Author Archives Laura Arnold

Jay County (IN) Plan Commission works on wind and solar ordinances

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   June 16, 2019  /   Posted in solar, wind  /   No Comments
Jack Ronald, Publisher, (Portland) Commercial Review
Saturday, June 15, 2019 6:31 PM

Wind power and solar energy continued to occupy the Jay County Plan Commission Thursday night.

Commission members reviewed tweaks to the draft of a reworked wind farm ordinance and grappled with how to regulate solar energy systems, both residential and commercial.

“I’m tired of talking about wind and solar,” said Jay/Portland Building and Planning director John Hemmelgarn as Scott Hilfiker, Steve Ford, Tom Laux, Matt Minnich and Chad Aker reviewed drafts of potential new ordinances.

The commission began reviewing the county’s wind farm ordinance after Jay County Commissioners imposed a three-year moratorium on such developments in response to backlash over Scout Clean Energy’s Bitter Ridge Wind Farm in Jefferson and Richland townships.

The Bitter Ridge project is expected to begin construction in August or September and was approved under the existing ordinance. The moratorium is intended to give the county time to revise and reconsider items such as setbacks and permit fees.

Plan commission will continue to review the draft ordinances at its July 18 meeting. Once the language is complete, the ordinances will be advertised and will be the subject of a public hearing. After action by the plan commission, the ordinances would go to Jay County Commissioners to be adopted.

The first draft of a new ordinance calls for the setback from a wind turbine to be 1.5 times the total height of the turbine at its highest point, measured from the tip of an upright blade, away from the property line of non-participating landowners. The setback for homes is a minimum of 1,500 feet from non-participating landowners.

Participating landowners can waive those setbacks.

The biggest change in the draft since the commission’s last meeting in March is a significant boost in the permit fee, linking it to the amount of energy produced. The draft ordinance calls for a fee of $1,750 per megawatt produced each year.

“This almost doubles the permit fees,” said Hemmelgarn. “This is what other counties are doing.”

The commission also reviewed a draft ordinance for small wind energy projects, the kind that are for residential use. Currently, only one such wind turbine — erected several years ago by Ron and Shirley Stauffer — exists in the county. As proposed, the draft ordinance would establish a threshold of 100 kilowatts between residential and commercial wind turbine projects.

Establishing rules and regulations for solar energy projects is especially challenging because there are few models to base things on.

“We didn’t know where to begin,” said Hemmelgarn, noting that Indiana has yet to establish guidelines.

“I don’t know how restrictive we want to get,” Hemmelgarn added.

Any new county ordinance would cover not only potential solar farms but also individual residential installation of solar panels. [emphasis added]

Commercial solar farms, as defined in the first draft, would be those larger than five acres. Using the wind farm ordinance as a template, the draft calls for a $20,000 development application fee and a $20 per annual kilowatt permit fee.

Setbacks, as spelled out in the first draft, would be 150 feet from the property line.

Decommissioning and road use requirements would mirror those in wind farm regulations.

‘Being steamrolled’ or following procedure?; Henry Co. (IN) wind farm mtg.

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   June 15, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized, wind  /   No Comments

'Being steamrolled' or following procedure?


Officially, wind turbines were not on the itinerary for Wednesday’s Henry County Commissioners meeting. But, as a unique one-hour public comment period and increased law enforcement presence proved, they continue to be on many minds.

Commissioner Ed Yanos excused himself from the extra commentary session, which was held after Wednesday’s regular meeting. Yanos is the county commissioners’ representative on the Henry County Planning Commission, which has received a wind farm permit application.

That left Commissioners President Kim Cronk – who facilitated the extra question-answer session in the first place – to field a barrage of accusations, pleas and complaints from many in the old Circuit Courtroom crowd of approximately 40 people. Commissioner Ed Tarantino was by his side literally, but didn’t hide the fact that he was on the side of protesters where the wind issue was concerned.

Perceived threats?

