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Multi-National Wind Developer Seeks Wisconsin Landowner Commitments without Public Information Meetings

Very few residents of Iowa and Lafayette Counties in Wisconsin are aware that a Canadian-owned, multinational corporation, Pattern LLC,1 has salespeople on the ground courting landowners to exchange a few hundred dollars for signed agreements so that Pattern can build about 86, ~650 foot high2 Wind Turbines. Unless landowners slow down and make an effort to understand underlying liabilities and chose to not sign agreements, Pattern LLC will be enabled to hurry though weak, county-level reviews3 without sufficient accountabilities. Next, Pattern would submit application to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin where, despite the state’s over-abundance of generation, Commissioners rarely encounter a new power plant they don’t approve of. Further, a “merchant” power plant as Pattern LLC seeks, despite its whopping 300 MW size, would not not evaluated for need, its economic competitiveness with end user alternatives for CO2 reduction and impact on Wisconsin electric bills.

Following are some, high order, landowner, local economic and health concerns that landowners, their affected neighbors and their elected officials are likely not yet familiar with:

  • The most common complaint with large wind turbines is persistent noise often described as a, “continuous jet engine.” Sub-sonic pulses described as, ”hammering” can also materialize.4 Sustained noise 3-7 times louder5 than natural settings have caused severe loss of sleep, debilitating nausea, headaches, decline in ambition, memory loss, depression and other personal afflictions that have forced families to re-locate.6 In addition to scientific studies these WI interviews7 are useful to watch.
  • At present, Iowa and Lafayette County Wind Ordinances provide no protections against large WT noise and sub-sonic hammering. At the very least, citizens must demand their County quickly adopt Wisconsin’s (PSC Code Section 128) suggested day and night noise limits (50 and 45 dBA) into their county level Wind Ordinances to at least create legal grounds for address. Landowners, Towns, Villages and Cities would be prudent to contact their County Planning and Zoning Committees and request inclusion of all provisions under State Code 128 into their County Wind Ordinances, ASAP.8
  • There are complex negative impacts from large wind turbines that extend well beyond the minimum 1250 feet9 distance from residences that Wisconsin allows. There is a trend among municipalities across the county to increase this “setback” distance to a minimum of 3000 ft.10 Worsening risks, wording in landowner contracts allows the developer the option to position wind turbines wherever they want on the signee’s land. This makes acting neighborly and consulting with one’s neighbors before signing into a blind exercise. Landowners cannot even guess where negative impacts might occur and where new construction on neighbors’ properties would become illegal or imprudent– all at considerable distance.
  • Following the inability to list and sell impacted properties11 and net losses in tax bases even with infusion of state tax dollar subsidies,12 the second most common complaint is shadow flicker disorientation from the rotating blades.13 Developers claim they can avoid this but the modeling is far from perfect. County ordinances lack minimal14 State Law flicker protections for large turbines which still allow impacts on all animals.15 Under current ordinances and contracts, Pattern is not obligated to accommodate landowner concerns until the turbines are built. “Mitigations” are often, “pointless.”16
  • Historically, un-compromised land appreciates in value about 4% per year.17 When a turbine is added and property value drops 15%,18 Pattern’s estimated per MW payments may not cover this loss if the property is sold. Over 40 years, with a 15% sale loss included in revenue estimates, one turbine on a 160 acre parcel produces about one-third of Pattern’s estimates.19
  • In address of climate change, improving electric customer efficiencies and home/local power reduces CO2 emissions far more cost effectively because use of grid power averaging only 9% wind power is greatly eliminated.20 If the approximate, $900 million total cost of the Uplands Wind System were spent, instead, on Focus on Energy solar panel rebates for WI homes, this would remove three times more CO2 emissions than Uplands and save solar households ~$107 per month.21
  • Further, a Harvard study22 analyzing hundreds of WT systems found that area ground temperature at night increase as much 2.7 degrees resulting in higher dwelling cooling costs and altered natural habitats. Farmers report significant health issues with livestock23, extensive soil compaction24, reduced wildlife populations25. Utilities document significant bird and bat kills.26

SAVE OUR UNIQUE LANDS – DO NOT SIGN WITH PATTERN LLC

For footnotes, visit: http://bit.ly/Uplands-3 Questions? Contact: info@SOULWisconsin.org or 608-625-4949

1 https://investors.patternenergy.com/financial-information/quarterly-results and https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/pattern-energy-enters-agreement-to-be-acquired-by-canada-pension-plan-investment-board-300950682.html

2Pattern is not yet publicizing turbine height information. October 2018 letters to prospective property owners near Montfort concerning the “Red Barn” wind power plant, specify total turbine heights ranging from 459 to 656 feet. Larger units are usually sought because they are more dollar efficient. For comparison, the existing turbines along Highway 18 east of Montfort are 329 feet high https://www.we-energies.com/home/montfort-wind-energy-center.htm

