NTF Issue Paper: legwatch156.doc. 10-17.

Renewable energy advocates publicize wind energy as a clear, clean alternative to fossil fuels. The U.S. and China are producing much more energy from wind farms. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. now has the wind power capacity of 65,879 megawatts of energy. In 2013, wind power generated 4.13% of all electricity in our nation, making it our 5th largest electricity source, enough generated to power the equivalent of 15.5 million homes. However, there exist many negative aspects to wind energy use in Nebraska.

Wind speeds fluctuate greatly during the day and week, depending upon weather patterns. Wind turbines require high speed winds to produce power. They must wait for enough wind to blow in order to operate, a completely unpredictable process. Turbines might locate in excessively windy areas, but that does not guarantee consistent wind. Wind energy is inefficient; the machinery within turbines able to extract only about 59% of wind power. Turbines cannot store converted energy in large amounts. The large-scale battery storage required to make wind a reliable resource is not commercially viable. In 2016, NE wind farms generated electricity only 45% of the time. Because wind constantly fluctuates, turbines require a reserve from traditional cheap energy sources, coal and gas-fired generators, to back up every megawatt of wind power and generate electricity the 15-20 hours of each average day that the wind does not blow.

Investing in wind turbines is expensive. Surveys must determine wind speeds at locations, erecting sample turbines to gauge wind speeds over a specific period. Installation and transportation costs are expensive; one turbine may cost $2+ million, most costs stemming from maintenance. Expensive transmission facilities built to carry wind-generated power to customers. The cost of unreliable sources of electricity like wind we cannot compare directly to the cost of reliable sources like coal. Intermittent wind power actually imposes costs on fossil fuel sources by robbing them of production without replacing their generating capacity, critically important to grid reliability. The total cost of subsidized wind power, including costs imposed on reliable power plants, appears significantly higher than the cost of electricity from existing nuclear, hydroelectric, coal, and natural gas plants. Suppose a power grid consists of only natural gas plants allowed to operate freely and satisfy the total electricity demand on a system. Then, even though the system has this capacity to meet demand, a utility decides to introduce new, intermittent power from wind turbines. The natural gas still needed for those frequent times when wind output is low or zero, but it must shut down to accommodate the intermittent wind generation. Thus, its production crowded out by an intermittent source. Lower production from the same capital-intensive facility causes higher costs. By decreasing reliable power plant run time without also reducing its fixed costs, wind power makes it more expensive to generate electricity from existing resources, the phenomenon shown graphically below. New wind production causes the natural gas capacity factor to drop from 87% to below 60%. The imposed cost of wind power in this scenario is almost $30/megawatt hour. The table shows that, after the imposed costs of intermittent resources taken into account, wind is not competitive with other sources, especially natural gas, and hardly competitive with existing coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric resources.
In a true comparison, wind sources are almost 3 times more expensive than existing coal resources. Wholesale prices do not account for the lifetime costs of building and operating a generation resource. They do not factor in the multiple subsidies that wind producers receive (e.g., federal wind tax credits, accelerated depreciation rules, federal loan guarantees, Renewable Energy Certificates, state and local utility property tax rebates). 25% of wind companies go bankrupt before project completion, leaving a mess behind, or bought out by foreign investors who have no loyalty to a locality.

A flock of wind turbines looks unsightly on the landscape. The best location for wind turbines often is on the most fertile farm land, thus taking good land out of production. Turbines increase surface temperatures, as blades warm the air. Such warming could adversely impact crop yields of local farmers. Disturb the ground here, it will remain noticeably disturbed for centuries. In our Sand Hills, one can still see tracks made over a century ago by buffalo herds and pioneer wagon trains.

Deaths of birds and bats at wind farm sites alarm fish and wildlife agencies and conservation groups. Bird deaths abound in collisions with turbine blades. Blades can eliminate whole populations of specific bird species in an area. They batter birds, killing 20,000 to 37,000 annually in the U.S., according to a 2007 National Academy of Sciences study, “Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects.” Wind turbines have harmed and killed thousands of threatened and endangered bird species, including the golden eagle. Birds, especially ones that migrate every year, like golden eagles and tailed hawks, have a tendency to fly into the blades, studies showing about 45,000 of these birds perishing over the last 20 years because of these turbines. Wind turbine construction burrowing deep into the soil has a negative impact on underground critter habitat. Turbine noise drives away wildlife and ruins hunting options in rural areas.

