from the Coos County Democrat:
Forest Society's Priorities Are Blowin’ in the Wind
What has become of the Society for the Protection of NH Forests mission and priorities? It appears that misguided fundraising has the organization lost in the woods.
The Forest Society has raised and spent millions buying land in hopes of killing the Northern Pass project, claiming transmission lines would damage New Hampshire’s landscape. Forest Society spokesman Will Abbott recently stated, “The economies of central and northern NH are heavily dependent on the landscape, and if you scar the landscape, you scar the economy.”
Naturally, one would think the Forest Society would be equally opposed to 400-foot tall, night lit wind turbines “scarring” the tops of well-known and scenic mountains that can be seen up to 40 miles away. Yet, instead of opposing the massive 24-tower wind farm, the Forest Society played a strange and significant role in paving the way for that project to be built.
In 2009, Spanish-owned Iberdola Renewables came to New Hampshire wanting to build “Groton Wind,” and needing to lease about 3,900 acres from Green Acres Woodlands, a private timberland owner. Groton Wind knew the Forest Society was trying to put the land under a conservation easement, and told the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in October 2009, “Groton Wind is planning to assist the Forest Society to help make this happen.”
At a 2009 meeting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Groton Wind said it was assisting the Forest Society in getting the easement, “by providing in-kind services and environmental information and potentially funding of the project.” It was suggested that its “proposed contribution to the [Forest Society] conservation easement over the leased lands could be considered as appropriate mitigation,” to get Groton Wind approved.
An April, 2010 Forest Society letter to DES attempted to clarify the strange relationship between the threesome: landowner Green Acres Woodlands, the Spanish wind farm developer that needed the land, and the Forest Society, which supposedly wanted to protect the land from development. In her letter, Forest Society President Jane Difley admitted that the society was being “compensated” by Green Acres Woodlands, which was now listed as a wind farm partner, and that the Forest Society would “not be offering an opinion on the Wind Project as part of the permitting process.” It’s no wonder. In its permit application, Groton Wind states that as compensatory mitigation for its wetlands impacts, it will assist the Forest Society, “in its efforts to protect up to 6,578 acres of land in Groton, Hebron, Rumney, Dorchester, and Plymouth in a conservation easement...”
The Forest Society was also happy to accept Groton Wind’s in-kind service for “survey and other data,” but this does not imply that they support the project. As Shakespeare writes in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
The Forest Society had numerous reasons to oppose Groton Wind, including a multi-year effort to put the land under a conservation easement through the federally funded Forest Legacy Program. In November 2007, the Forest Society announced it was working on, “securing $3.6 million federal funding to buy a conservation easement on 6,578 acres of working forest in Groton, Hebron and Plymouth. Owned by Green Acres Woodlands, a private timberland owner, the land forms the core of one of the largest and most ecologically rich forests south of the White Mountains…”
Another reason is that the Forest Society’s Cockermouth Forest abuts Groton Wind. Cockermouth consists of one thousand acres in Groton and Hebron – and is touted for its “incredible views and numerous opportunities for observing wildlife year-round.” But if you look to northern ridgelines, those “incredible views” are obscured by 24 whooshing windmills. As for viewing wildlife, you might see some falcons, bats, and songbirds, both alive and dead. Wind farms are notorious for killing birds and bats.
To summarize, the Cockermouth Forest abuts Groton Wind. The Forest Society had been working for years to put Groton Wind’s land under a “no development” conservation easement. Groton Wind then leased the land from Green Acres Woodlands and made a sizable contribution to an easement stewardship fund. The Forest Society accepted valuable in-kind work and environmental information from Groton Wind developers and took no position on the project. Development is prohibited on some 6,500 acres, but yet, somehow the towers are already built on mountaintops that are apparently not covered by the conservation agreement, although their roads to service the wind turbines cut through the conserved land.
