EXCESSIVE SUBSIDIES FOR 2200 kW FIELD-MOUNTED SOLAR SYSTEM IN VERMONT

Most people, including myself, really have no clear idea regarding the various subsidies required to attract capital for the build-outs of solar systems. Relatively few insiders, such as some legislators, the Vermont Department of Public Service and the Vermont Public Utilities Commission, likely are intimately familiar with all the detailed ins and outs.

 

The Vermont Public Utilities Commission administers the Vermont Standard Offer Program that promotes and subsidizes the build-outs of solar, wind, etc.

In case of solar, various entities compete to obtain SO projects, which are auctioned off to the lowest qualified bidders. The bidders prepare cash flow spreadsheets in accordance with a PUC template to facilitate comparison.

SUMMARY OF MAJOR BENEFITS TO OWNERS

The below numbers are for a 2200 kW, field-mounted, solar plant built in 2016

 

The main reason an owner invests in Vermont SO projects is to get $1,376,189 in federal and state tax credits, and to avoid a total of $956,569 of federal and state income taxes on millions of dollars of his taxable income during the first 6 years of the project.

During later years, i.e., years 7 through 25, long-term loans are paid off and the project is profitable each year, because the owner gets to sell its variable/intermittent, never-there-at-night, electricity at an exorbitantly high price of $130.36/MWh. Some years ago, before competitive bidding, those prices were up to $300/kWh!

The NE midday wholesale price of steady, 24/7/365 electricity, i.e. high quality electricity, has averaged about $60/MWh during the past 10 years, due to low-cost, low-CO2 gas and low-cost, near-zero CO2 nuclear.

 

As a result, ratepayers have to chip in as well. They pay an excess cost of electricity to owner during 25 years of about $3,644,127. Ratepayers are told they are being green, saving the world, etc.

 

Table 1/Year

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

Total

Federal Tax Credit

1,190,475

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Tax Credit

185,714

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoided State Tax

 

 42,996

 78,104

 41,169

 18,803

 18,337

 1,227

 200,636

Avoided Federal Tax

 

 161,996

 294,270

 155,112

 70,845

 69,087

 4,623

 755,933

Avoided Total Tax

1,376,189

 204,992

 372,375

 196,281

 89,648

 87,424

 5,850

 956,569

SUMMARY OF MAJOR SUBSIDIES

1. Federal and State Tax Credits Paid by Taxpayers

 

The owner receives, near the start of the project, investment tax credits, a.k.a., taxpayer donations.

 

Table 1/Tax Credits

$

Federal

 1,190,47

State

 185,714

Total

 1,376,189

2) Subsidy Paid by Ratepayers due to Excess Electricity Costs

The spreadsheet for a standard 2200 MW field-mounted solar system shows solar production of 65,826 MWh, and a constant price of $130.36/MWh, at which the owner would sell the electricity to the utility for 25 years. The total paid to owner would be $8,581,077.

 

However, the NE average wholesale price is about $60/MWh during midday hours. That price may increase to $90/MWh in year 25, a 50% increase. Excess paid for electricity by ratepayers would be about $3,644,127, at an average wholesale cost of (60 + 90)/2 = $75/MWh. See table 1A

 

NOTE: NE wholesale prices have averaged about $50/kWh since 2009, i.e., 10 years, courtesy of low-cost gas and low cost nuclear. Many RE proponents want to shut down those plants, and replace their electricity with much more expensive, variable, intermittent wind and solar electricity.

 

NOTE: The solar value is about $100 kWh, as claimed by Green Mountain Power, which may be biased, because it makes a lot of money participating in government RE programs. GMP provides no rationale/calculations to corroborate.

 

Table 1A

$

Solar generation

MWh

65826

Contract electricity cost

$/MWh

130.36

Revenue to owner

$

8581077

 

 

 

Average wholesale price, years 1 through 25

$/MWh

75

Electricity cost, if no solar

$

4936950

Excess paid by ratepayers to owner

$

3644127

3) Subsidy Paid by Taxpayers due to Deducting Interest on Loans

 

The owner has a 6y short-term loan of $1,356,212, starting at 3%/y, increasing to 4%/y in year 6

The owner has a 20y long-term loan of $1,356,212, starting at 4.5%/y, increasing to 5.75%/y in year 18

The owner can deduct the interest of such loans from any taxable income earned elsewhere.