One of the biggest complaints of the evening concerned the larger than normal uniformed officers at the meeting.

“Why the overwhelming police presence here tonight?” Bobbi Plummer asked. “We have been painted for three years as these unruly, horrible people. It is just exhausting for us to be regarded in that way.”

Henry County Sheriff Ric McCorkle said an individual at the Middletown Fair “said we’d better be prepared.”

That individual, Middletown resident Ron Romine, expressed shock, disgust and dismay that his comments were regarded as a threat to anyone’s safety.

Romine said he meant “they’d better be prepared, because in the next election they’re going to be voted out.”

“I’m sorry for the misunderstanding,” Romine said.

“You have a right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression as long as it stays civil,” McCorkle said. “We are your sheriff’s department. We don’t take that information lightly. You know as well as I do in today’s world there are individuals out there who would take the opportunity to capitalize in a situation where they know the community is at odds with each other. There are individuals who would capitalize on that moment to cause a disturbance for that very reason, just to cause a disturbance.

“I would rather be overly prepared than to be having a separate conversation at a later date,” McCorkle concluded.

“I appreciate you being here. But that’s not what I meant,” Romine said,

Romine went on to say what, in his view, was an over-reaction to his comments is further proof of pressure coming down from pro-wind forces to make the turbines turn in Henry County.

“It’s pretty pathetic when you say something and somebody takes it the wrong way and eight cops show up,” Romine said. “That is the biggest and craziest thing I’ve ever heard of. Come to my house. You know where I live. Just come and talk to me. I love this county. That’s why we’re fighting for it. I don’t want to hurt anybody.”

Cronk thanked McCorkle and the other officers for their concerns and efforts at keeping order.

Cease and desist

Perhaps the most pointed – and poignant – moment of the evening came when Jim McShirley posed a question to Cronk. He asked if Henry County had a responsibility to support communities who had passed four-mile buffer zones. There were 13 of the 16 Henry County towns who did just that.

“That’s the decision the town boards made. We, the county, have our own ordinances,” Cronk said.

“Knowing that your towns, the very heart and soul of your communities, are against turbines being placed within four miles of their towns and knowing that Calpine is actively aggressively attempting to ignore that, why don’t you insist that Calpine cease and desist as this law stands, because your communities are more important than a giant corporation attempting to disregard law?” McShirley said.

Cronk said they were following regulations in county law and that the process should run its course.

“So these towns have to pathetically spend fortunes to defend their towns against their own county is what you’re saying,” McShirley said. “Does it make you feel good that all these citizens are pouring in money that they don’t have to defend their home towns and they are literally going broke fighting their county? Why can’t Calpine be told to stand down until this is ruled on and we have a better understanding of who is right?”

Then McShirley said, “Calpine is attempting to steamroll us.”

Time is of the essence

Time does appear to be of the essence for Calpine, which filed a formal application for Big Blue River Wind Farm earlier this month.

National reports say a production tax credit, established in 1994 and extended several times, is not likely to be renewed by the Trump Administration.

In his Oct. 8, 2018 news story “An Uncertain Future for America’s Wind Energy Capital,” co-published by The Center for Public Integrity and Mother Jones, reporter Kristian Hernández said this tax credit accounts for 70% of the $37 billion in subsidies the wind industry receives. Hernández said wind companies are scrambling to get in before a late 2019 deadline.

But with legal questions literally swirling in the wind, McShirley said it would be not only understandable, but appropriate for Commissioners to put the brakes on Calpine’s request until legal matters are settled.

“It would be powerful if the county – you – would just send Calpine a cease and desist letter,” McShirley told the commissioners.

“That’s what I would like to see happen,” Commissioner Tarantino said. “Until the court makes a ruling on that law, that we hold off giving commission approved use since it could be overturned at a later date. This project has been in the county for seven or eight years. This particular one is relatively new. I don’t see why we can’t – in view of the fact that the legislature grandfathered in, they did allow, not just Henry County but a few other counties who passed the four-mile rule. I don’t see why we can’t wait as far as the planning commission goes until the court makes a ruling.”