Noise from only 1 turbine can rankle people living distances away. Many turbines make the racket unbearable. Though a few companies purposely site turbines away from local urban areas, most companies ignore this courtesy. “We’re 2,400 feet away and it’s really unbearable. It shakes the house and goes through our bones and bodies,” David Wylie, who lives near 3 wind turbines in Maine, told the Portland Press Herald. In Ontario, 40 families have abandoned their homes to flee the effects of wind turbines. People who suffer hearing disorders are susceptible to problems stemming from wind turbine noise. Infrasound, together with the audible whooshing, low-frequency noise, causes many health complaints. Families have moved after establishment of wind turbines because of noise. The World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that observable effects of nighttime, outdoor noise levels of 40 dBA (decibels) or higher will lead to diminished health. Such also occurs when levels inside homes (especially bedrooms) rise above 30 dBA or contain non-steady and/or low-frequency noise. Yet, the wind industry commonly sets 50 dBA as a safe limit for homes, even though the WHO has identified such high levels as causing serious health effects. Sleep deprivation is the most common complaint from families residing near wind turbines. This lack of sleep negatively affects memory, temperament, stress levels, and hormones that regulate growth and fertility. Also, depression, cognitive dysfunction, high blood pressure, change in heart rate, increase in heart disease, weight gain, and lower immunity to disease. Other complaints include tinnitus, concentration deficits, irritability, anger, fatigue, and loss of motivation. Large wind turbines generate extremely low frequency sounds and infrasound (below 20Hz), depending on wind speed, power output, local terrain, and nearby turbine blade wake. People cannot hear infrasound; only a sound level meter can detect it. However, human ears are very sensitive to infrasound, which can penetrate through any opening in a home. This sound causes annoyance, stress, waking at night, constant sleep deprivation, high blood pressure, vertigo, and nausea. An epidemiology study conducted by WHO determined a “bad view out of window,” a disturbance by noise and sleep disturbance by noise, increased the risk of depression 40% and 100% respectively. The effects of wind turbine infrasound build up slowly in people. Infrasound can travel greater distances than the sound one normally hears. For most, there are no ill effects while in the vicinity of wind turbines for short periods (such as the workday) and when higher levels of other sounds (sound you can hear) are present. The problem arises when people try to sleep in their homes in the presence of wind turbine noise. House walls may reduce audible sounds, so the room may seem fairly quiet, but the sound becomes dominated by the infrasound that the person cannot hear. Infrasound detected by the ear has subtle influences on the body. It can cause sea sickness, tinnitus, a sensation of fullness in the ear, and worst of all, disturbed sleep, probably by stimulation of subconscious neural pathways to the brain. People undergo repeated awakenings when sleeping in such an environment that leave the individual stressed and tired. Sleep disturbance over a prolonged period is extremely hazardous to health, causing mental changes, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased mortality. Recent epidemiological studies suggest that significant disturbances of sleep and mental health occur for people living in homes up to 5 kilometers away from wind turbines. Infrasound can travel greater distances than the sound one normally hears In many cases, these health effects significant enough to force people to abandon their homes. In a few cases, homes purchased by wind turbine companies and owners typically silenced by signing non-disclosure agreements. Sometimes, homes abandoned because unable to sell. Properties near wind turbines become increasingly difficult to sell.

Serious storms can extensively damage wind turbines and cause a safety hazard to those working on wind farms. Wind generators produce electric and magnetic fields, causing potential interference with radar and telecommunication facilities. Noise negatively affects local TV and radio signals over wide areas. Wind turbines can catch on fire. One huge wind turbine tower near Diller, NE. mysteriously collapsed with no subsequent explanation offered. It was part of a $138 million wind farm developed by a Florida company.

Electricity from wind energy require storage (i.e. batteries). The blades for the wind turbines manufactured overseas in Denmark, mostly in China, then shipped to Corpus Christi, TX. on fossil fuel- burning cargo ships, where they load onto huge fossil fuel- burning trucks accompanied by at least 2 fossil fuel- burning pilot vehicles for their long drive to the Sand Hills. There, fossil fuel- burning trucks must build access roads and foundations for the turbines and haul the turbine parts to erection sites, where at least 2 giant fossil fuel- burning cranes will set them in place. Over the course of their 20-25 year life spans, it will require additional fossil fuel- burning vehicles to maintain each one. It requires 3 times the electricity to manufacture, transport, erect, and maintain a single wind turbine than that turbine will produce over its lifetime.

