of 6MW capacity at a total cost of Rs.55 crore, said the company in its recent annual report.

Last week, TVS Motors Ltd’s TVS Energy unit, which set up its captive 59MW wind energy unit in 2010, sold 90% of its stake to Green Infra Ltd, a renewable power producer as it was too capital intensive. The two-wheeler company did not mention whether the price at which it sold its subsidiary and whether it made profits.

Tamil Nadu gets 44% of its total energy requirement from renewable energy, with close to 90% of it coming from wind energy, pushing thermal energy to second place. This is much higher than the national average for renewable energy consumption of 12%.

With the economic slowdown hurting firms, most aren’t too keen on making investments in renewable energy. “Since the slowdown has affected the business of many companies, they would rather divert the money into their core business than put it in wind power,” said K. Vidyashankar, managing director, MM Forgings, which has a captive wind energy plant.

Wind energy is seasonal in Tamil Nadu—mostly between May and October. The southern state saw its wind energy capacity addition drop to 174MW for a total of 7,162MW in 2012-13, compared with about 1,000MW made over the previous two years. Last year, Rajasthan saw the highest addition of 614MW, taking its total capacity to 2,684MW. Gujarat set up 208MW additional capacity, adding up to a total of 3,174.9MW, and Maharastra added 288.5MW taking its total to 3,021MW.

The poor financial condition of the state power distribution company is leading to delays in payments to windmill owners, said Frost and Sullivan’s Kotwal.

Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corp. Ltd (Tangedco), the commissioning and distribution arm of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, reported a loss of Rs.54,000 crore in 2011-12.
It has taken over a year to clear payment dues. “We have cleared about Rs.2,000 crore backlog dues till April,” said a state government official.

Since a majority of the wind farm project cost is funded through debt (70-75%), irregular payments from Tangedco result in windmill owners struggling to repay bank loans. Meanwhile, the lack of infrastructure—in terms of transmission and distribution—needed to move power to the grid results in windmills having to be shut down for several hours a day, Kotwal said.

The reasons for inadequate infrastructure include incomplete projects such as the establishment of 400 kilovolts (kV), 230kV, 110kV and 11kV substations at Kanarpatti, Kayathar and Karungulam. Due to the shortage of evacuation facilities, nearly 15-20% of wind energy generated is lost, explains Kotwal.

“It is a sad state of affairs unless the transmission and tariff rates are improved,” said Ramesh Kymal, chairman, Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers’ Association. “Additional capacity expansion may not happen as seen two years ago.”

The removal of accelerated depreciation for wind energy and raising the rates on cross-subsidy by the state has made the sector unviable, he added. It takes six-seven years for a wind energy farm to break even depending upon size and location.

On the tariff front as well, Tamil Nadu offers the lowest at Rs.3.51 per kilowatt-hour compared with states such as Gujarat (Rs.4.23) and Rajasthan (Rs.5). Tariffs are decided by the state electricity regulatory commissions.

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ESAB Offers Next Generation Power Sources

ESAB Cutting Systems introduces EPP-202 and EPP-362, the next generation of Precision Plasmarc? power sources for the m3 Plasma? System, a precision plasma system that combines plasma cutting and marking capabilities in a fully integrated, easy-to-use package. The new EPP units offer precise control of the plasma current using all-digital control circuitry, and a new high-speed data bus connection which provides precise current control and gas regulation, as well as enhanced diagnostic capabilities, including advanced status and process monitoring.

The digital power circuits in the EPP-202 (200A) and EPP-362 (300A) allow the new power sources to handle a full range of cutting and marking tasks, delivering consistent, repeatable results while maximizing consumable life, without sacrificing output power or stability.

An internal coolant circulator keeps the power sources operating at a more constant, controlled temperature, resulting in improved overall reliability.

The integrated EPP design reduces the size, weight and complexity of the power supplies, minimizing installation and floor space requirements.

The EPP power supply is a core component of ESAB’s m3 Plasma System which delivers advanced cutting features and components, including the new XR Series nozzles that enable faster cutting over a wide range of material types and thicknesses with less power, using the same nozzle, as well as ESAB’s Precision Hole Technology?, which automatically produces bolt-ready holes. The m3 system supports SmartCycle? Technology for increased productivity through full system integration of plasma, CAD/CAM/nesting software and CNC. In addition, the m3 system features Smart Voltage Height Control capability, which automatically adjusts the voltage height control for maximum consumable life while ensuring consistent cut quality through the life of the consumables.

For more than 75 years, ESAB Cutting Systems has been offering off the shelf, turnkey solutions to customers around the world. ESAB Cutting Systems is a total system supplier, offering CNC shape cutting machines in a variety of sizes, using a wide range of cutting technology to include plasma, oxy-fuel, laser, and waterjet tools, programming and nesting software, and CNC controls.

ESAB Welding & Cutting Products is a recognized leader in the welding and cutting industry. From time-honored processes in welding and cutting to revolutionary technologies in mechanized cutting and automation, ESAB’s welding consumables, equipment, and accessories bring solutions to customers around the globe.

The Professional Power Sprayer PS22, from SCH (Supplies), now offers increased spraying time between charges because of its superior, high-capacity battery. With a 30-litre tank mounted on a tricycle-type chassis, the sprayer has three pneumatic wheels. A large-break back boom gives a spraying width of up to 2.44m, although the two outer nozzles can be deactivated to give a narrow spray width if required. Each PS22 unit includes end spray hoods to minimise drift, a dribble bar for applying weedkiller to defined areas, and a foam marker to allow the operator to see where product has already been applied. This model can also be fitted with a tow bar.

Martin Lishman is displaying examples from across its comprehensive range of trailed, mounted, demountable and self-propelled amenity sprayers. The Micro-Spray has demonstrated its worth at Oakham School, where head of grounds Richard Dexter notes that it is easy to operate and control. Dexter also plans to extend use of Lishman’s Compost Tea. “We have already noticed the benefits, particularly with the breakdown of organic matter,” he says. “When we relied on granular fertiliser, we could make applications only during the school holidays. The fact that we can now apply Compost Tea during term time puts us in full control of our application programme.”

If you want to know what is in your soil, ask DJ Turfcare Equipment. The company will be promoting a new testing service for users of its Viano lawn product. “With sales of our organic products showing an increase this year, we have found a need for people to have a proper understanding of their soil requirements,” says managing director David Jenkins. “Clients will be able to send us a sample of soil and a scientific laboratory will give a full analysis. We can then advise on exactly the right products to use to alter pH for maximum growth and strength in their lawns.”

Among the products supplied by DJ Turfcare are Viano Bio-Lime, Recovery, Green Comfort and MO Bacter. Sales of all have risen since last year.

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