Applause then filled the courtroom.

“Why would we want a giant corporation to steamroll us and then find out later that they were wrong, but they’ve already got 38 turbines installed, so what can we do,” McShirley added. “That’s where it’s headed. Instead, the right thing to do is to let this play out in court, let this get settled and then move either way.”

McShirley pointed to the Cadiz power plant as a controversial local project citizens were powerless against.

“They didn’t even apply for a local permit. It got partially constructed and the ruling was, ‘well, they’re already 70% complete, we can’t make them tear it down,’” he said. “They got steamrolled. And that’s what’s going to happen again. I think the county is facilitating that.”

“Legally. Morally. Ethically.” McShirley used those words to say a cease and desist order was the right thing to do. “Instead we’re just facilitating this steamrolling.”

Cronk emphasized there would be a public hearing on the latest wind turbine request with the plan commission.

But there were cries of foul in the audience about the make-up of that commission and the fact that unelected people could determine an issue likely to affect a majority of Henry County residents.

“There are basically 22 family groups who will profit from turbines on their parcels and we have 50,000 people almost in the county,” said property owner Susie Eichhorn. “It is a fraction of a percent of the people who will stand to make an income from this compared to the county at large. I almost think it’s one acre, one vote. So if you don’t have any acreage, it sucks for you. It needs to stop. We’re at the 11th hour now and people are going to have their homes destroyed.

“Vern Sharrett’s house is surrounded,” Eichhorn continued. “I think he’ll see every turbine. All 38. Dan and Rosie Richey will see every turbine from their home. You are destroying people’s homes. The writing is on the wall. We need to stop it.”

Cronk adamantly defended himself and his family against allegations they were involved in the wind farm project in any way and vehemently objected to an accusation that county government was corrupt.

“Jay Cronk, my brother, was one of the first people to sign a petition against the turbines for Harrison Township. Nothing’s changed from my perspective,” the commissioner said.

Still, the anti-turbine forces pressed on, claiming that those who have the decision-making power either aren’t listening to the majority of local residents or don’t care what they think.

McShirley said the first hearing he counted every single person in the room and said there were 173 against wind and only seven in favor.

“Why do seven unelected people have the power to make this decision?” Judy Walker asked.

Only the beginning?

Henry County resident Don Miller also emphasized that the 38 turbines requested now may be only the beginning.

“When they first came to the county, they were looking at 80 to 100 (turbines). What do you know about phase two or phase three from Calpine? Is that a possibility?” Miller asked the commissioners.

“I have no idea,” Cronk said.

“I can say that is generally how it works,” Tarantino said. “When they pass a phase, they generally have more than one phase, two, three or four phases.

Calpine files application for Big Blue River Wind Farm in Henry Co. (IN)

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   June 10, 2019  /   Posted in wind  /   No Comments
Travis Weik, Reporter, (New Castle) Courier-Times
Friday, June 7, 2019 12:46 PM

“Wind is dead!” can officially be categorized with “Dewey wins!” in the annals of Henry County history.

Big Blue River Wind Farm, LLC, a Calpine Corp. project, filed an application Tuesday with the Henry County Planning Commission for a Commission Approved Use (CAU) permit.

Per regulations, any CAU permit has to be filed at least 30 days before the planning commission will hear it.

July 18 is the earliest scheduled date for the Henry County Planning Commission to hear the CAU permit application from Big Blue River Wind Farm, LLC.

The full CAU application, which includes 22 documents and 391 pages, is available to the public at River.aspx.

According to the application, the proposed Big Blue River Wind Farm project will be “a wind-powered electric generation facility” with elements in Fall Creek, Jefferson, Prairie, Henry, Harrison and Greensboro Townships.

The proposed project will include up to 38 wind turbines and “associate necessary project infrastructure,” which includes access roads, collections lines, performance towers and a substation.

