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Riding the wind

Published Feb. 4, 2010 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News

In northwest Hardin County, a large farm covering 40,000 acres has been in the works for about 2 ½ years. This farm, however, doesn’t raise crops or animals – it captures the wind.

Once completed, the Hardin Wind Farm will be the largest wind farm in Ohio and one of the largest in the Midwest. The $600 million project will consist of 200 1.5 megawatt wind turbines, which will generate 300 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough electricity to power 75,000 homes.

“There’s a lot of wind momentum not just in Ohio but the nation and throughout the world,” said Kim Wissman, executive director of the Ohio Power Siting Board, on a recent broadcast of OFBF's radio show Town Hall Ohio. The board, which oversees windmills that produce 5 megawatts or more, currently is considering six wind farm proposals. If all the projects are approved, more than 600 wind turbines, including the Harding Wind Farm, will be constructed, generating more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity.

Dale Arnold, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of energy policy, said he anticipates hundreds of wind turbines will be in operation in Ohio within the next 10 years. Currently, there are only four large turbines in operation, all in Bowling Green.

“People are always asking me ‘Are we going to see wind farms like in the Great Plains where turbines are as far as you can see?’ The answer is no. When you take a look at the topography, the lay of the land, the population density, where there are roads and homes, we’re talking about strategic placement of wind turbines. Very specific spots that meet a number of environmental, economic and aesthetic factors,” he said on Town Hall Ohio.

Wind in Ohio

Both Wissman and Arnold said a state bill passed in 2008 has helped spark an interest in wind power. Ohio law now requires that 25 percent of electricity sold by Ohio’s investor-owned electric distribution utilities or electric services be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025. At least half of this energy must come from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass and hydro.

Interest also is up because recent wind studies show some of Ohio’s winds exceed the 15-mph threshold needed for large windmill projects. It used to cost tens of thousands of dollars to do a wind study to determine if a site was good for the turbines, but Arnold said many of those resources are now available as public records.

The Hardin Wind Farm has received little opposition from the community and environmentalists, said Paul Fletcher, public relations manager for Hardin Wind Energy, LLC, which is developing the project and is an affiliate of Chicago-based Invenergy. All of the required public meetings have been held, and the project is waiting for approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board, which doesn’t meet again until March. Fletcher said construction could start by the end of the year and that it would take 1 ½ years before all the turbines were operating. The electricity is to be sold to American Electric Power, which owns the transmission lines.

The project is expected to pump $15 million to $20 million into the local economy through construction jobs, landowner income from leases, lodging, meals and fuel, Fletcher said. Once completed, the wind farm will have about two dozen full-time employees.

“We’re very pleased with the progress to date and the reception from the community,” he said. “I don’t know if it could have gone any smoother.”

Community Impact

Not all areas of Ohio have received such widespread support for wind farms. In Logan and Champaign counties, a group of residents opposing large wind farms has formed the Wind Truth Alliance. On its Web site, the group said its community is “under siege by international industrial wind power conglomerates who want to turn our peaceful, residential and agricultural neighborhoods into one large manufacturing area.”

When looking at a proposed location, the Ohio Power Siting Board considers many factors: ecological, social, land use, cultural, historic and engineering. Hardin Wind Energy LLC has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Historical Society and Ohio Division of Fish and Wildlife. Many of the concerns with wind turbines deal with the impact on birds and the federally endangered Indiana bat. Fletcher said Hardin Wind Farm’s metrological towers have bat detectors on them as required by ODNR.

“The ecological (issues) are the most contentious,” Wissman said. “The anti-wind local concerns have been pretty much focused on setbacks from their property and house, concerns about property rights and values, visual impact, including shadow flicker, and potential noise impact.”

The Ohio Power Siting Board requires wind turbines to be at least 750 feet from adjacent residences and one and one tenth times the height of the turbine from the nearest property line. The board is required to look at all public concerns but not mandated to measure a wind turbine’s impact on property values. Wissman said the results of various studies on property values and noise are wide ranging.

“You don’t see a terrible depreciation of property values but you do see an impact and that’s something you need to discuss as a community,” Arnold said.

The Ohio Department of Development, Ohio Department of Taxation and Ohio Air Quality Development Authority have grants and incentives for wind turbine construction, Wissman said.

“For a number of years, Ohio Farm Bureau has supported wind energy development to control energy costs,” Arnold said. “Farm Bureau members have taken an active role in education and outreach because we need cleaner and cheaper energy.”

Point of Policy

OFBF policy supports a comprehensive  energy plan that incorporates clean coal, advanced nuclear and renewable technologies.  It calls for 25 percent of Ohio's energy needs to be met by these sources by 2025.

Potential Energy

Ohio has the potential to generate 60,000 megawatts of wind energy, twice what is needed to power the state, according to the Ohio Wind Working Group. Ohio is also ranked 2nd in the nation in its capacity to manufacture parts for wind turbines.

An Ohio law passed in 2008 requires more energy produced from renewable sources, including wind, solar, biomass and hydro.

A planned wind farm in Hardin County would be one of the largest in the Midwest and would produce enough enough energy to power 75,000 homes.

Town Hall Ohio

For an extended discussion about wind energy in Ohio or other agricultural and public policy issues, check out OFBF's radio program Town Hall Ohio. Past shows as well as air dates and locations are available at TownHallOhio.org. Recent broadcasts have explored business development, Ohio's natural resources, myths about food production and an economic outlook for 2010.



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