The avoided state and federal taxes are included in the totals of item 4. See table 1B

 

4) Subsidy Paid by Taxpayers due to Accelerated Depreciation of Assets (MARCS)

 

The owner is allowed to write off the entire project in 6 years, courtesy of MARCS. See appendix 1

The high-income, multi-millionaire owner applies any write-offs against taxable income earned elsewhere, and thereby avoids paying state and federal taxes. See table 1B.

 

Table 1B/Year

1

2

3

4

5

6

Total

Avoided State Tax

42,996

78,104

41,169

18,803

18,337

1,227

200,636

Avoided Federal Tax

161,996

294,270

155,112

70,845

69,087

4,623

755,933

Avoided Total Tax

204,992

372,375

196,281

89,648

87,424

5,850

956,569

 

5) Income Taxes Paid by Owner

The owner would pay $285,476 in state taxes on state taxable income and $1,075.571 in federal taxes on federal taxable income for the years 7 through 25.

The owner avoided $200,636 in state taxes and $755,933 in federal taxes. See table 1B and 1C

 

Table 1C/Year

Taxes

Avoided

Net Taxes Paid

Year

7 through 25

1 through 6

1 through 25

State taxable income

3,358,537

Less State taxes

285,476

200,636

84,840

Federal taxable income

3,073,061

Federal taxes

1,075,571

755,933

319,638

Total taxes

1,361,047

956,569 404,478

6) State Taxes and Municipal Property Taxes

 

Uniform Capacity Tax: A state fee of $4/kW imposed on any solar plant of 50 kW or greater

The owner paid UCT of $4/kW x 2200 kW = $8800/y. See table 3

https://tax.vermont.gov/sites/tax/files/documents/SolarTaxationWith...

 

State Sales Tax: The plant is exempt from state sales taxes

https://www.energy.gov/savings/renewable-energy-systems-sales-tax-e...

 

Municipal Property Taxes: A municipal property tax bill shows 1) municipal general taxes and 2) homestead education taxes.

The property taxes paid by owner were $500,287.07 for years 1 through 25. See table 3

 

A municipality may waive all or part of the municipal property tax, or may “stabilize” a solar plant for municipal property tax purposes.

A municipality that imposes municipal property taxes on solar plants is required to follow a property valuation methodology specified in law.

Waiving all or part of the municipal property tax likely depends on how green a town wants to appear.

Often an annual payment in lieu of taxes is negotiated. 

7) Costs Regarding Solar and Wind Charged to Ratepayers, Not to Owners

 

Cost Shifting: Various costs relating to having solar and wind on the grid usually are not identified and rarely quantified. Those costs, which should have been charged to owners, are shifted to ratepayers; the more solar, the higher such costs.See table 2A.

 

- Extra grid build-out/reinforcement costs, and

- Extra grid operating costs incurred by ISO-NE, the grid operator, and by utilities, and

- Extra costs (such as fuel, wear and tear, reduced production, etc.) imposed on owners of other generating plants to deal with variable/intermittent solar, were ignored, including

- Any capacity payments by ISO-NE to owners for hot/cold standby of natural gas backup plants to adequately cover unusual conditions and events.

 - As build-outs of wind and solar would increase in future years, these costs would significantly increase per MW of build-out.

- High build-outs of solar likely would require large capacity batteries to offset output downward spikes during variable cloudy weather. See URL.

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/large-scale-solar-plant...

- The same comments apply to wind plants.

 

Comments on Below Table

 

Indirect subsidies: Due to loan interest deduction and accelerated depreciation deductions.

Direct subsidies: Due to up front grants, waiving of state sales taxes, and/or local property (municipal and school) taxes. See URL.

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/excessive-subsidies-for...

 

An owner of ridgeline wind would have to sell his output at 18.8 c/kWh, if the owner were not getting the benefits of cost shifting and upfront cash grants and subsidies.

That owner could sell his output at 16.4 c/kWh, if his costs were reduced due to cost shifting.

He could sell his output at 9 c/kWh, if on top of the cost shifting he also received various subsidies. The same rationale holds for solar. See table.

 

In US areas with better sun and wind conditions than New England, those prices would be less.

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/excessive-subsidies-for...

 

Wind/Solar Electricity Cost

NE Wind

NE Solar

Ridgeline

Field-mounted

c/kWh

c/kWh

Owner price to utility

No direct/indirect subsidies

No cost shifting

18.8

23.5

Less cost shifting benefits

2.4

2.1

Owner price to utility

No direct/indirect subsidies

With cost shifting

16.4

21.4

Less subsidy benefits, wind

45% of 16.4

7.4

Less subsidy benefits solar

45% of 21.4

9.6

Owner price to utility*

With direct/indirect subsidies

With cost shifting

9.0

11.8

* Owner prices to utility are based on recent 20-year electricity supply contracts with NE utilities.

