Category Archives: Alabama

Wind News – Alabama

AL and IN – Wind project cancellations good news for communities

By John F. Floyd, Special to The Times | The Gadsden Times

Friday, August 22, 2014 | www.gadsdentimes.com

Sometimes you wonder if anything good happens to ordinary good people. In this time of domestic and international strife, local problems are overcome by the enormity of more pressing issues. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars are monumental in relation, domestic unemployment problems persist, the ever-increasing United States debt, racial problems in Ferguson, Mo., and the list goes on.

Good things happened for good people in three small communities as manifested by wonderful news concerning giant windmills and their associated projects. The affected communities are geographically separated but shared the same concerns.

The cancellations of wind development projects started in Tipton, Ind., on July 4 with the announcement that Juwi Wind, a Colorado-based developer, had withdrawn plans for a wind farm that would have included 94 turbines.

The Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development protested the development and were lone voices in the wilderness for a considerable amount of time. The group was concerned about the impact on property values and health issues associated with the giant turbines. In the end, citizens’ voices were heard and their reasoning carried the day.

News concerning projected wind projects got better Aug. 14 with the announcement that E.ON, a wind developer from Texas, canceled plans for constructing a wind farm in Howard County, Ind. The wind project was met with terrific resistance by affected citizens of the associated counties, so much so, that political action committees were formed.

Negative political implications for present county commissioners were a large factor in their efforts to terminate agreements with E.ON. Questions were asked many times about escape clauses in the signed contract with E.ON. The county commissioners stated there would be lawsuits if the county decided to stop the project. Obviously there were escape clauses for both parties, inasmuch, as the contract was rendered null and void.

News concerning wind projects kept getting better with an announcement Aug. 19 that Pioneer Green Energy would terminate a lease on 1,889 acres of property in Etowah and Cherokee counties in Alabama slated to be utilized as a wind farm.

Here again, resistance by residents was instrumental in stopping the construction of giant monsters of the environment. Ginny Shaver, one of the affected residents, engineered legislation passed by Alabama government in Montgomery addressing design specifications.

Mitzi Gibbs Eaker with No Wind Alabama, a citizens group opposed to the Etowah and Cherokee wind project, said she opposed the project because it would have negatively affected her parents’ property in Etowah County.

She further stated, “The residents are ecstatic that they can get back to their lives as normal. We never felt confident. We always wondered what they had in their back pocket. It was only when we learned that the leases were terminated that we knew it was really over.”

However, nothing is really over. No doubt the landowners who stood to reap significant monetary rewards at the expense of the American taxpayer will attempt to interest other wind farm developers. Let’s hope that is not the case.

Three communities, Gadsden, Ala., Kokomo, Ind., and Tipton, Ind., all with an identical problem, separated by miles and in a seemingly hopeless situation, have prevailed in a common effort. Voices of concerned citizens ended projects detrimental to many and beneficial to the few.

Sometimes, with exceptional concerted and focused effort, reason prevails.

 

AL -Turbines turned away in Alabama

Written by NWAdmin | No Wind Alabama | August 20, 2014 | www.nowindal.com

Who will be the first to erect wind turbines in the state of Alabama?

Not Pioneer Green Energy.   They have halted plans for an industrial wind turbine project on top of scenic Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama.  NextERA has announced wind projects in Jackson and Madison Counties, and others have a project planned in Cleburne County.  A proposed wind development in Baldwin County was denied last year, when the county commission obtained clarity from the state legislature through a local bill regarding their ability to regulate such towers under their zoning statute.

Why all this interest in Alabama?

Developers are seeking new territory for energy corporations who are looking to take advantage of lucrative federal subsidies and federal and state tax credits for alternative energy.  Alabama is a target, because of a lack of regulation on this type of energy producing industry in unincorporated areas of the state.

When Leesburg resident Shannon Mackey found out about Pioneer Green’s plans to place turbines at Cherokee Rock Village, one of the top 10 rock climbing venues in the country, he began protesting at public meetings and started a Facebook page called Save Cherokee Rock Village with the goal of stopping the project.  It currently has over 3,600 followers.

Mackey and others are concerned about interference of huge turbines with park activities and the negative impact on the environment.  Mackey said,

“The blasting and drilling into the rock for the base of the turbines could cause major damage to the rock face and surrounding property.”

Controversy surrounds industrial wind turbines around the country, because they are notorious for killing birds and bats.  As early as last year the National Audubon Society criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for allowing 30 year eagle-take permits.  There are bald eagles, Indiana bats, and other endangered species known to be in the area of the proposed turbine site along Shinbone Ridge overlooking Weiss Lake.