Rotating wind turbine blades interrupt the sunlight, producing unavoidable flicker bright enough to pass through closed eyelids, and moving shadows cast by the blades on windows can affect illumination inside buildings. This effect commonly known as shadow flicker. Wind turbine shadow flicker sometimes can induce photosensitive epilepsy seizures. Shadow flicker induces adverse human health effects like annoyance and stress. Documented symptoms are usually stress disorder–type diseases. Flicker can cause vehicle driver distraction and accidents. In the northern hemisphere, people located East-NE or WNW from a turbine must have protection from shadow flicker. Shadow flicker is an issue both indoors and outdoors when the sun sits low on the horizon. Proper planning should ensure the flash frequency does not exceed 3 per second, and the shadows cast by one turbine on another should not have a cumulative flash rate exceeding 3 per second.

Dr. Nina Pierpont, a leading New York pediatrician, has studied symptoms displayed by people living near wind turbines in the U.S., the UK, Italy, Ireland, and Canada for over 5 years. Her findings led her to confirm what she identifies as a new health risk, wind turbine syndrome (WTS), a disruption or abnormal stimulation of the inner ear vestibular system by turbine infrasound and low-frequency noise, the most distinctive feature a group of symptoms which she calls visceral vibratory vestibular disturbance, or VVVD. They cause problems including internal pulsation, quivering, nervousness, fear, a compulsion to flee, chest tightness, and tachycardia, an increased heart rate. Turbine noise also can trigger nightmares and other disorders in children and harm cognitive development in youth. At the core of her findings is that humans appear affected by low-frequency noise and vibrations from wind turbines through their ear bones, like fish and other amphibians. That humans have the same sensitivity as fish bases on new discoveries made by scientists at Manchester University and in New South Wales. This discovery destroys the medical orthodoxy of the past 70 years which acousticians working for wind farms use to base their noise measurements. “It has been gospel among acousticians for years that if a person can’t hear a sound, it’s too weak for it to be detected or registered by any other part of the body,” Pierpont said. In the UK, Dr. Christopher Hanning, founder of the British Sleep Society, who has supported her research, said: “Dr. Pierpont’s detailed recording of the harm caused by wind turbine noise will lay firm foundations for future research. It should be required reading for all planners considering wind farms.”

The federal wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) is a large subsidy that has granted the wind industry billions and foments unfair competition against reliable, affordable sources of power generation like natural gas or coal. The PTC as first enacted in 1992 was a temporary measure to bolster the wind industry. Congress extended it several times. Currently, the PTC gives owners of wind facilities a subsidy of $23 per megawatt hour of electricity generated for the facility first 10 yrs. of operation. The PTC once expired at the end of 2013, but new facilities still qualify through 2018 under new conditions. This subsidy will cost $24 billion between 2016 and 2020, double the subsidies provided any other renewable option. Taxpayers will subsidize PTC payments through 2025. Extending the subsidy increases the overall cost of electricity, threatens the reliability of our power grid, eliminates more jobs than it creates, hinders innovation in energy technologies, offers handouts to a large, already mature industry, and adds a tangled mess of over 80 different federal programs supporting wind power. Amendments allowed the IRS to expand eligibility to projects not yet constructed but already financed. The PTC tax credit is so expansive that many wind operators cannot take full advantage of it and ask financial companies to auction off the credit to outside financiers. Congress never meant the PTC to become permanent. Subsidies are handouts that have returned little to taxpayers. The wind energy industry receives 42% of federal, taxpayer funded energy subsidies, but wind produces only a low percentage of our electricity. Nebraska rate payers would become forced to pay higher utility bills to take advantage of the wind. The only reason giant wind turbines are rising is because of taxpayer funded subsidies, tax incentives, and tax credits. Warren Buffett, the president of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, acknowledged it at a zoning meeting. “There would be no wind turbines if it weren’t for the tax incentives.” Buffett recently told a gathering that…”I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

