Sunday, October 16, 2016

Are Met towers Iberdrola’s Golden Goose?

The recent negotiated settlement between the Town of Clayton and Atlantic Wind/  Avangrid / Iberdrola exposed the energy developer’s real interest in their lawsuit with Clayton. For sure, Iberdrola has no interest in blocking or stopping Clayton’s effort to revise their plans and zoning laws. In fact, they agreed to another de facto moratorium, e.g., they gave Clayton another six months to plan and revise. Must be they feel any plan Clayton develops, no matter how well framed and founded, will not inhibit or stop any plans Iberdrola has for their Horse Creek project. They obviously don’t feel threatened by any plans or zoning laws that Clayton may put up as a defense to the development proposed by Iberdrola 

Clearly Iberdrola’s principal interest are met towers. The piece they wanted and got was for the town to move ahead with the consideration and approval of their met tower requests. Iberdrola must have nearly a decade of wind data in the can from their old project proposal, so why the intense interest in getting new information? What has changed other than the winds around Depauville and Clayton?

During past open houses by wind companies that proliferated our area a few years back, we were told wind data was needed to verify the wind farm location was adequate for development and to also assist in the localized placement of individual turbines. However, the wind companies failed to inform us that there was another purpose, just as important as the others, and that was to secure financial backing. The financial part of wind farm development has been subject to growth, development and innovation, much the same as turbine development. The new innovations, called proxy revenue swaps, are long-term hedges, e.g., insurance, to protect investors against annual lapses in wind production and ensure a constant annual revenue stream.

These swaps will attract investors to Iberdrola’s Horse Creek project because they ensure a constant stream of revenue in a world of variable winds and intermittent renewable energy generation. Swaps are great for Iberdrola and investors, but they have a requirement that brings us back to Clayton and the recent court settlement related to met towers.

In a recent article in Power Magazine 1 it describes what is needed for the new innovations in wind farm development and financing:

“Obviously, weather-related hedging depends heavily on predicting the weather, and predicting the future requires understanding of past trends. But many of the factors affecting wind and solar plant performance—such as solar irradiance and highly localized wind speeds—haven’t been measured to the degree necessary to make accurate predictions of output, until relatively recently, which means the data quality hasn’t been good enough for this sort of risk assessment. And it’s also taken advances in computing power and data mining to make use of the information. Put another way, the number crunching simply hasn’t been up to the task until the past couple of years.

Now we begin to see why Iberdrola was in such a rush to get approval for met towers in Horse Creek, e.g., the new financial models require much more refined wind data and lots of it. Without this information today at Clayton, Orleans, Lyme and Brownville Iberdrola is dead in water financially.

It also seems likely that a single year of data at Horse Creek won’t be enough to satisfy those investors who would negotiate Horse Creek’s proxy revenue swaps. The Power Magazine article goes on to state, “ Worse, there is a growing consensus among experts in the field that reliance on only a few years of data, or even a single year, in forecasting renewable plant output places project owners at considerable risk of over- or under-performance in the long term.  Maybe this helps explains Iberdrola’s rush to get met tower approvals and to begin collecting wind data. It also forewarns town officials that these met tower requests, once approved, will be up in their town for a very, very long period of time. In fact, the new innovations also include forecasting wind data locally in short time frames that can assist operators in matching output to market pricing and also to fine scale grid balancing and operation. Met towers today are far more important to development and operation of a wind farm than just 10 years ago, and this explains best why Iberdrola is so interested in getting approvals for the met tower requests that they would even grant Clayton another six-month moratorium.  Notice, too, there was no moratorium on met tower installation and operation in the agreement.

Finally, understanding a little more of why a developer is so determined to get met towers approved, up and running should help planning boards guide how they grant these approvals, if in fact they do approve. First, permits should be for no more than a year at a time and fees should be substantial enough (e.g., $3,000 to 5,000/yr) to cover not only administration costs of the planning board, but to cover potential legal costs for the future. Boards should not be tempted to grant a permit for a tower that may be inappropriate in size and location, but one the developer states will be in place only temporarily. Think long-term, not temporarily.