Once Pioneer Green made their plans public to build a total of 60 turbines spanning two counties, opposition escalated dramatically.  Opponents learned from information filed with the Federal Aviation Administration the turbines were to be 570’ tall.  Blades from turbines of this height span the length of a 747 jumbo jet and have a generator hub the size of a school bus.

Citizens raised concerns with their local governing officials only to find out there were no regulations regarding siting of such an industrial development in a residential area, which could cause a devaluation of their property and the residents to suffer negative effects from shadow flicker, noise pollution, and infrasound emitted by the giant turbines.

In the spring of 2013 concerned citizens approached members of the legislative delegation of Cherokee and Etowah Counties to introduce local bills to give their county commissions authority to enact regulations to protect property owners.  Time ran out in the session without any movement of the bills.

Two lawsuits based on potential nuisance complaints were filed by residents in both Etowah and Cherokee counties, and a third has been filed in Cleburne County.  Leesburg property owner Ginny Shaver said,

“Without any zoning regulations to buffer industrial development from rural residential and recreational tourism property, we are forced to seek protection for our personal property rights from the court.”

Cherokee and Cleburne County plaintiffs are represented by Centre attorney Chad Hopper.

In the meantime, Senator Phil Williams (R) pre-filed a bill to regulate turbines statewide to be introduced in the 2014 legislative session, later referred to as Senate Bill 12, or SB12.  It was almost identical to the local bills, but contained a clause that exempted Cleburne County, represented by Senator Gerald Dial (R).  Representative Becky Nordgren (R) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.  Local bills for Cherokee and Etowah Counties were introduced again as well.

Citizens petitioned the councils of the City of Gadsden, the Town of Leesburg, and the Cherokee County Commission, and all passed resolutions in support of SB12.  However, at least one dozen energy related corporations hired lobbyists to represent their interests in Montgomery.

Ordinary people from across the state joined together in a group called No Wind Alabama.  Organizer, Mitzi Eaker, stated the name was chosen because according to information from the U.S. Department of Energy, there is not sustainable wind for energy production in the state of Alabama.  No Wind Alabama members were instrumental in educating the public and legislators of the possible negative health, environmental, and economic effects on Alabama’s communities.  A third group, Wind Swindle Alabama, also seeks to share information and is named for the turbines for tax dollars aspect driving the alternative energy movement.

Wind industry developers promised landowners and local governments a boon of cash from leases and tax revenues.  However, lease payments were tied to wind energy production and therefore uncertain.  In addition to available federal subsidies and tax credits, an Alabama act passed in 2008 gives state tax credits to certain alternative energy developments and provides an avenue for local tax abatement.

As SB12 progressed through the legislative process, Senator Williams met with lobbyists and representatives from other interested parties and agreed to several changes to the statewide bill.  Many residents of Etowah and Cherokee Counties who originally requested the local bills were not included in the negotiations and were not pleased with the changes.  At the urging of citizens, the local bills passed both chambers and were signed into law by Governor Bentley.

When SB12 made its way to the House of Representatives Commerce and Small Business Committee, with William’s support the bill was amended to supercede the local bills just adopted for Cherokee and Etowah Counties.  On the floor of the House, Representative Becky Nordgren (R), tabled William’s amended version of SB12 and introduced a new version which restored some of the original protective provisions and allowed the local bills for Baldwin, Cherokee, and Etowah to remain in effect.  It also added a temporary moratorium to allow Cleburne County time to seek protection from their delegation.  After debating the statewide bill for over an hour, it died on the floor of the House.

The local bills for Cherokee and Etowah Counties require distance and noise setbacks representatives of wind companies say amounts to a ban on wind turbines in those counties.  Pioneer Green Energy has opted to look elsewhere and is currently working on a site in Somerset County, Maryland, near an Air Force base.  They are finding controversy there as well, where the turbines may interfere with radar which is a part of our national defense system.

For residents like Larry Gibbs, Pioneer Green leaving the state of Alabama culminates a David vs. Goliath battle with people who came together to defeat giant corporations with an unlimited money supply that attempted to influence legislation. Gibbs says,

“It is a big win and a great day for the people and Alabama the Beautiful”

AL – Alabama regs too strict for turbines, says lawyer for wind energy developer

Credit:  By William Thornton | August 20, 2014

GADSDEN, Alabama – The lawyer for a Texas-based company abandoning plans for two windmill farms in northeast Alabama said today that recently approved state regulations on wind energy led to the decision.