The Forest Society’s latest money raising campaign is called, “Trees Not Towers,” yet it clearly doesn’t apply to 400 foot wind towers. It is a stunning display of dishonesty and hypocrisy.
- Fran Wendelboe, New Hampton, NH
A recent poll conducted by WMUR & UNH shows that support for the Northern Pass Transmission project is growing and currently outweighs opposition. The most interesting part of the survey is that support is growing for the Northern Pass while public awareness is at an all-time high. The more people learn, the more they like.
This is good news for proponents of clean energy and local jobs in NH. It means that the corporate money and astroturfing campaign from big oil isn't working. The choice between oil and hydro-electricity is clear, and Granite Staters know it.
View the entire poll here.
Score another victory for system reliability and energy construction jobs! Public Service of New Hampshire plans new substation, $17 million investment in Keene. The Keene Sentinel reports:
PSNH Hopes to Build Substation Near Wheelock Park
By JACQUELINE PALOCHKO Sentinel Staff
full article here
Public Service of New Hampshire officials hope to build a $17 million substation near Keene's Wheelock Park by the end of 2015.
Last week, PSNH officials submitted a request to city officials for a second substation that would serve about 7,000 customers in the north Keene area. PSNH has a substation on Emerald Street, but company officials said the equipment there is outdated and needs upgrading. By having a second substation, PSNH will be able to split work at the two stations, and customers will have more reliable service, officials said.
PSNH officials said they chose the proposed location, adjacent to Wheelock Park, because the land is not conservation land. At this location, officials would also not have to take down too many trees. PSNH hopes to lease about 4 to 6 acres from the city.
Thursday night, finance, organization and personnel committee members granted City Manager John A. MacLean permission to work out further details about the proposed substation. MacLean said there are still many details to work out, such as the city’s long-term interest in the project and the size of the station.
Once more details are ironed out, MacLean and PSNH officials will report back to the committee. PSNH would also have to go through planning approval.
Should a substation be built there, PSNH will pay property taxes to the city.
Another attempt to block green jobs and clean energy has failed.
Following the NH Senate's highly-publicized rejection of an energy construction moratorium, opponents of clean energy tried to wiggle similar language into the state budget bill.
(Excerpts below from NHPR. Full article here)
..."Republicans meanwhile, tried to chip away at the budget, with 16 separate floor amendments: some aimed to limit the governor’s ability to scoop money from dedicated funds; others sought to secure more funding for charter schools...
...another [amendment] aimed to impose a moratorium on wind farms and to stall the Northern Pass Project. All failed"...
Chalk up another victory for green construction jobs and clean energy. Our leaders are truly committed to bringing economic opportunity to the Granite State!
A recent study by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA) echoes many of the claims made by green energy proponents in New Hampshire.
Through meticulous examination, the study states that the employment, economic development, and tax benefits associated with transmission line construction are undeniable.
The project studied includes both generation and transmission, but the overall infrastructure investment is similar in size and scope to the Northern Pass Transmission project.
(Please view the full study here)
About the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA):
Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA) is a quasi-governmental instrumentality of State of Wyoming. Created in 2004 by the State Legislature, the WIA’s mission is to diversify and expand the state’s economy through improvements in Wyoming’s electric transmission infrastructure to facilitate the consumption of Wyoming energy in the form of wind, natural gas, coal and nuclear, where applicable. The Authority can participate in planning, financing, constructing, developing, acquiring, maintaining and operating electric transmission facilities and their supporting infrastructure. Legislation provided the WIA with bonding authority of $1 Billion and other powers to promote transmission development in the State and throughout the region. It also provided the State Treasurer, with the approval of the State Loan and Investment Board, the authority to invest in WIA bonds.
A recent "position paper" by the New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA) has caused a war of words between the gas and oil industry and the Northern Pass Transmission project.
As we've discussed before, NEPGA and their allies are committed to making the region dependent on natural gas as a primary fuel source. Likewise, they see clean, renewable hydro-electricity as a threat to their master-plan.
