Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Pesky Critters

Thursday, February 02, 2017

"It's mighty cold weather, you've been braving.  
Is it more winter or is it spring that you're craving?"

Well, I know what my answer is to that and it's certainly NOT more cold.  But apparently that pesky Punxatawney Phil, cute as he may be, decided that we would have 6 more weeks of winter today.  Interesting, since this weekend is supposed to be mild and, by Monday, we'll be 20 degrees over normal.  The local weather guy actually laughed about Phil seeing his shadow.

In other critter news, Finn the Cranky, after which this blog is named, had to go back to the vet today. He is close to 16 now, which is long in the tooth even for a Pomeranian.  He's been having trouble standing and walking and it seems he has arthritis in his spine.  An x-ray shows a narrowing around his spinal cord so, in essence, he has what I had 2 years ago.  Poor little guy!  Much resting on the sofa and steroids are in his future.

Doesn't seem like there's a lot of complaining going on.  I think I'll join them until the nice weather gets here.

There is No Such Thing as Fair

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Torquing the connectors that hold down our solar panels
Almost 4 years ago to today, I posted here about my concerns that eminent domain would be used to take farmers' land for the Midwest Transmissions Project, a $400 million project to bring in some 140 to 170 miles of new 345-kv transmission line to northwestern Missouri and southeastern Nebraska.  Kansas City Power and Light just announced a deal to purchase 500 megawatts of power from the new wind farm that I posted about yesterday and another farm a little more north.  I guess we know now why they needed the MTP. 

So this got me thinking, because I used to work at KCPL and I know how they buy and sell electricity.  They are not an overly profitable company, but they do well, take care of their employees, contribute to the community in many ways, and pay a decent dividend.

Looking at my bill, they're charging me as follows for each kWh of energy that we use:
  • 11.44 cents per kWh for the energy only +
  • 0.33 cents for a "DSIM charge" +
  • 0.30 cents for a "FAC" or Fuel Adjustment Clause
That adds up to roughly 12.07 cents per kWh.  And that doesn't even count the monthly $11.88 customer charge or the $5.96 franchise fee.

When our solar panels generate more power than we use, KCPL buys it from us.  How much?  It's the same as their cost for producing energy from their coal plants.  Or presumably, buying it from wind farms.

1.9 cents per kWh

And then they can claim the federal Production Tax Credit for solar of 1.2 cents per kWh for everything we generate.  Now granted, I am not going to make a big stink about this because KCPL paid over $18k of the cost of our solar project and they deserve to recoup that investment.  But this certainly does show the disparity between what it costs to produce energy and what is being paid by consumers.  A large part of that cost is related to onerous EPA regulations.  But they just filed for a rate increase of 10.77 percent to cover costs related to "upgrading the company's infrastructure, adding regional transmission lines (MTP, anyone?), and complying with environmental and cybersecurity mandates."  The average residential customer will see an increase on their bill of about $11.92. 

The reason given for the purchase of wind energy from the new turbine farms (which I posted about yesterday) is that it is cheaper than the price that KCPL pays to buy energy off the market when necessary during peak load periods.  This power also qualifies for the federal Production Tax Credit for wind of 2.3 cents per kWh.  Yes, that means the federal government is paying more for each one of those wind-generated kWh than what it takes KCPL to generate it normally.  Why then, has KCPL submitted yet another huge annual proposed increase ? 

It certainly doesn't seem fair. 

The Changing Horizon

J. and I were in the Jeep hurtling north up I-35 toward the farm yesterday, chatting and trying to stay warm on one of those days where a chill sets in and just won't go away.  As we turned down the highway toward Maysville, I let out an audible gasp that made J. let off the gas for a moment.

The rolling Missouri horizon seemed foreign.  I had to blink to make sure I wasn't seeing things.  My first fleeting thought is that we were in War of the Worlds and huge aliens marching their way north.  Coming up a hill, white tentacles flailed as if controlled by a gargantuan octopus sitting just out of sight.  I blinked again...this time a little harder.  Gigantic white intruders still dotted the skyline as far as I could see before they faded off into the grey winter sky.

We had, of course, been seeing signs like the one below for over a year.  At one point, every farmhouse and field sported something similar or a simple sign with a windmill with a red cross through it.  The highway boasted signs that read "No wind farm traffic".  It seems that none of that solidarity was successful in preventing

This part of the country is American as it gets.  People here will go out of their way to help you, as evidenced by our neighbor, the farmer up the road, who graciously pulled our truck out of the mud with his tractor when we silly city-slickers buried it to the axle in mud on our land.  But if you're not from what some call "flyover country", you might mistake friendliness for gullibility and that couldn't be further from the truth.  After all, we're not called the Show-Me State for nothing.

I'll admit to not being in the know about all the hubbub on this particular issue so I had to do some digging.  The local liberal Kansas City rag, the Pitch, even ran a story on it.  The gist of it is that an out-of-state company from Florida called NextEra Energy came in and wanted to lease land from many of the landowners in the area.  That company is receiving heavy subsidies from the federal government and, in addition to being out-of-towners, are perceived to have been greasing the wheels with some local elected officials.  From what I've read, there are certainly some conflicts of interest going on.  Couple the fact that rich landowners seem to be benefitting the most and you've got all the makings of a full-fledged backlash from the locals.

A group of concerned citizens banded together to voice their concerns about the effects heavy wind farm traffic would have on roadways, health concerns, effects on livestock, abuse of land by out-of-state interests, and the scar that the turbines would leave on the horizon.  DeKalb County, where our farm sits, is a township and isn't zoned so there was no permit process to slow things down.  After a lawsuit to stop the wind farm ended unsuccessfully last year, NextEra wasted no time in getting started putting up their 96 turbines. We were last there in late September and didn't see a thing, so I guess it didn't take long.  Most of the protest signs are gone now and they've been replaced by something much larger.

More on this tomorrow....

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