Summary of Cash Flow Years 1 Through 25

Table 2/Cash Flow Years 1 through 25

$

$

%

Owner investment

1,808,283

30.66

Short-term and long-term loans

2,712,425

46

Direct cash subsidies

Federal tax credit, FTC

1,190,475

State tax credit, STC

185,714

FTC + STC to owner

1,376,189

23.33

Project cost, 2200 kW

5,896,897

100

$/kW (2016)

2680

.

Revenues, 25y

8,658,017

Costs

2,492,869

EBITDA = revenues - costs

6,165,148

Less loan repayment, interest, misc.

3,954,012

Cash

2,211,136

.

Tax Calculation

EBITDA = revenues - costs

6,165,148

Less interest

956,182

Less tax depreciation

4,210,875

Taxable income

998,091

State income tax*

84,840

Federal income tax*

319,638

Total federal and state taxes paid

404,478

Net Cash = cash - taxes

1,806,658

 

* Net amounts are shown. State and federal income taxes are avoided in years 1 through 6 and taxes are paid in later years. See tables 1B and 1C

 

DETAILED CASHFLOW ANALYSIS OF 2200 kW SOLAR SYSTEM

 

Table shows 3 the project cash flow of years 1 through 6. 

Download the spreadsheet from the URL to see the other years.

https://puc.vermont.gov/document/7874-standard-offer-solar-cash-flo...

Electricity generation in year 1 was 2200 x 8766 x 0.145 = 2,794 MWh.

Due to aging at 0.5%/y, it would be 2,780 MWh in year 2, and 2,725 MWh in year 6, and 2,478 MWh in year 25.

The owner sells the electricity to the utility at $130.36 MWh for 25 years.

Revenue from electricity sales in year 1 were $364,288

The NE average wholesale price is about $60/MWh during midday.

The solar value is about 10 c/kWh, as claimed by GMP; no rationale/calculations to corroborate.

NOTE:

Owners of Standard Offer projects are not entitled to RECs.

The RECs go to Vermont utilities, mostly GMP, as most of the others have waivers due to their 100% renewable status.

Utilities use them first to meet Tier 2 requirements, then their Tier 1 requirements.

Utilities buy/sell in-state and out-of-state RECs as required by the state-mandated renewable percentage of their electricity mix.

The Interest Revenue is calculated on project cash reserves the owner is required to have in escrow.

The various expenses in year 1 add up to $81,590

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, EBITDA, in year 1 were $283,968

The owner has a 6y short-term loan of $1,356,212, starting at 3%/y, increasing to 4%/y in year 6

The owner has a 20y long-term loan of $1,356,212, starting at 4.5%/y, increasing to 5.75%/y in year 18

The entire project is depreciated in 6 years, courtesy of MARCS. See appendix 1

The owner taxable income, due to depreciation and interest deductions, in year 1 was a negative $505,841

The high-income, multi-millionaire owner applies that loss against taxable income from his other businesses

The owner avoids in year 1 $42,996 in state income taxes, plus $161,996 in federal income taxes.

The owner avoids $372,375, $196,281, $89,648, $87,424, and $5,850 in years 2 through 6

The owner also receives, before the start of the project, investment tax credits, a.k.a., taxpayer donations.

Federal Tax Credit $1,190,47, State Tax Credit $185,714, for a total of $1,376,189

The owner will earn about 9.6%/y on his investment, a.k.a., internal rate of return.

The accumulated net cash at end year 25 is $1,806,658

 

Table 3/Solar Pricing Model

Capacity = 2200 kW

Operating Year

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

Calendar Year

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

.

Generation (MWh)

2,794

2,780

2,767

2,753

2,739

2,725

.

Revenue:

Standard Offer Price ($/MWh)

Fixed Price Component

100%

130.36

130.36

130.36

130.36

130.36

130.36

Escalating Price Component

0%

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

Standard Offer Price

130.36

130.36

130.36

130.36

130.36

130.36

Production Revenue

364,288

362,466

360,654

358,851

357,057

355,271

RECs

Market Value of RECs ($/MWh)

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

Change Market Value of REC

 

2.00%

2.00%

2.00%

2.00%

2.00%

Revenues from RECs

0

0

0

0

0

0

Other Revenues

0

0

0

0

0

0

Interest Revenue

1,270

2,840

3,440

4,040

4,640

5,240

Total Revenue

365,558

365,307

364,094

362,891

361,697

360,512

.