In 2016, both Lancaster and Gage Counties, abiding by popular demand, approved noise restrictions that stopped several planned wind farms. Lancaster County approved an ordinance for sound and distance requirements that effectively prohibits wind farms in the county. In the 2017 Legislature, conservative State Sen. Tom Brewer introduced LB 504 to stop commercial wind projects in the Sand Hills, where landowners have joined to stop wind turbines from destroying the grass-covered sand dunes, lowering property values, and harming tourism. The Sand Hills have a fragile, unstable surface, and, once peeled off, the original landscape cannot recuperate. Bird migratory routes would become disrupted. This coalition successfully fought a $108 million wind farm in 2016, but the developer promises to try again. Huge trucks hauling turbine blades and other heavy equipment would ruin county roads and grassland. The Brewer bill will protect the local landscape and the underground Ogallala Aquifer. LB 504: Brewer. To place a 2-year moratorium on industrial development of wind-generated energy projects and placement of wind turbines for generation of electricity within the Sand Hills. Town halls in his district are organizing opposition.

In 2016, the Unicameral removed legislative barriers with LB 824 that greases the process for developers to build wind farms. Under this law, private renewable energy developers no longer must find a buyer for their power before they build a project, so they could generate power no utility wants to buy. Pushing this legislation was liberal State Sen. John McCollister. His bill exempting wind energy development from laws and regulations regulating other power providers is foolhardy, because wind power does not pay for itself with its subsidies. If more wind energy adds to the NE power grid, demand for electricity from coal-fueled plants will decrease, reducing their revenues, thus forcing them to increase rates to pay for operating costs and costing jobs in our coal and nuclear power generating industries. McCollister rudely embarrassed himself by leaving early a legislative committee hearing this month on wind energy, ignoring several people in western NE who traveled hundreds of miles to testify against wind farms. The NE Farmers Union also supports wind farms as a means to diversify the rural economy. Boosters cite employment opportunities for Nebraskans, but most of those hired are from out of state. They boast of new jobs and tax revenue, yet Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating complained that the wind incentive legislation he signed in 2002 has not brought promised jobs and tax revenue. To support wind energy projects, the NE Public Power District is constructing a controversial new 225-mi. long transmission line through the fragile Sand Hills. Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables, a Warren Buffett company, would like to install a minimum of 50 megawatts of additional wind turbines in Holt County. Another company wants to build 400 turbines in Cherry County along with accompanying high voltage transmission towers and lines. Wind companies neglect to tell us that much of their power will sell to other states.

Our state wind agreement statutes permit property owners to create wind easements to protect and maintain proper access to wind. An initial agreement term cannot exceed 40 years. Such agreements will end, if development not begun within 10 years of the start date of the agreement. Consent between both parties can extend an agreement. Wind developers must set aside decommissioning funds for inactive systems. State law gives local subdivisions wide discretion. Counties and towns can develop zoning regulations, ordinances, and development plans to protect access to wind energy resources, also grant zoning exceptions if not detrimental to the public. State law is vague, allowing wind companies to take advantage of many options; therefore, restrictive legislation is necessary.

Because of the wind power very large footprint covering thousands of acres, hundreds of miles of additional transmission lines needed. This done by eminent domain taking personal property and additional cost to taxpayers of billions of dollars. Connecting wind farms to a power grid requires many new lines and use of dreaded eminent domain to grab property from landowners who have owned land for several generations. As President Obama said of wind power, “The cost of energy will necessarily skyrocket!” Thus, our electric bills will rise substantially. The costs of producing, transporting, distributing, and servicing products all relate to energy. So, the cost of goods and services will rise. Taxpayers and consumers must provide perpetual subsidies to maintain wind projects, which cannot survive without steady infusions of tax breaks and direct payments. The only ones benefiting are Warren Buffett, a few construction and trucking firms, and mostly absentee landowners who consent to host giant turbines. Of more than 6,000 people in Cherry County, only 70 investors persuaded.

Our country does not have an energy shortage. We have an abundance of cheap energy and cheap energy resources. These resources will last for at least 200 years. We do not need an additional, more expensive energy source. Nebraska should copy other state legislation that delays wind energy for a few years, until the state can reassess needed safety setback standards, noise, safety, expense and other issues with wind turbines. Contact your state senator today to support and pass LB 504, sponsored by Sen. Brewer, to place a needed moratorium on wind farms in NE.
Research, documentation, and analysis for this issue paper done by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom. This material copyrighted by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by other groups in the NE Conservative Coalition Network. 10-17 C.

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