Finally, don’t litter the landscape with met towers, regardless of the pleas by Iberdrola. I would think Clayton would have a good argument approving only a single met tower, since Iberdrola will undoubtedly be making similar requests to three other towns included in their project footprint.
In conclusion, met towers are an increasingly important component of wind farm development and operation. Given the importance to developers like Iberdrola, the town should expect them to push to more than the need, taller than they need, and longer than they need. Planning boards need to consider if such requests are in the best interest of their communities. 

Guest reader contribution.

Articles and links related to Proxy Revenue Swap Schemes:
Allanz Risk Transfer
Power Magazine
Additional links

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

58.9% of  New York’s renewable electric energy produced in 2014 came from upstate power resources

Below is an addition to a letter recently submitted to the Public service Commission concerning the imbalance of renewable energy production in New York State.

Great Lakes wind energy plans cause concerns about risks to birds


It’s easy to list the benefits of renewable energy, but calculating the costs can be difficult, like the impact on birds.
 The birds at the Tifftt Nature Preserve are very active. The preserve is about a mile away from a row of wind turbines lined up along Lake Erie. Officials in Lackawanna say it has been generating clean energy with little impact on birds.

Monday, October 3, 2016

 Is the Article 10 process a fair Process?

October 3, 2016
Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess
Secretary to the Commission
Three Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12223-1350
Kevin Casutto
Presiding Examiner
Three Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12223-1350


Dear Secretary Burgess and Presiding Examiner Casutto:

I am writing about two concerns I have about fairness of this process in evaluating the value of Galloo Island Wind LLC.
On an August 1, 2016 Governor Andrew Cuomo announced1, “The Clean Energy Standard will require 50 percent of New York's electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030, with an aggressive phase in schedule over the next several years (my emphasis).  The Article 10 siting process is the instrument by which the governor’s renewable energy plan will be implemented. The Article 10 Siting Board was given absolute power and authority deciding the merits of each energy proposal. The composition of the board is heavily weighted toward energy development, e.g., the Public Service Commission, NYSERDA and Empire State Development. Moreover, agency representatives are appointees of the governor and they have made public statements in support of his renewable energy agenda. For example, in the same August 1 news release the Chair of the Article 10 Siting Board, stated, “New York is now on its way to '50 by 30' and even more renewable power will be within our reach." When an “aggressive phase in” is added to this predisposed mix of officials we have a recipe that favors developers and one that ultimately will ignore environmental and local concerns. It is obvious the balance is tipped, their foot is on the accelerator and none of it is fair.
The other issue is demographic fairness. What has been lacking in the discussion of the Clean Energy Standard to date is how much we in upstate New York have contributed to renewable energy production so far and why upstate should not be targeted for the “aggressive phase-in” of the Clean Energy Standard. The Siting Board and the record in the case of Galloo Wind LLC need to have a clearer understanding of where electric demand is greatest and where future renewable energy generation is needed the most. If you examine the state’s usage and generation data, an imbalance is evident where upstate areas are near the finish line in the
1 text.
“50% renewables by 2030” race, and where downstate renewable development has yet to leave the starting blocks.

Turbine Map - NY.png

To quantify the imbalance, I used 2014 estimates of electric usage/demand reported by the New York Independent System Operator[2]. I combined NYISO zones G through K (Lower Hudson, New York City and Long Island) into a single downstate zone and compared it with the remaining upstate zones. I used the U.S. Energy Information Administration website to access the 2014 New York electric generation data[3], since the NYISO report provided no comparable generation data. Using EIA interactive mapping I was able to apportion the wind, solar and hydroelectric generation into upstate and downstate geographic areas 4.
As expected, the geographic distributions of electric usage and generation from renewable energy sources show a major imbalance in the area of renewable electric energy generation within the state:
 Table Schneider.png
2 NYISO. 2015 Power Trends 2015: Rightsizing the Grid.  80pp.
4 I used the proportions of  “Total Summer Net Capacity” for hydro and solar and applied it to EIA-NY’s Table 5 “Total power industry generation by primary energy source , 1990 through 2014 New York.”