Expenses:

O & M costs

25,528

25,988

26,455

26,931

27,416

27,910

Payroll

0

0

0

0

0

0

Payroll Overhead

0

0

0

0

0

0

Land Lease cost

14,960

15,229

15,503

15,782

16,067

16,356

FERC Charges

0

0

0

0

0

0

ISO-NE Charges

0

0

0

0

0

0

Other Expenses

0

0

0

0

0

0

Insurance

16,280

16,573

16,871

17,175

17,484

17,799

Uniform Capacity Tax

$4.00

8,800

8,800

8,800

8,800

8,800

8,800

Municipal Tax

Underlying Land Tax

0.30%

Property tax; $500,287.07

$/MWh

6

16,022

16,311

16,604

16,903

17,207

17,517

Total

81,590

82,900

84,234

85,592

86,974

88,382

EBITDA

283,968

282,406

279,860

277,299

274,723

272,130

.

Repayment ST Loan

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Loan Balance

1,356,212

1,146,545

931,450

710,133

481,742

245,362

0

Interest

3.00%

(40,686)

(36,689)

(31,669)

(25,565)

(18,306)

(9,814)

Principal

(209,667)

(215,095)

(221,317)

(228,390)

(236,380)

(245,362)

Annual payment

(250,353)

(251,785)

(252,987)

(253,955)

(254,686)

(255,177)

Interest Rate

3.00%

3.20%

3.40%

3.60%

3.80%

4.00%

.

Repayment LT Loan

Loan Balance

1,356,212

1,305,711

1,250,805

1,194,807

1,137,483

1,078,585

1,017,843

Interest

4.50%

(61,030)

(58,757)

(59,413)

(59,740)

(59,718)

(59,322)

Principal

(50,501)

(54,906)

(55,998)

(57,323)

(58,898)

(60,742)

Annual payment

(111,531)

(113,663)

(115,412)

(117,064)

(118,616)

(120,064)

 Interest Rate

4.50%

4.75%

5.00%

5.25%

5.50%

5.75%

Debt Coverage Ratio

2.40

2.06

2.55

2.48

2.42

2.37

2.32

2.27

133%

Repayment All Loans

Loan Balance

2,712,425

2,452,256

2,182,255

1,904,939

1,619,226

1,323,948

1,017,843

Interest

(101,716)

(95,446)

(91,083)

(85,305)

(78,024)

(69,137)

Principal

(2,712,425)

(260,168)

(270,001)

(277,316)

(285,714)

(295,278)

(306,104)

Annual payment

(361,884)

(365,448)

(368,398)

(371,019)

(373,302)

(375,241)

.

After-Tax Equity Return

EBITDA

283,968

282,406

279,860

277,299

274,723

272,130

Plus Release of Debt Reserve

0

0

0

0

0

0

Plus Release of Other Reserves

0

0

0

0

0

0

Less Inverter Replacement

(33,333)

(33,333)

(33,333)

(33,333)

(33,333)

(33,333)

Less Principal

(260,168)

(270,001)

(277,316)

(285,714)

(295,278)

(306,104)

Less Interest

(101,716)

(95,446)

(91,083)

(85,305)

(78,024)

(69,137)

Total Cash

(111,250)

(116,375)

(121,871)

(127,053)

(131,913)

(136,444)

Tax Benefit/(Liability)

EBITDA

283,968

282,406

279,860

277,299

274,723

272,130

Less Interest

(101,716)

(95,446)

(91,083)

(85,305)

(78,024)

(69,137)

Less Depreciation

(688,093)

(1,105,836)

(673,124)

(413,211)

(412,428)

(217,430)

Taxable Income/(Loss)

(505,841)

(918,876)

(484,346)

(221,217)

(215,729)

(14,437)

State Tax Benefit/(Liability)

42,996

78,104

41,169

18,803

18,337

1,227

Federal Taxable Income/(Loss)

(462,844)

(840,772)

(443,177)

(202,414)

(197,392)

(13,210)

Federal Tax Benefit/(Liability)

161,996

294,270

155,112

70,845

69,087

4,623

Total Tax Benefit/(Liability)

204,992

372,375

196,281

89,648

87,424

5,850

Tax Credits

Federal ITC

1,190,475

0

0

0

0

0

State ITC

185,714

0

0

0

0

0

Total

1,376,189

0

0

0

0

0

Equity Investment

(1,808,283)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Equity Return

(1,808,283)

1,469,932

256,000

74,410

(37,405)

(44,488)

(130,594)

.