It's this type of thinking that stretches our energy supply to the point of emergency and makes NH consumers unnecessary victims of price fluctuation.
So it didn't come as a surprise when NEPGA released their updated "position paper" on the Northern Pass Transmission project. The Northern Pass quickly rebuked the skewed paper as just another attempt to play politics with our energy future.
The Northern Pass is spot-on. Our energy future is too important to leave up to speculators in the natural gas industry. Below are excerpts from a recent article in the Union Leader.
Northern Pass vs. The Unregulated
By Dave Solomon
New Hampshire Union Leader
(Excerpts below. Full article here)
..."At a time when regulators, policy makers and customers are looking for solutions to our long-term energy needs, NEPGA appears to be looking out for its bottom line," reads a post on the project website. "NEPGA's own fact sheet boasts that it controls more than 84 percent of all New England's existing generation. It's clear that Northern Pass concerns NEPGA because the clean hydro-power the project will deliver will displace the more expensive fossil fuels produced by NEPGA's members."
The March 25 report sparked the latest war of words between Northern Utilities, which owns Public Service of New Hampshire, and the group that lobbies on behalf of companies that own unregulated power plants throughout New England, which are now mostly fired by natural gas...
...Northern Pass spokesman Mike Skelton said the timing of the NEPGA report is suspect: "It's telling that only days after several news articles from across the region reported real challenges facing the grid and the need for diversity, that NEPGA issues a report attacking Northern Pass, a project which is a solution to the very problem we are facing."
Skelton was referring to recent reports that New England came close to an electricity shortage during extremely cold days in January and February, due to the growing reliance on natural gas in a region with limited pipeline capacity.
"It seems NEPGA is suffering from a blackout of reality when it comes to the serious challenges facing our energy grid," said Skelton. "Recent warnings from the independent system operator have made clear the need for greater diversity in our energy supply, or we will continue to face the prospect of blackouts and price volatility"...
Reliance on natural gas fuels risk to grid
By DAVE SOLOMON
(full article here)
New Englanders braced for the coldest weather of the winter the week of Jan. 21, knowing temperatures were going to dip below zero. What they didn't know was that controllers of the New England power grid came dangerously close to imposing roving blackouts due to constraints on the supply of natural gas that fuels most of the region's power plants.
Then on Feb. 8, as the region braced for Winter Storm Nemo, it happened again.
"If we had lost one more big generator or a transmission line, we would have had to resort to our emergency procedures," said Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Independent System Operator of the New England power grid (ISO-NE), based in Holyoke, Mass. "Those procedures are to call on help from neighboring areas, then to call for voluntary conservation, and if that's not sufficient, to institute controlled power outages ... We came quite close."
Chadalavada described those tense moments in the control room at ISO-NE as the most stressful in recent memory. "And the period between them was equally stressful," he said, "because the uncertainty persisted. Although those were the peak periods of uncertainty, it did not disappear due to the continuation of the same conditions."
No one wants to think the New England power grid is subject to roving blackouts under the worst conditions, let alone during the relatively normal winter now ending. Peak demand on the system hit 20,800 megawatts during the early January crisis. That's high, but not nearly as high as the historic peak of 22,818 megawatts in 2004, when the economy was better and the weather was colder. But there was no talk of roving blackouts in 2004.
So what's happened in the intervening decade? In a word, natural gas. The region has become increasingly reliant on the fuel, while pipeline capacity into New England has been largely unchanged, resulting in supply shortages and price hikes during periods of peak demand.
Prices headed upward
While the natural gas revolution gave New England the lowest wholesale electricity prices the region has seen since 2003, the party may be coming to an end. The shortages experienced this past winter will come home to roost in pricing for the next round of contracts.