3County level reviews of power plant proposals are fundamental to granting necessary county permits before the proposal goes to the state Public Service Commission. All public concerns and interests must be spelled out in County Ordinances in order to require address by Pattern LLC. These include providing in-depth financial accountabilities, requiring site-specific studies of potential health impacts and specifying public information meetings to be required. Iowa County’s Wind Siting Ordinance can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/IowaCo-Wind-Ord Lafayette County’s here: https://bit.ly/LafayetteCo-Wind-Ord

4These impacts are usefully described in the five Interviews with Wisconsin Wind Farm Residents conducted by Tim Harmann of Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_Interviews

5The quieter the background sounds are, the louder the introduced noise seems. The 3-6 times difference in apparent loudness with and without a wind turbine is based on agricultural settings having natural sound levels at night of 27-30dB(A) or lower. WI law permits wind turbine noise at residencies at night to be as high as 46 dB(A). In Iowa, landowners have measured turbine noise at their homes in excess of 70 dB(A). Each 6 dB(A) increase is perceived as a doubling in loudness. The Wisconsin permitted 46 dB(A) level is 19 dB(A) greater or 3 times louder than natural sounds at night. The difference masks many natural sounds, makes energy efficiencies like sleeping with window open at night impossible and causes many persons to experience sleep loss. If the noise should reach 70 dB(A), the additional 24 dB(A), would make the turbine noise more than seven greater than natural, rural sounds at night. Dr. Robert Rand discusses the sub-sonic phenomena starting at 1 hour, 27 minutes into this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kvoZO-DEho&feature=youtu.be

6Families were obliged to move when the much smaller Shirley Wind system with 8, 2.5 MW turbines was installed. https://www.wbay.com/content/news/Brown-County-Board-meeting-on-Shirley-Wind-Farm-444039653.html See video of the special public health meeting that was held in 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kvoZO-DEho&feature=youtu.be

7Interviews with Wisconsin Wind Farm Residents, conducted by Tim Harmann of Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy. https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_Interviews

8Iowa County Planning & Development 222 N. Iowa St. Dodgeville, WI 53533 608-935-0398; Lafayette County Planning and Zoning Committee: 626 Main Street, Darlington, WI 53530, 608-776-3836

9Wisconsin PSC Code Section 128.13 and referenced Table 1: http://bit.ly/WI_128_SetbackTable1

10Wind Turbine Safety Setbacks Now Exceeding 3000 Feet, http://bit.ly/MuniSetbacksGreaterthan3000ft

11See interview with Jim Volmer starting at 04:54 https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_Interviews

12Land that houses power plants does not pay property taxes in Wisconsin. If the 300 MW power plant is approved, state tax dollars would be diverted to cover a portion of lost tax revenue. The financial ability of this subsidy to cover lost tax revenue losses has not been demonstrated and may not unless counties ask for accountability. Further, these diverted state tax dollars contain no compensation for equally significant tax base losses as properties within the counties and municipalities are sold at declined property values. SOUL estimates an average annual decline of $1 to $2.6 million in property devaluations spread across the immediately affected jurisdictions. See Tab 2 of downloadable spreadsheet at: http://bit.ly/PropertyTaxDevaluationImpacts The bottom of the range is based on Wisconsin’s historical sales rate of .6% of agricultural land being sold each year (27%, cumulatively, over 40 years) and a modest 5% decline in property values within one mile of turbines. The higher range is based on a .9% per year sales rate (40% over 40 years) and a, still modest, 10% decline in property values.

13See multiple video documents by landowners; interview with Elizabeth Eberts starting at 03:34 Wisconsin Wind Farm Residents https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_Interviews

14Wisconsin PSC Code Section 128.15 permits up to 30 hours a year http://bit.ly/WI_128_Flicker This standard is particularly challenging to meet when turbines are placed on hills above valleys where shadow projections can reach many residences, work places, livestock, natural habitats are recreational resources at large distances.

15 Wisconsin poultry farmer Jim Vollmer describes large losses at his chicken operation starting at 02:00 https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_InterviewsThe article, Do Wind Turbines Harm Animals?contains a number of links to landowner accounts.

16See multiple interviews with landowners; interview with Elizabeth Eberts starting at 03:34 Wisconsin Wind Farm Residents https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_Interviews

17Appreciation rate based on sales, http://bit.ly/WI_Ag_Land_Sales_4_Percent . From 2000-2018, the value of agricultural land in Wisconsin increased more than 6% per year from $1,804 to $5,818 per acre. From 2014 to 2018, values rose 4% per year. It is safe to assume continuation of the 4% appreciation rate as, “[The Covid-19] virus is impacting how we spend money, how we shop and, perhaps, even where we want to live. Data from Realtor.com shows suggests people are interested in moving and there seems to be an increasing appeal in properties outside of cities. The Realtor.com figures, which compared June, 2020 to June of 2019, found that homes in rural and suburban zip codes saw the biggest jump in average views per property. Homes in urban zip codes had a 19 percent increase in views compared to last year. But homes in suburban zip codes had a much larger 30 percent jump. And homes in rural zip codes saw a 34 percent increase.” See http://bit.ly/Covid_34_percent_increase_rural_living

18 As shown in this comparison by McCann, http://bit.ly/WindTurbinePropertyValueImpactKielischMcCann studies of wind turbine impacts on property values funded by wind and utility interests conclude there is a modest negative impact on values while those done by independent evaluators show very significant range of losses from 15-45% and an average of 29%.

