Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Mr. Chris Taylor

Director of Project Development-Northwest Region, Horizon Wind Energy

 Testimony of the

 

American Wind Energy Association

 

before the

 

Senate Energy Committee

 

 

 

July 11, 2006 Hearing on

Implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005-

Development of Renewable Energy on Federal Lands

 

 

Prepared by Chris Taylor

Director of Development

Horizon Wind Energy, LLC

 

on behalf of the

American Wind Energy Association

122 C Street, N.W.

Suite 380

Washington, D.C. 20001

 

 

 

 

Introduction:

 

Mr. Chairman (and members of the committee), my name is Chris Taylor.  I am Director of Development for Horizon Wind Energy (Horizon).  Horizon is one of the nation’s largest wind energy development firms.  We develop, build and operate wind power projects across the US from upstate New York to Southern California.  We currently have over 700 MW of wind projects under construction in Washington, New York, Illinois and Texas and expect to construct another 600 MW in 2007.  These projects represent an investment of nearly $2 billion in 2006 and 2007 alone. Horizon Wind Energy is a wholly owned subsidiary of Goldman Sachs, a leading international financial services firm.  I direct Horizon’s development efforts in the Northwest region and have projects under development and/or construction in Washington, Oregon and Montana.

 

I also serve on a variety of committees for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade association representing every aspect of the wind industry, and I have been an active participant in the development of state, regional and national siting policies related to wind power. For example, I represented the wind industry in negotiations with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife which resulted in the issuance of the state’s wind power siting guidelines in 2003; I was appointed by Governor Kulongoski in 2005 to the Oregon Renewable Energy Working Group; and I am a member of the National Wind Coordinating Committee’s Wildlife Core Group, which is a diverse group of experts from industry, environmental NGO’s, state and federal agencies and independent biologists.

 

Horizon Wind Energy and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) greatly appreciate this opportunity to provide testimony before the Senate Energy Committee today. 

 

I’d like to start by thanking the committee for its past support of renewable energy and wind energy in particular.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained a critical 2 year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) which has fueled the continued rapid growth of the wind industry and is expected to lead to record levels of new wind plant construction in 2006 and 2007.  We thank you for this extension and hope that a longer term extension will be adopted in the near future so that manufacturers, developers and others in our industry can make the type of firm, long term commitments for procurement and construction that will drive further cost reductions. 

 

With respect to the subject of today’s hearing, I would like to provide a very brief overview of our perspective of the current regulatory climate for development of wind power on federal lands.  The three federal resource agencies that have the greatest effect on our industry are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS),and the Forest Service (USFS), and I will try to touch briefly on each agency today.

 

 

 

BLM:

 

 The wind industry is generally very pleased with the outcome of the BLM’s recent (2005) Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) process for wind energy development.  The process the BLM followed was very open and involved participation from a wide variety of stakeholders (including representatives of both the wind industry and environmental organizations) and resulted in practical, common sense rules.  As a result, the BLM produced a set of successful guidelines featuring “Best Management Practices” for wind power development on federal lands.  These guidelines have been widely accepted by both the wind power industry and the environmental community.  These BLM guidelines allow for commercially successful development of wind power facilities on federal lands while protecting habitat, wildlife and other resources. 

 

The BLM has a fairly long history of leasing land for wind power generation in California and Wyoming and there are many operating wind projects on BLM land in these two states.  My firm and many of our competitors are now actively seeking Rights of Way (ROWs) from BLM for wind testing and monitoring as well as for actual wind project development.  As with any large bureaucracy, we occasionally encounter individual BLM staff at the local field office level who are resistant to our requests, but overall, we believe the BLM does an excellent job of facilitating wind power development on lands under its jurisdiction.

 

USFWS:

 

In July 2003, the USFWS issued a document it called “Interim Guidance on Avoiding and Minimizing Wildlife Impacts from Wind Turbines”.  While these guidelines are in theory voluntary, the reality is that wind energy developers are increasingly being asked to follow these guidelines by USFWS field personnel offering comments on proposed projects being reviewed under NEPA or its state equivalents and by state and local agencies.  We have very serious concerns with this guidance document, which we have shared with the USFWS on many occasions. These guidelines were developed with little to no stakeholder involvement, despite requests from members of our industry and others to participate before the document was issued.  As a result, the guidelines have been widely criticized by both wind energy developers and the environmental community.  In addition, more than a full year of effort was required to even begin correcting the factual and practical problems with the first set of guidelines. 

 

It is my understanding that senior managers within the USFWS have acknowledged the need to revise and correct these guidelines and that a collaborative process to do so will be initiated in the near future. My company and AWEA hope to be actively involved in that effort.  We thank the leadership of USFWS and the Department of the Interior for their willingness to correct the current guidance document.  I do want to emphasize, however, the urgency of getting the current, flawed USFWS guidelines revised and corrected.  Over the past 3 years, the current document has caused countless delays in the permitting and review of proposed wind energy projects with no appreciable benefit in terms of wildlife protection. We can not afford to spend another three years correcting this document.

 

 

The reality is that the vast majority of the wind power projects that are being built today are built by large, responsible, well-capitalized firms that understand the importance of proper siting and are sensitive to the needs of birds and other wildlife.  Firms like FPL Energy, PPM Energy, and Horizon (the three largest developers in the US today) take these siting issues very seriously and have experts on staff and consultants under contract specifically to address them.  We spend millions of dollars a year on wildlife related studies and mitigation efforts, most of it totally voluntary.  This is both the responsible thing to do and a logical business decision, since our future growth depends on being able to permit and construct lots of new wind projects.  Even for those projects developed by smaller firms, it is increasingly difficult to obtain financing to construct a new wind project without having conducted appropriate studies to evaluate potential impacts to birds and other wildlife.  

 

USFS:

 

It is my understanding that the United States Forest Service is currently in the process of drafting national guidelines for wind energy development on Forest Service lands.  The wind industry first learned of this informally at a meeting with wildlife groups and agencies in Washington DC in March 2006.  We immediately asked the Forest Service personnel involved in the guidelines process to allow us to participate in the development of this document which will likely have a substantial impact on our industry.  My company and several others have applications pending with the USFS for ROW’s for wind testing and monitoring in states from Vermont to California.  Given how much of the western US is administered by the Forest Service, it is vital that whatever guidelines are developed regarding wind development on National Forest lands be realistic and informed by the latest science.

 

To date, no wind developers or other parties have been involved – despite their repeated requests – to lend their expertise in helping to draft the proposed Forest Service guidelines. Given that the USFS has virtually no experience or expertise in the issues surrounding wind power and wildlife, it seems unwise to reject input from those parties with the greatest experience and expertise in these issues. 

We urge the Forest Service to open up this process to allow input by wind energy developers and other groups who have knowledge and experience vital to forming sound, practical policies that encourage wind energy development while also protecting Forest Service lands.  Given the considerable expenditure of time and federal funds that go into such efforts, we also urge the Forest Service to follow the BLM approach in developing guidelines for wind power development on Forest Service lands. 

 

To that end, we strongly encourage the Forest Service to immediately open up the wind power guidelines development process and to allow for meaningful participation and input from all interested groups. 

 

 

___________________________

 

Chris Taylor

Director of Development

Horizon Wind Energy, LLC

53 SW Yamhill Street

Portland, OR  97204

Chris.taylor@horizonwind.com

Tel. 503-222-9400, x. 103

www.horizonwind.com

 

 

on behalf of the

American Wind Energy Association

122 C Street, NW

Suite 380

Washington, D.C. 20001

Tel: 202-383-2506