The application shows components of the project, if approved, would go on 132 parcels.

According to the application, as of Tuesday, Big Blue River Wind Farm, LLC had signed leases on 96 parcels, pending leases on six parcels, a consent to reduced setback on four parcels and a consent to permit on 26 parcels.

Maps of the proposed Big Blue River Wind Farm show the majority of the possible turbines (25) would be located in Harrison Township, with an operations and maintenance (O&M) building located west of Cadiz on Ind. 38.

The map shows two possible turbine sites in Jefferson Township, three in Prairie, three in Henry, three in Fall Creek and two in Greensboro Township.

According to the application, the company intends for the Big Blue River Wind Farm project to generate up to 132 megawatts of electricity. The energy would go to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc., (MISO) Electric Power Market and the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection (PJM) regional transmission operating system.

The CAU application includes five potential turbine manufacturers and models for the proposed project.

The maximum turbine height ranges from 492-500 feet, with the maximum diameter of rotors and blades measuring 194-219 feet.

Big Blue River Wind Farm, LLC also included in their CAU application an agreement to provide training to Henry County emergency services and an evacuation zone and safety plan.

Also included as part of the CAU application are a sound emissions study, a shadow flicker analysis, a transportation plan and road use agreement, an archaeological resources affidavit, a decommissioning plan and agreement, an escrow agreement and a microwave analysis.

West Lafayette calls county’s wind farm ban terrible idea for home of Purdue, opts out

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   June 05, 2019  /   Posted in Uncategorized, wind  /   No Comments

West Lafayette calls county’s wind farm ban terrible idea for home of Purdue, opts out

West Lafayette council won’t stand for Tippecanoe County’s new wind farm ban, even though vote will have little practical effect in the battle over wind turbines in rural areas

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – West Lafayette, agitated that the home of Purdue University was being linked to a new ban on wind farms across Tippecanoe County, took a hard pass Monday night.

City council members admitted that the vote largely symbolic. The city has little ground that could accommodate the sort of 300- to 600-foot wind turbines recently outlawed in Tippecanoe County’s zoning code. And even if the city did have enough open space, the height of a wind turbine wouldn’t fly that close to the Purdue Airport on the west edge of the city, given Federal Aviation Administration limits.

But city council members objected to West Lafayette’s name being associated with the ban, voting 7-0 Monday night to keep the zoning ordinance out of the city code.

“For the city of West Lafayette, we have nothing to gain, everything to lose by including this in our city code,” said Nick DeBoer, a Democrat who represents District 1. “We don’t want the headlines to read, ‘City of Purdue University bans wind energy,’ right? There’s no upside in a PR aspect for us. There’s no upside in us adopting this amendment.”

Jon Jones, a Republican from the campus-heavy District 3, said: “It’s definitely an issue where framing of it is important. And I do not want to cast a vote against renewable energy.”

West Lafayette’s vote followed a study finished in April by the Tippecanoe County Area Plan Commission, the body that offers the first review of zoning and land use issues for Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and the towns of Dayton, Battle Ground and Clarks Hill.

Wind energy

Wind farms banned in rural Tippecanoe County, as environmentalists grumble

Large turbines, like ones in Benton and White counties, now banned in Tippecanoe County. Meanwhile, West Lafayette puts off vote on the measure.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – As protests mounted Monday about the message being sent to the rest of Indiana and world about Tippecanoe County’s commitment to green energy, the biggest turbines and commercial wind farms were banned from rural land around Lafayette and West Lafayette.

Tippecanoe County commissioners – arguing that a growing county couldn’t afford to hamstring other kinds of development with long-term leases tying up tens of thousands of acres around Lafayette and West Lafayette – voted 3-0 for a zoning ordinance that prohibits wind turbines taller 140 feet.

That would leave the possibility for smaller turbines, similar to ones that power CityBus offices along Canal Road north of downtown Lafayette. But it effectively shut out commercial turbines, which can range from 300 feet to as much as 600 feet, for newer models, as seen in neighboring Benton and White counties.