19Pattern’s estimate $4000 per MW annual payment (with 1.9% per year increase) is not guaranteed and subject to other losses. The estimated net income from land leased for wind turbine use, conducted by SOUL incorporates impacts two, likely payment reductions: (a) A 15% decline in property value endured if property has to be sold within the 40 year term; (b) Continuation of the historical decline in wholesale electricity pricing at 6.3% per year, the rate from 2005-2019. The table at the top of Tab 1 of SOUL’s spreadsheet, http://bit.ly/PropertyTaxDevaluationImpacts suggests the adjusted revenue with a property changing hands over 40 years is much lower than the figures in Pattern’s estimated payment schedules for a 3.5 MW wind turbine located on a parcel of 160 acres. See table in spreadsheet showing net average annual turbine income / loss with property devaluation factored in if the parcel is sold 5, 10, 20, 30 and 40 years after turbine installation. Because the turbine affects the value of the whole land parcel, turbine payments in this example are not large enough to make up for the property devaluation if the property is sold before 8 years. If sold in year 40, the adjusted revenue over would be about 33-35% the amount in Pattern’s payment schedule . Key assumptions in this analysis include: Land payment of $4,000 per MW escalated at 1.9% per year over 40 years; 2022 property value set at: $4,000 per acre; size of land parcel affected by WT siting: 160 acres; Turbine size: 3.5 MW; Agricultural land unaffected by wind turbine appreciating in value 4% per year from 2022 to 2062; and 3 acres of land occupied by turbine and access roads removed from agricultural rental at $400 per acre per year in 2022 and rental fee increasing at the rate of 2.5% per year. Landowners can customize most spreadsheet assumptions to estimate the impacts.

20This percentage is up from 5% in 2010 and after billions spent on utility transmission and power plant expansions. See Table1: Capacity, Energy Output, and Price-Setting by Fuel Type, Energy Output Share, “2019 STATE OF THE MARKET REPORT FOR THE MISO ELECTRICITY MARKETS at page 30, https://www.potomaceconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2019-MISO-SOM_Report_Final_6-16-20r1.pdf#page=30

21Alternatively directing dollars to enlarging Focus on Energy rebates creates no net cost to Wisconsin electric customers because every rebate dollar results in three dollars saved in avoided energy costs. In contrast, Wisconsin electric customers do assume the costs of power plants connected to the grid. Investing the same amount as the Uplands Wind proposal, instead, into Wisconsin’s heralded but under-funded, Focus on Energy program (PSCW SEA pdf p. 67) would assist home, farm and business owners make energy efficiency and on-site solar improvements. Dollar for dollar, these rebate-aided, money saving investments by customers are more cost effective at reducing CO2 emissions because they directly reduce use of grid-supplied power. In contrast, the power from wind turbines only increases the relatively small percentage of renewable energy in Wisconsin’s grid. For details about the Focus on Energy rebate based alternative that is more land and climate change friendly, download this spreadsheet at: http://bit.ly/SOUL_UplandsVsFOE_CO2 The economic/CO2 comparison is sim ilar to analysis done for the 300 MW Badger Hollow solar power plant as analyzed here: https://bit.ly/SeriousAbtC02-Pt1

22 Large-scale wind power would require more land and cause more environmental impact than previously thought http://bit.ly/HarvardHeatStudyOverview Harvard University researchers find that the transition to wind or solar power in the United States would require five to 20 times more land area than previously thought, and if such large-scale wind farms were built, would warm average surface temperatures. . . Keith and Miller established a baseline for the 2012-2014 U.S. climate using a standard weather forecasting model. Then, they covered one-third of the continental U.S. with enough wind turbines to meet present-day U.S. electricity demand. The researchers found this scenario would warm the surface temperature of the continental U.S. by 0.24 degrees Celsius, with the largest changes occurring at night when surface temperatures increased by up to 1.5 degrees C. This warming is the result of wind turbines actively mixing the atmosphere near the ground and aloft while simultaneously extracting from the atmosphere’s motion. . . the warming effect is predominantly local to the wind farm.” The complete study by Harvard researchers is linked in the overview.

23Wisconsin farmer Jim Vollmer starting at 02:00 https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_Interviews The article, Do Wind Turbines Harm Animals? contains many links to other accounts.

24Compaction: See Wisconsin farmer, Alan Haas, starting at 44 seconds: https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_Interviews

25Wildlife populations: Wisconsin farmer Jim Vollmer starting at 3:44: https://bit.ly/WI_Wind_Interviews

26A 2018 estimate of bird and bat killing paid for by wind developer MidAmerica for 22 of their Iowa wind turbine systems over 30 years ranges from 961,635 to 1,188,075 avoidable deaths including two protected bat species, water fowl, raptors and song birds. (Data from .pdf page 155, Table 5.4-1; http://bit.ly/BirdBatTakingsPermit_MidAmerica )

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