Really Rural

J & J

J&J Auto Coudersport
J&J Auto Coudersport

Monday, October 6, 2008


Car Audio-Alarms-Remote Car Starters
Add a CD Changer to any stereo--Stock or After Market
Custom Installs-Head Units, Subs, Sub Enclosures, Amps
Car Detailing--Alarms--Call for details
Remote Car Starter Sales & Installation Start At $175.00
Stephen Kelly, Jr.
Coudersport, PA---- 814-274-7931

Friday, October 3, 2008

Martha Caldwell-Young's Presentation 9-25-2008


The following information was submitted to the Pennsylvania’s Potter County Commissioners during their regular meeting, open to the public, on September 25, 2008. I appeared before them regarding the county’s draft ordinance for industrial wind energy facilities, to request a 1-mile setback from non-participating landowner property lines. I went in search of documentation to defend this request, and the materials presented were the results of this search. Links to these documents can be found on either of these web pages. Just scroll to the bottom of the article.

Wisconsin has been a proving ground for industrial wind turbines. Much has been documented about their experience. The Large Wind Turbine Citizens Committee from the Town of Union published a Setback Recommendations Report. It is the most comprehensive document I have found to date.

The task of crafting a protective ordinance as well as overseeing construction and long-term operation of wind farms is monumental. Over the past few years, communities across this country have been learning, by trial and error, how to live with wind power. That developers are just now getting to Potter County testifies to the marginal quality of our sustained winds. However, our delayed development also gives us the opportunity to learn from other states so we do not have to repeat their same mistakes. There is no need for us to learn by trial and error – especially because making those same mistakes means that people will get hurt.

My primary concern is that no one gets hurt. Let’s establish as our motto, “first, do no harm.” To that end, I am recommending, in addition to the 1-mile setback, establishment of a wider ring for safety (up to 3-miles) within which families have available to them remedial options should noise, shadow flicker, or blade glint be a problem; whether that means the planting of trees, installation of awnings, or buyouts for those who find life with turbines to be intolerable. For homes within this ring of safety, let the power companies put into escrow an amount equal to the appraised value of homes prior to turbine construction. Escrow funds should be available for the life of the turbine, offering protection to nearby homeowners should the turbine’s operation become more problematic over time. If the owners of these homes decide to sell and cannot sell on the open market, they will be bought-out by the escrow funds. Once the turbine is decommissioned, any unused escrow funds will be returned to the power company. If decisions on setbacks are influenced by power company claims that noise will not be a problem, let them backup their claims with financing to assist families that are affected.

Corporations do risk assessments all the time, and if the risk expense is within acceptable tolerance levels, projects move forward. Our requests for escrow funds to protect those who may be affected are certainly well within tolerance levels and would be acceptable to any power company worth doing business with.

No one knows how turbine noise will behave among the hills and valleys of Potter County. Noise research indicates that turbines can be heard 2 miles away or more. While it may not make sense from an economic development standpoint to establish a 2-mile setback, these statistics do substantiate the need to establish a safety buffer that extends beyond the setback limit. Build into the ordinance the flexibility to assess the actual impact of each turbine that goes on-line. Outline protocols to efficiently address all complaints and remediation steps for those affected beyond their ability to tolerate the impact. Tolerance is different for all people, and it is possible for us to address this diversity.

Noise, shadow flicker, and blade glint must not be trivialized. Noise will affect all living too close, especially at night when winds at ground level are typically quieter than winds aloft. Without ground-level ambient noise, turbine noise is louder at night than during the day. Shadow flicker and blade glint will also affect all living too close. Since this occurs only during the day, our community of retired people is particularly at risk, some of whom are elderly and whose health may be least able to withstand the experience.

As a homeowner within a stone’s throw of open farmland, my preference would be that wind turbines are built far enough away so that I never hear them or see them. I do not look forward to the prospect of having to document the effects of turbine noise on myself and my husband, enduring the time it will take for due process to reach it conclusion. But, I would much prefer having access to due process than to be left swinging the breeze, so to speak. I do not look forward to having to leave a home that I’ve come to love, but I would much prefer being given the financial resources to relocate than to face possibly abandoning my home because noise conditions make it uninhabitable.