Natural gas trading for less than $3 per mmbtu on the wholesale market last summer peaked at $34.65 on Jan. 24 and was at $8.63 on March 14. What does that portend for future electricity and home heating prices for consumers as new long-term contracts with suppliers come up for negotiation?
"It's very difficult for me and the ISO to predict that because we have very little visibility into the way each state structures its retail contracting," Chadalavada said. "There will be an upward direction because of what we experienced this past winter, but the exact values, we just don't know."
The price increases won't be due to lack of supply. There's plenty of natural gas, just not enough pipeline to get it into New England. With only five pipelines into the region, additional transmission capacity will be key to the region's energy future.
"The rest of the country is swimming in natural gas, but we seem to be having a problem with it," said N.H. Public Utilities Commissioner Michael Harrington at an ISO-NE conference in Nashua on Wednesday. "The preferred solution is to get more pipeline."
ISO-NE has unveiled a new strategic plan that it hopes will have exactly that effect, by creating incentives for power plants to lock up natural gas supplies years in advance. That in turn, hopefully, will motivate gas line companies to create more transmission capacity.
"No one is running out and building new pipeline," Harrington said, describing the current scenario, in which pipeline builders want 20-year commitments, but energy plant owners are not willing to bet beyond five.
A changing fuel mix
While the debate over the environmental impact of hydro-fracking continues in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and nearby New Brunswick, Canada, where massive deposits of shale gas are waiting to be tapped, the extraction continues and the impact on energy markets has been a game-changer.
"Today, with shale gas, the technology change has released the potential for what I call a national treasure with regard to the supply of natural gas for many decades to come," said Robert Keating, a principal for the energy consulting group, Keating Strategies, and moderator for a panel discussion at the ISO event in Nashua. "Studies show 100 years of supply for economically recoverable resources, which will not even begin to plateau until 2040."
In 2000, the fuel mix used to fire up New England power plants was as well-balanced as a good 401(k) portfolio, with 31 percent nuclear, 22 percent oil, 18 percent coal, 15 percent natural gas and 13 percent renewables. PSNH and its Northern Pass partners have argued that the Northern Pass project, designed to bring hydro-electric power from Quebec into the New England grid, will help expand the renewable portion of the mix if it is ever approved.
For now, natural gas dominates, with 52 percent of the market. Nuclear and renewables are holding steady, while oil and coal virtually disappeared, called upon only in emergencies like last January and February.
The reasons are no mystery. Natural gas, because of the abundant supply, is far cheaper and burns cleaner. Coal and oil are not viable in the long run due to costs and environmental concerns. Nuclear plants are aging and replacements are not coming online. ISO-NE predicts that, in the not-too-distant future, New England's energy mix could be 60 percent natural gas, 33 percent wind and 4 percent biomass (wood).
The pipeline expansion needed to make that possible is not just a matter of energy policy, but one of economic justice, according to Stephen Leahy, vice president for policy with the Northeast Gas Association. He told the group meeting in Nashua that businesses will locate where natural gas is available. A region at the end of the pipeline will be at a disadvantage.
ISO-NE is pursuing a number of initiatives to address the problem. By increasing the financial reward for generating plants that deliver energy when requested, and instituting financial penalties for those that don't, it hopes to encourage more long-term contracts that lead to less vulnerability.
"At the end of the day, if the incentives we design are strong enough, we believe the market will be creative and work around them," Chadalavada said. "If there is a pool of generators who are willing to sign contracts for a certain length of time, that might be enough to get a pipeline built."
Something has to give, Harrington said: "We can't go into next winter hoping the temperature stays above average and we never see six inches of snow."
Environmental Groups Strongly Endorse "None Of The Above" Energy Plans
(Excerpts below. Full article at Forbes.com)
President Obama’s obsession with transitioning from fossil-fueled energy... is being thwarted by unlikely adversaries.
A 2011 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report titled “Project/No Project” found 140 renewable projects that had stalled, stopped, or been outright killed due to “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) environmental activism and a system that allows limitless challenges by opponents.