The ordinance, driven by several dozen residents primarily in the southern part of the county, has been in the works for several months. In April, the Tippecanoe County Area Plan Commission – a body made up of representatives from government bodies in Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and three towns in the county – recommended the language in an 11-4 vote.

That night in April, though, a number of people told APC members that the county was making a mistake by shunning renewable energy and essentially casting a vote for the coal and fossil fuel industries.

That litany continued Monday morning, this time as a last-ditch plea to the three county commissioners.

“When you’re in a community hosting Purdue University, an education institution renowned worldwide in engineering, here our county commissioners are going to vote to accept a ban limiting innovation (and) growth,” said Derek Reuters, a Lafayette resident.

“If we want to send a message around the world that Purdue’s a great institution, if we want to send a message that we’re a community that accepts innovation and growth in renewable, safe, healthy energy production, and we want to be a community that looks out after our future generations, I think you should vote no,” Reuters said.

Wind farms (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Susan Schechter, a Lafayette resident, said she couldn’t understand the county’s motivation.

“We’re dependent on an old, dirty technology to support our economy,” Schechter said. “Why would we say we’re not going to support a clean solution that would benefit us in terms of clean jobs and income from a generation of clean energy? I’m just like, Why? Why are we taking this step?”

Tim Strueh, who lives near Linden, close to the Montgomery County line, was among residents who pushed for the ordinance – the second in the past dozen years aimed at wind turbines. In 2007, Tippecanoe County set zoning restrictions that demanded setbacks of 750 feet from neighboring properties without turbines and at least 1,200 feet from dwellings.

“This is not about alternative energy,” Strueh said. “What this ordinance is about is proper siting for power plants.”

Proponents also argued about the potential harm to property values for homes that wind up in the shadows of wind turbines.

Commissioner Tom Murtaugh sided with residents, saying the ban was not a county statement against sustainable energy. In fact, he said, the county and the Area Plan Commission were getting set to come up with zoning guidelines in anticipation of a growth in solar energy.

“What comes out of this is that renewable energy is important, but it all needs to make sense,” Murtaugh said. “In the case of these giant wind farms, it doesn’t make sense. In Benton County, it does, because you don’t have the population growth like we do here. … It’s irresponsible to tie up 30,000 acres for decades in a county that is growing the way we are.”

Commissioners and county planners say they haven’t heard recently from wind farm companies, including Invenergy, a firm that, at one point, had been working to sign land leases in Tippecanoe County.

Clark Howey, a farmer in West Point, southwest of Lafayette, said the ordinance was going to hurt farmers looking for supplemental income on land in parts of the county never going to be targeted for industrial development.

“It just looks to me like the farmers down there have farmed this and farmed it for generation after generation after generation,” Howey said. “And now, all of a sudden, we’re too stupid to run the farm. It’s beyond me how this has happened.”

Commissioner David Byers, a dairy farmer, commiserated, saying he was torn over a measure that would restrict the agriculture community looking to stay afloat with lease payments for turbines. Still, he voted for the ordinance.

The commissioners’ vote effectively put the ordinance on the books for all unincorporated areas of Tippecanoe County, outside Lafayette, West Lafayette, Battle Ground, Dayton and Clarks Hill.

Lafayette was expected to consider the ordinance Monday night.

But the West Lafayette City Council tabled discussion and a potential vote Monday night, at the request to Mayor John Dennis.

“We have a lot of things in the works right now though the (West Lafayette) Go Greener Commission and some of the things that are going on with some of the construction that we’re doing here in the city that we’d like to present in a more holistic fashion,” Dennis told council members Thursday night.

What that means, exactly, is still in the works, Erik Carlson, West Lafayette’s development director, said Monday. Dennis told council members last week to expect something in time for the council’s June 3 meeting.

