American Elephants


Worse Than Solyndra: The Shepherds Flat Wind Project! by The Elephant's Child

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Back in 2011, Robert Bryce wrote about America’s Worst Wind-Energy Project.

The more people know about the wind-energy business, the less they like it. And when it comes to lousy wind deals, General Electric’s Shepherds Flat project in northern Oregon is a real stinker….

The majority of the funding for the $1.9 billion, 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat wind project in Oregon is coming courtesy of federal taxpayers. And that largesse will provide a windfall for General Electric and its partners on the deal who include Google, Sumitomo, and Caithness Energy. Not only is the Energy Department giving  GE and its partners a $1.06 billion loan guarantee, but as soon as GE’s 338 turbines start turning at Shepherds Flat, the Treasury Department will send the project developers a cash grant of $490 million.

The deal was so lucrative for the project developers that last October, some of Obama’s top advisers…wrote a memo saying that the project’s backers had “little skin in the game” while the government would be providing “a significant subsidy (65+ percent).” The memo goes on to say that, while the project backers would only provide equity equal to about 11 percent of the total cost of the wind project, they would receive an “estimated return on equity of 30 percent.” (emphasis added)

Bryce also quoted the CEO of Duke Energy as saying that wind capacity is growing because energy companies can goose their profits by putting up turbines so they can collect subsidies from taxpayers. One of GE’s partners in the deal said they were pleased about bringing “green energy jobs to our economy.” If you count only the $490 million cash grant for GE when the project is finished the cost of the “green energy” jobs will be about $16.3 million each.

Shepherds Flat is the world’s largest wind farm, about halfway between The Dalles and Pendleton in Oregon, south of the Columbia River. Interestingly, what energy is produced goes not to Oregon, but to Southern California which is always hungry for Northwest power. The Obama administration’s loan guarantee for Solyndra got lots of attention, but Shepherds Flat is an even better example of corporate welfare, and a huge drain on taxpayer funds when the economy is in the tank. The Oregonian newspaper has launched an investigation about the federal Energy Department’s loan-guarantee program and the state of Oregon’s decision to award a total of $30 million to the project — “frosting on a multilayered cake of federal, state and local subsidies.”  Reporter Ted Sickinger said “Its developers gorged themselves on hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers, and government officials were well aware it was over-subsidized.”

Oregon is oversupplied with green activists, so the Shepherds Flat project added luster to Oregon’s green ambitions. Sickinger added “Though its renewable energy credits flow to California, it generates lots of clean power. Politicians can point to property taxes and community service fees for rural counties, big lease payments for a handful of landowners and 45 permanent jobs.”

The Oregon Department of Energy ignored its own rules, legislators’ intent and taxpayers’ interest in reaffirming its decision to define Shepherds Flat wind farm as three separate facilities and provide its owners three separate $10 million tax credits.

So there you go. They brag about the wonders of clean, green energy, yet when you peel back the covers, it’s pretty slimy underneath.

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