Let our ordinance be a litmus test for power companies, surfacing those who are equally committed to wind development AND protection of human lives, and who have the financial stability to do both. Doing business with corporations that are developing too fast, and skating on thin ice financially, will only increase the probability that turbine projects will be abandoned once the power companies can no longer afford to keep them operating. And prior to abandonment, they will likely limit or curtail maintenance, increasing the chances of turbine failure and potential for additional human harm. Power companies we want to do business with are those who are willing to be long-term partners with local communities, committed to working shoulder-to-shoulder, ensuring that all benefit and not one single person gets hurt in the process. Establishment of cash escrow funds prior to construction is well within their means financially. If their turbines are as quiet as their marketing campaigns claim, then there will be little if any likelihood escrow funds will be spent.

Dealing with gigantic international corporations, Potter County becomes just a number on a spreadsheet, and not a very spectacular number at that. What will motivate corporations like this to give us any of their time and attention once wind turbines start turning? It is incumbent upon us to be the best possible advocates we can be for the protection of public health, welfare, and safety.

Given the marginal winds in Potter County, I have a concern that we’ll be seen as a short-term cash cow. Power companies will make money on marginally producing turbines in the short term because of tax credits and unusually generous depreciation allowances designed specifically for wind power development. Once they’ve milked our turbines, once the tax credits and depreciation allowances run out, turbines here many well, at best, be subject to early retirement, or worse, abandonment. If we’ve done our homework well and attracted the “right” wind companies, they will not simply walk away from a cow that is no longer producing quality milk, but instead will follow through on their commitment to the decommissioning and removal all turbines, and put us out to pasture.

It seems to me that political and economic pressures to more forward with wind development are based largely on the promise of “payments in lieu of taxes” and the promise of new local jobs. I believe these issues should be addressed in the ordinance, requiring the power companies to commit in writing before development approval is granted. How many jobs will be held strictly for local residents? How much are they committing in revenue payments? What are the annual revenue increases, especially once their initial investments are recouped? The irony is that any revenue payments received from the power companies can easily be passed on to the end consumer in the form of higher electric costs.

While setback is my primary concern, I am equally concerned about what seems to be a lack of wind turbine education for County citizens, especially those who already are, or soon will be, negotiating to lease their land. How many have sought legal advice? There is so much rhetoric flying around; PR sounds bites from both sides. There’s no question in my mind that power company representatives will take advantage of na├»ve property owners, and the resulting leases will be weighted heavily in favor of the power company. “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” What the property owner doesn’t know to ask about, the power representative more than likely will not volunteer. Forbearance easements that forbid landowners from complaining about turbine noise are one example. We should promote full disclosure for all problems. Any power company that would include a forbearance easement in leases, or approach non-participating landowners with money incentives to sign one, is a company no one should do business with.

Reports are coming out that wind power is not all that is advertised to be. Turbines are only 25-30% efficient and create problems for the power grid due to the poor quality of the electricity produced – power surges, drop offs, production of electricity when it’s not needed. Electricity produced at the industrial level can not be stored. It is either used or dissipates as heat. To date, no coal burning or nuclear power plants have been taken off-line and replaced by wind farms, so for industry promoters to say that wind turbines are today reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is simply not true. Energy technology will evolve; time will tell what is to become of wind power. Given the immediacy of economic recovery in Potter County, it may well be the short term opportunity needed to stimulate growth. That is a reality I realize our Commissioners absolutely can not ignore, regardless of their personal opinions on wind power. And, I believe it is possible to move forward, albeit as cautiously as possible, with wind power development in a way that not one single person gets hurt in the process. Let our motto be, “first, do no harm.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mill Stream Inn

918 East Second Street · Coudersport, PA- 814-274-9900