Peter Bunder is West Lafayette City Council president and a voting member of the Go Greener Commission, a board that advises the mayor and the city on environmental issues.

“I think there are a significant number of people in West Lafayette who think that banning an entire class of green energy is probably a bad idea,” Bunder said. “And they’ll want an opportunity to say that out loud, whether there are enough votes against it.”

Bunder said he wasn’t sure it would come to West Lafayette opting out of the ordinance.

“Practically, it means nothing, because we don’t have any land anywhere, and we’re right next to an airport, so we’re not going to build wind turbines in West Lafayette,” Bunder said. “But there are going to be some folks who’ll want to say, ‘What is the area’s commitment to renewable energy?’”

Sallie Fahey, Area Plan Commission’s executive director, said that if either city rejected the amendment to the countywide Unified Zoning Ordinance, current regulations would stay in place. Wind farms would still be permitted in office research and certain industrial zones. In West Lafayette’s case, the city has what Fahey called “a fair amount” of land zoned that way.

Fahey said cities or towns that had misgivings had another option. If they didn’t act in 90 days from the APC’s vote, the wind farm ban would automatically go into effect.

“So, if they want to avoid taking a stand by vote,” Fahey said, “this might be a course of action – or non-action in this case – they take.”

Bunder said he wasn’t sure it would come to either of those ends. Though, he said he wondered whether there could have been a more nuanced solution that allowed turbines in some of the most remote parts of the county, “where development might just mean a hog farm or a warehouse, instead of the next (Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.).”

Julie Peretin, a Lafayette resident who lobbied for the wind farm ban, said she thought the measure was in the county’s best interest.

“It’s incredible to get this done,” Peretin said. “It took persistence. … We feel we made our case and the commissioners listened.”

Reach Dave Bangert at 765-420-5258 or at Follow on Twitter: @davebangert.

Eagle Pt. Solar Sues We Energies and WPSC over 3rd party PPA

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   June 04, 2019  /   Posted in solar, third party power purchase agreement (PPA), Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Barry Shear, President Eagle Point Solar,

Solar project developer takes dispute with We Energies to court, suing the utility and Public Service Commission

Eagle Point Solar has sued the Public Service Commission and We Energies, seeking a ruling that would allow solar developers to own projects that provide electricity to one customer.

The lawsuit, filed in Dane County, is the next step in the dispute over Eagle Point’s scuttled project to install solar panels on six buildings owned by the City of Milwaukee.

Eagle Point’s project for the city was blocked last year when We Energies would not allow the solar power systems to connect to the utility’s system.

We Energies contended that the project was illegal because Eagle Point initially would own most of the systems and therefore was a public utility under state law. That in turn would prohibit Eagle Point from supplying electricity to one of We Energies' existing customers and would force Eagle Point to be regulated like a monopoly utility.

The PSC agreed with We Energies, contending that the issue of what is a public utility must be decided by the state Legislature.

Barry Shear, president of Eagle Point, had said that the dispute eventually would end up in court.

Shear prevailed in a similar lawsuit that went to the Iowa Supreme Court.

The outcome could determine whether cities, counties, school districts, universities, health systems and other nonprofit entities will have an additional way to pay for solar power projects.

Companies such as Eagle Point can take advantage of a 30% tax credit for solar projects and then can pass along part of those savings to lower the cost of adding solar power to buildings. The nonprofits do not pay taxes and therefore cannot access the credit on their own.

“This really has had a chilling effect on solar for municipalities,” Shear said.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center, an environmental advocacy group in the Midwest, and other groups are expected to intervene in the lawsuit filed in Dane County.

Eagle Point’s lawsuit — like its petition to the PSC — cites legal cases going back to 1911 and 1924 that found that an entity is not a public utility if it didn’t provide power to “the public.”

“If you have one customer, you are not a utility,” Shear said. “There is case law on this issue that is directly on point.”

We Energies also contends the law is clear — and that if an entity sells electricity to one of its customers, it is a public utility.

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