To the editor:
It was a pleasure being in Big Valley recently at the Locust Grove Mennonite Church for the meeting on the wind projects under development in Mifflin and Huntingdon counties. I am very encouraged by the possibilities of what these projects can bring to the community. However, I am concerned about the misinformation that is being shared in the area. I'd like to address some statements recently made in another letter. I am speaking for myself, as an industry veteran.
The wind measuring equipment on Stone Mountain indicates that the wind energy is good, better than what National Renewable Energy Laboratories, or NREL, estimates. Please refer to www.nrel.gov/gis/wind.html to see what NREL says about their own data. They go into great detail describing their "estimate" of wind speed and how it is determined. Those maps are just an estimate but are a great overview of a greater area (i.e. U.S. or individual state), which is why we use them in some very preliminary stages. But they are not precise for specific locations. It very much is like comparing a state map to a local tract survey. In both cases, the local survey and single met mast data trump the data on the larger maps. Why? Because in both cases there is real equipment on the ground. It is the difference between estimate and actual.
Why are there no wind turbines in State Game lands? I encourage you to talk with them about that. A Pennsylvania State Game Commissioner told me that it has to do with a door and not the wildlife. Yes, I said a door. Turbine towers have a door on them and because of that door, the Game Commission views them the same as a cabin. Therein lies the problem.
Ground water is a serious issue and it is to be taken seriously. Furthermore, all companies are bound by state, federal and local laws and policies concerning this and other important issues. I take them seriously.
What about health issues concerning turbines? There is no support for claims that there is a wind turbine syndrome. Has the AMA published anything on it? No. In fact, no reputable source has published anything on it. Frankly, if tables were turned and I claimed some great health benefit for living at the base of a turbine (makes you grow taller, lose weight, run faster, live longer, etc.) you would deny it until I could prove it through a reputable source such as the AMA. Therefore I will do the like.
There are no long-term negative property value effects due to wind farms. Every reputable study on it supports this claim. The technical term for near a wind farm is "view shed area," in other words, where you can see the turbines. I personally went to a 5-year-old wind farm in the Midwest and discussed it with multiple real estate agents and appraisers. They laughed at me and said that this concern is nonsense. Even an agent that was not wind friendly told me that the land and homes hold their values and can even increase more than properties outside the view shed area.
I'll not belabor the production tax credit - PTC - concern. All forms of energy do have incentives. Wind's incentive happens to be in the form of a PTC. Federal incentives are typical for emerging industries; wind is just one of those. The wind PTC has now expired. Yes, projects already qualified are grandfathered in, as you would expect. (If you invested in any company and it qualified for something, you wouldn't want that benefit to magically disappear. That would cause instability. Instability in investments creates a devastating economic scenario.) Yes, the PTC could return but it will likely be short lived, if at all. To a certain degree, good federal policy should create an environment where incentives are used for desired activities and taxes are levied on those needing to diminish. That's why, even after a century, the oil, gas and coal industries still have federal incentives.
There are hundreds of operating wind farms across America, including Pennsylvania. Those projects have had a transforming positive affect on their surrounding communities. The local infrastructure (roads, schools, hospitals, fire, etc) has benefited greatly from the presence of our wind farms. Local residents and businesses have benefited as well, both directly and indirectly. Ultimately the community wins, landowners win, America wins, and the developer wins. Yes, it truly is a win-win.
Readers, as you are considering all the statements being made these days about wind energy, please let reason be your guide. When you hear something, ask yourself two questions: "Why is this being said?" and "Does this even make sense?" I believe common sense will prevail. I look forward to my next visit out to Big Valley.
Wind farm developer
E.ON Climate & Renewables