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November 30, 2023

Wind Farm Decommissioning…Farmer Challenges Engineering Company –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On July 7, 2014


More on Wind Farm Decommissioning……Farmer Challenges Engineering Company

Since yesterday’s article was wildly popular (link here), and after receiving more details about how this conversation developed, we realized that it called for another article.

A farmer from Boone County (Illinois), Marshall Newhouse sent a strong message to Vermilion County board members which rings true for many rural areas being inundated by wind energy projects. There is not enough critical thinking skills or common sense being used when big money energy companies enter rural communities.

When a new wind energy developer, Mainstream Renewables, began an attempt to convince Boone County that a wind farm would be great for their community, some of the more sophisticated farmers started asking questions and digging deeper. Marshall Newhouse saw that it was obvious these machines were temporary with relatively short life spans. Since wind turbines have a very limited life span, the plan to install and operate them also needed to include a plan for removal. When limited liability corporations own the machines, it is reasonable to think that it is possible that the LLC’s could abandon a project at the end of its financial usefulness. It is true that farmers will be around much longer than the wind energy company, so it only makes sense to look into the long term possibilities. The old motto, “trust, but verify” is important in this case.

Mr. Newhouse’s decommissioning report had been submitted to the Boone County ZBA, rigorously cross-examined, and Mainstream Renewables failed to refute it and did not provide their own analysis.

At about the same time, Vermilion County apparently blindly accepted a decommissioning cost analysis which was official-looking but was missing a key element. The Vermilion County Assistant State’s Attorney, William T. (Bill) Donahue failed to check that the decommissioning analysis submitted by APEX attorney Mike Blazer (Jeep and Blazer) met the minimum Vermilion County ordinance requirement which includes the stipulation that it be certified by an Illinois licensed Professional Engineer.

The lack of a certified document begs the questions:

-What is wrong with this submittal?

-Are there false or misleading statements within the APEX decommissioning cost analysis?

-Why do non-residents put more thought and effort into something of this magnitude than our own State’s Attorney’s Office?

This is where it becomes obvious that wind energy companies have no intention of providing the responsible or reasonable amount of funds which will be needed to decommission their facilities. Here’s Mr. Newhouse’s email to all of the county board members:

> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >
> >> From: Julie Newhouse <newfarm@xxxxxxx>
> >> Subject: BMcD decommission evaluation discussion
> >> Date: May 2, 2014 at 11:46:34 AM CDT
> >> To: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
> >>
> >> Dear Vermilion County Board members,
> >>
> >> With the Burns and McDonnell (BMcD) decommissioning evaluation available to the public, I took the liberty of reading through the document as they have presented it. If you as individual board members have taken the time to study the effort expended by BMcD you will have viewed a professional document that lacks a great deal of credibility. There are some monumental understatements reflective of true costs of deconstructing, along with some monumental overstatements reflective of scrap values made available as part of the deconstruction. By the final page of the document there is a final cost estimate that is devoid of any credibility.
> >>
> >> It is perfectly understandable why there is no engineer within the BMcD firm who was willing to put his/her signature to the document. If a licensed engineer would have included his/her signature, the firm would have been committed in many ways to the validity of that document. In my opinion it was the wisest of decisions to have every engineer within the firm distance themselves as far away from that document as possible.
> >>
> >> Lora Hull is the author of the Burns and McDonnell Hoopeston Wind Farm Decommissioning Plan submittal. She is listed as a “project assistant” at BMcD. She is not a licensed professional engineer.
> >>
> >> The smallest amount of effort expended in acquiring real time quotes for labor, machine hire, trucking, scrap metal values, engineering requirements and a host of other services could have made this a valuable document. With the inaccurate portrayal of values on each of these areas there will be a monumental financial pit for the Vermilion County residents at some future point in time when the decommissioning of the proposed Hoopeston project arrives. There will need to be real dollars set aside in 2014 for real work in the future when these turbines are disassembled and removed.
> >>
> >> In an effort to offer another view of the decommissioning of the proposed 49 turbine project in Hoopeston, I have provided below an analysis of a proposed 200 megawatt project in Boone county. I secured multiple bids for each area of expertise needed in decommissioning of the WECS and went with the lowest bid in an effort to not over inflate the already high cost of this type of work. Please review either of the two attachments below. Both provide an in-depth analysis of the per turbine decommissioning cost along with supporting documents at the end of the article.
> >>
> >> My analysis of our decommissioning in Boone county was provided as sworn testimony in our zoning proceedings at the ZBA in Boone county. It was vigorously cross examined. The WECS developer was unable to refute it, nor was he willing to provide his own analysis.
> >>
> >> Please feel free to contact me if there is a desire to discuss any portion of my work.
> >>
> >> I am at your disposal.
> >>
> >> Sincerely,
> >> Marshall Newhouse
> >> Ph. xxxxxxxxx

> >>> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >

Now, after reading this, and after reading Donahue’s response to Darrell Cambron, we wonder if Bill Donahue works for what is best for Vermilion County and its residents. If there were a decommissioning cage match between a certain Boone County Farmer and a certain Vermilion County Attorney, where facts and reality determined the outcome, we would definitely be able to pick the winner and loser. Will the majority of the Vermilion County Board see it this clearly?

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  • City Slicker
    Posted at 06:57h, 07 July

    Admittedly, I have not kept up on this issue and have not read many of the wind turbine articles. However, if I’m not mistaken, Edgar County (Kansas area) farmers who were approached a few years ago for a similar wind turbine project were told that THEY had to accept all liability associated with the wind turbines! Accordingly, they told the turbine company to take a hike. The old bait and switch trick. Dangle a little $ in front of people and hope they bite. Hmm, what does this say about our State of Illinois regulatory process? Has any one looked at campaign contributions from these companies?

  • Mike Mehls
    Posted at 09:29h, 07 July

    The dollar signs have blinded men’s eyes so they cannot see the truth. Greed is a root that grows deep in many people. And it is greed that will hang you out to dry in the end. A lack of critical thinking skills is a gigantic understatement here, and way too generous. Skill in critical thinking has nothing to do with ignoring the facts on purpose. I think the willful ignorance is carefully cultivated in the hopes that the promises of big money will come true. It is just like the hope that the slot machine you just keep feeding will give you a big pay day. It is the false hope of the impoverished mindset of greed.

    I’d start cleaning house at the county level. County board chairman first, then others as needed. What Vermilion doesn’t need is the poverty mindset that leads to money blindness. There’s enough of that in the people here and our leadership needs to lead…not follow the failures of that kind of non-thinking…non logic. But…I will admit..I’ve read about this wind turbine thing coming to other communities…and I see the same complaints about leaders not listening to facts or basing their decisions on anything but what the big company says. So…I have to ask…who is getting the payoffs under the table? This seems to be a pattern.

  • F10yd
    Posted at 12:39h, 07 July

    Just a little UK comment here – same problem/issue the world round. In the UK we have a simple process whereby a ‘sinking fund’ is established at the commencement of construction work.

    This is added to across the life span of the project. Upon say the 10th, 15th 20th and 25th anniversaries of the project an independent expert can provide advice upon the likely costs upon project end and the annual contributions can be re-evaluated to ensure that at year 25 sufficient funds have been allowed for to ensure project decommissioning occurs without problems – even if the special purpose vehicle (limited company etc) has gone bust, meandered to the Bahamas or any other tax free resort.