Charlie Stewart, attorney for Pioneer Green Energy, said the company no longer has plans to develop two wind energy farms in Cherokee and Etowah counties. Groups opposing the development announced yesterday they had received word Pioneer Green was relinquishing land leases for the projects.

Pioneer Green Energy announced last year it planned to develop wind energy projects in the two counties, and said land leases had already been secured. Five Cherokee County residents filed suit in an attempt to stop the development, and a group of Etowah County residents also filed suit.

Pioneer Green planned a $40 million project with seven to eight turbines in Cherokee County. The larger Etowah County project would have had 30 to 45 turbines costing $160 million.

Stewart said the company was ready to begin construction when the lawsuits were filed, and the legislation passed earlier this year, which established setback and noise standards.

That bill required the state’s Public Safety Commission to oversee wind farms, mandated that noise from the turbines not exceed an average of 50 decibels, and laid out a setback of five times the height of the tower from the base to the nearest property line. Last year, a company official said the legislation was too restrictive by making the property line the threshold and not the nearest residence or structure.

Stewart said much of the opposition was fueled by “hysteria.”

“The bill was basically a moratorium on wind turbine developments,” Stewart said. “The company lost a lot of money, spent a lot of years studying the project, had a lot of studies, and was prepared to go forward. And we were prepared to defend the project through litigation. We think we would have prevailed. They are building these kinds of developments all over the world, except for Alabama.”

Some of the opposition to the project claimed Pioneer Green was pursuing the developments in order to get green energy tax breaks and sell the project off, which might potentially leave idle windmills in the future.

“A company isn’t going to spend $200 million to get a tax credit to walk off and leave rusty windmills,” Stewart said.

Kirk Day, chairman of the Cherokee County Commission, said he had received no official notification from Pioneer Green but noted officials had not heard from the company for some time. The company’s test windmill, near Cherokee Rock Village, was taken down recently, he said.

Shannon Mackey, who was involved in opposition to the projects, said he was sure other potential wind energy developers were not happy with the outcome.

“I think this is a great example of ordinary people with determination and a certain amount of political cooperation successfully standing up to defend their community,” he said.

AL – Wind energy company pulling out of Cherokee, Etowah County projects, opposition says

Credit:  By William Thornton | August 19, 2014

CENTRE, Alabama – Groups opposed to a proposed wind farm project in Cherokee and Etowah counties say the company behind the development has informed them that it will not be building a wind farm in Alabama.

According to a document filed July 9 in Cherokee County Probate Court, Pioneer Green Energy President Andrew Bowman signed a memorandum terminating a lease to about 1,889 acres of property, slated to be developed for the project.

Mitzi Gibbs Eaker, with No Wind Alabama, said a similar agreement was signed in Etowah County.

Charlie Stewart, the attorney for Pioneer Green, had no comment beyond the filed documents. Company officials referred media inquiries to Stewart.

Pioneer Green Energy announced last year it planned to develop wind energy projects in Cherokee and Etowah counties, and said land leases had already been secured.

Five Cherokee County residents filed suit in an attempt to stop the development, and a group of Etowah County residents also filed suit, opposing the project in their county.

Pioneer Green later announced the $40 million Cherokee County project, which called for seven to eight turbines, probably would not begin construction until 2015. Company officials said the larger Etowah County project, which projected 30 to 45 turbines costing $160 million, probably would begin no earlier than the end of 2015.

Residents said they opposed the project for several reasons – among them environmental and property value concerns, noise, the change to the landscape and the long-term prospects of the development. “No Wind Alabama” took its name from what it said was the reason why wind developments have largely avoided the South -because of a lack of wind energy to supply sufficient power.

Pioneer Green officials countered that wind energy technology has improved to the point where wind could be used in areas earlier thought unable to support it.

Ginny Shaver, a Leesburg resident who opposed the project, said the turning point was in getting legislation passed calling for design specifications, setbacks and other regulations.

“When we got the local bills, that was the winning moment in my eyes,” Shaver said. “We had so much support from residents, in our groups, and it was just good, old fashioned lobbying from the people. From there, it was contacting legislators, making trips to Montgomery. It was literally a David versus Goliath thing. We didn’t have money, but we had people, and it was just a question of getting information out and educating folks.”

Eaker, who said she opposed the project because it would have negatively impacted her parents’ property in Etowah County, said she never felt confident of the outcome until attorneys informed her of the documents today.

“The residents are ecstatic that they can get back to their lives as normal,” she said. “We never felt confident. We always wondered what they had in their back pocket. It was only when we learned that the leases had been terminated that we knew it was really over.”

Post by No Wind Alabama.