Most of New York’s electric usage in 2014 was downstate, 58% of the total, but the area produces less than one percent of the power from renewable sources. In stark contrast, renewable electric generation in upstate represented 44% of the area’s usage. The renewable sources upstate in 2014 were composed of 87% hydroelectric, 13% wind and a trace from solar.  Hydroelectric resources, particularly Niagara and the St. Lawrence River, have long been major renewable energy sources for New York. The NYISO report had a higher estimate of 2014 renewable generation, 25%, although NYISO’s estimate also included generation from “other” energy sources.
These data reveal something that has been ignored in the discussion of the Clean Energy Standard – the unfairness in the siting of wind projects statewide. All wind projects are located upstate and combined with existing hydroelectric generation upstate communities are within easy reach of the governor’s goal of 50% renewables a lot sooner than by 2030. Downstate, by comparison, has not begun the process. The irony here is downstate residents consume 38% more electric energy, their elected officials adamantly support renewable energy policy, and at the same time there is no meaningful renewable energy production downstate. Furthermore, wind resources along New York’s ocean front are among the best in the state. Albany and downstate officials seem content to focus all renewable development on upstate communities to reach the governor’s goal of 50% renewables by 2030. It is obvious demographic fairness was never considered in the governor’s news release on August 1, 2016.
To be more impartial, the Siting Board should reject the governor’s charge for an aggressive phase-in of renewable projects in upstate areas, particularly in communities where proposals adversely impact sensitive environmental resources, such as Galloo Island, and where communities do not support project proposals. Instead, aggressive development efforts should be directed downstate. The focus upstate should be to protect valuable resources and communities and not diminish their importance in the name of an “aggressive phase-in” of the Clean Energy Standard.
Sincerely yours,
Clifford P. Schneider
Pro Se

Great Lakes wind energy, cause concerns about risks to birds

It’s easy to list the benefits of renewable energy, but calculating the costs can be difficult, like the impact on birds.

Continue reading via this link to WBFO 88.7

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Impacts of Wind on Wildlife

Wind Power and Migrants

As they migrate, birds and bats can be killed by impacts with the spinning turbine blades. Estimates of bird fatalities from impacts with wind turbines range from 140,000 to 573,000 birds annually (Loss et al. 2013, Smallwood 2013). Birds killed range in size from small warblers to large eagles and vultures and include many endangered species. In the Great Lakes, endangered species that may be threatened by wind power include the Kirtland's warbler (Steophaga kirtlandii) and the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) as well as the federally protected bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). Additionally, many bird species are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918). Many bird fatalities occur in large events on single nights due to environmental conditions like rain or fog, often coupled with lighting on the facilities accidentally left on, or other factors.

Great Lakes Avian Radar Technical Report Niagara, Genesee, Wayne and Jefferson Counties, New York.

Link here to read FWS full report.

Link here to read full FWS report Via Scribd format

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Don't trample rights of localities

Credit:  By Dennis C. Vacco, Commentary | Times Union | Wednesday, September 28, 2016 | ~~

By Dennis C. Vacco, Commentary
Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gov.Andrew Cuomo and the Public Service Commission recently mandated that 50 percent of the state's power be generated by renewable sources by the year 2030. This goal requires up to 370 industrial wind energy facilities to be built.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Federal judge to hear nuisance arguments

Attorneys for Kingfisher Wind (APEX) tried unsuccessfully to stop two experts hired by the association from testifying at the bench trial.

OKLAHOMA CITY (TNS) — Whether or not a wind farm near Kingfisher is a nuisance to some neighbors will be before a federal judge Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Continue reading via this link to EXAMINER-ENTERPRISE

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Two COR executives charged in federal probe of Cuomo development projects

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Two owners of COR Development Co. face federal corruption charges in U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's investigation into economic development projects in Upstate New York. Continue reading via this link to

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Infrasound and Little Galloo Island

Photo credit: C.P Schneider ~ Little Galoo Island
Below is a copy of a letter written by Clifford Schneider, a former DEC Biologist to the NYS Public Service Commission, concerning the proposed Galloo Island Wind project and the potential harmful impacts of infrasound generated by wind turbines and its affect on the nesting bird population on Little Galloo Island.