Internal Rate of Return

9.60%

837,960

.

Reserve Accounts

Beginning Balance

0

147,928

181,262

214,595

247,928

281,262

Inverter Replacement

33,333

33,333

33,333

33,333

33,333

33,333

Debt Reserve

73,800

0

0

0

0

0

Maintenance Reserve

0

0

0

0

0

0

Decommissioning Fund

0

0

0

0

0

0

Working Capital

40,795

0

0

0

0

0

Total

147,928

181,262

214,595

247,928

281,262

314,595

.

Non-Interest Reserves

6,799

6,799

6,799

6,799

6,799

6,799

.

Interest on Reserves

1,270

2,840

3,440

4,040

4,640

5,240

APPENDIX 1

Explanation of Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return

The net present value, NPV = - Investment + Sum of PVs @ 9.6%/y IRR = 0

The 9.6%/y at which the NPV = 0 is called the internal rate of return, IRR.

 

Example:

A $100,000 profit at the end of year 25 is worth much less than the same profit at the end of year 1.

If an owner wants to earn 9.6%/y on investments, the present value, PV, of the year 25 profit would be 100,000/{1 + 0.096)^25} = 1/9.892 = $10,110

The sum of the PVs of the profits and losses of each of the remaining 24 years can be calculated in the same manner.

The PV of a 90,000 profit at end of year 24 would be 90,000/{(1 + 0.096)^24}, etc.

With a hand calculator this would be laborious, but with a spreadsheet it would take just a few minutes to try various % values until the NPV is near zero; the try and error method.

 

NOTE: The cash flow of the above 25-y solar project is deliberately front-loaded, by means of huge depreciation write-offs in the first 5 years, for luring multi-millionaire investors. This is a favorite Wall Street tactic for tax sheltering made possible by smooth-talking Wall Street lobbyists whispering to members of the US Congress. Many owners sell such projects after 5 years, after having milked almost all of the subsidy benefits. The new owners are allowed to restart the lucrative write-offs all over again.

 

https://www.mathsisfun.com/money/internal-rate-return.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_rate_of_return

APPENDIX 2

Simplified Method of Economic Analysis

 

Here is a simplified method of economic analysis, which is easy to understand. It is commonly used for preliminary economic analysis. It assumes no direct and indirect subsidies, which, in reality, merely shift costs in obscure ways from owners to ratepayers and taxpayers.

https://www.myamortizationchart.com/15-year/5000-dollars/5_00-percent/

 

- Amortizing the capital cost of the solar system of $5,896,897, over 25y at 9.6%/y, would require electricity to be sold at $237/MWh.

The 9.6%/y is a typical return on investment required by owners.

 

- Amortizing the capital cost of the solar system of $5,896,897, over 25y at 3.2%/y, would require electricity to be sold at $130/MWh. The $130/MWh is the contract price for 25 years.

NOTE: The average cost of capital would have to be a low 3.2%/y just to pay off the "mortgage", and if electricity is sold at the inflated price of $130/MWh, and all other costs are ignored. No wonder a shoe load of grants and subsidies are required to attract capital.

 

The net effect of indirect and direct subsidies, such as 1) upfront tax credits, 2) write-offs of interest on bank loans, 3) accelerated depreciation write-offs, and 4) waiving of various state and local taxes, would be to reduce the electricity price from $237/MWh to 130/MWh, a 45% reduction.  

 

However, even that reduction would not be enough, because paying back just the capital cost, i.e., zero cost of money, would require electricity to be sold at $90 MWh.

Present midday wholesale prices are about $60/MWh, i.e., at zero-cost of money solar would be 50% more costly than present wholesale.

The wholesale price could ultimately be $90/MWh in year 25, a 50% increase. See table 1D.

 

This analysis shows solar in New England is nowhere near competitive with the 5 c/kWh of gas and nuclear.

In addition, future build-outs of a large-capacity of solar would have solar output downward spikes, due to clouds passing over the solar plants that would destabilize the grid. Expensive, large-capacity battery systems would be required to offset the downward spikes. Who would pay the extra battery costs? See URL

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/large-scale-solar-plant...

 

Table 1D/Amortizing

Interest + Principal

Generation

Wholesale price, $/MWh

25y at 9.6%/y

15579449

65826

237

25y at 3.2%/y

8574306

65826

130

 

Capital cost

 

 

0% interest

5896897

65826

90

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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

 

Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power

 

Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT

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(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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