The study concluded that it is just as difficult to build a wind farm in the U.S. as it is to build a coal-fired plant...
This is accomplished by a variety of strategies, including organizing local opposition, changing zoning laws, preventing permits, filing lawsuits, and using other long delay mechanisms...
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, even if all renewable sources (including hydro) which now provide about 10% of American energy were to grow at three times the pace of all others, they would still make up just 16% of all domestic supplies by 2035...
No, it’s certainly not just “dirty” coal, oil, and natural gas that are being challenged…or those “hazardous” nuclear plants. Hydroelectric dams are under assault...
In 2012, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Defenders of Wildlife also filed suit to stop another 663 megawatt 4,600-acre Calico solar plant to be built on 7.2 square miles in the Mohave Desert northeast of Los Angeles.
Originally planned to provide 850 megawatts of electricity generated by 30,000 solar dishes standing 40 feet high, the project was scaled back over concern about impacts on desert tortoises...
And what about those solar environmental advantages… like protecting the planet from climate-ravaging carbon dioxide emissions? Well, maybe not after all…at least not according to a letter of protest from three environmental organizations...
The letter complains that “no scientific evidence has been presented to support the claim that [renewable] projects reduce greenhouse emissions”...
Despite attempts by special interests to derail the appointment of Jeff Rose, the Executive Council unanimously confirmed the new DRED Commissioner today in Concord.
The unanimous confirmation of Jeff Rose sends a positive message to prospective businesses looking to bring middle-class jobs to New Hampshire and indicates that the Granite State is serious about economic development. Below are excerpts from a statement by Governor Maggie Hassan on today's confirmation:
Governor Hassan Applauds Unanimous Executive Council Confirmation of Commissioner Appointees
"The confirmations of Jeff Rose as DRED Commissioner and Glenn Perlow as Banking Commissioner are important steps forward for New Hampshire's innovation economy."
"Jeff Rose's experience in both the public and private sectors will help DRED lead the way in supporting and attracting innovative businesses with good jobs that can support middle-class families..."
"I applaud the Executive Council for confirming these dedicated public servants and look forward to working with them both to build a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire."
Business & Labor Groups Oppose Energy Project Slowdowns
by Mark Hayward
New Hampshire Union Leader
(full article available here)
Business and labor groups are lining up to kill legislation designed to slow, if not halt, controversial large-scale energy projects in the state, including hilltop wind farms and the Northern Pass high-voltage energy transmission lines.
"It's not often that we're on the same page, but we certainly are on this one," said Joe Casey, business manager of the Local 490 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Casey said he contacted all 400 members of his Concord-based trade union to encourage them to telephone their state representatives to oppose four pieces of legislation expected to be considered today by the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.
The bills call for:
--A moratorium on wind and transmission projects.
--A popular vote prior to approvals of such projects.
-- The burial of transmission lines.
--The required placement of transmission lines along state rights of way in most cases.
"It could be devastating to us, especially the moratorium," Casey said. He said IBEW electricians worked on the Lempster Mountain wind farm, and they would likely work on construction of the Northern Pass transfer station in Franklin.
IBEW electricians earn about $27 an hour, along with health care benefits and retirement, he said.
The Business and Industry Association has also gone on record against the legislation.
BIA Vice President Mike Licata said the organization has not taken a stand one way or another on Northern Pass or any specific wind farm. But he said BIA has had a strong philosophical opposition to legislation that targets a specific business or project. He said the state has an existing process - the Site Evaluation Committee - to review projects to make sure they comply with regulations and are good for the state.
"It's inappropriate for the Legislature to insert itself into the existing process and change the rules," Licata said.
He said the BIA is not coordinating opposition with labor groups.
Whatever recommendation emerges from the Science, Technology and Energy Committee will have to go to the full House, then the Senate before landing on Gov. Maggie Hassan's desk for a email@example.com