More wind farm plans doubtful
Thursday, July 10, 2014 12:00 AM
VAN WERT — It was no surprise when Iberdrola Renewables Project Developer Dan Litchfield told the Van Wert Rotary Club this week that the changes in state law regarding renewable energy (Senate Bill 310) and changes increasing the distance a wind turbine can be from a property line (House Bill 483) will keep that company from investing more money locally.
“We think this legislation is really unfortunate and disappointing,” Litchfield stated. “It’s probably not in the best interest of Ohio. We’re not going to make any knee-jerk reactions… but we’re not going to invest anything more on projects in Ohio.”
If the decision stands, this means that the county will not receive a projected $200 million investment for the Dog Creek Wind Farm. Litchfield did say that he and other people from Iberdrola have been studying ways to work within the new law and still build Dog Creek, but they have no solutions at this point. Setback rules have made erecting 50 new turbines virtually impossible. The new law would reduce the number of turbines that will fit within the proposed area from 50 to 7, a total that makes the wind farm unprofitable.
Senate Bill 310 delayed by two years the standard for generating alternative energy for use in the state, eliminating the competition which has existed for developing wind energy in Ohio. Van Wert County has seen no fewer than five different developers attempting to lease land for turbines over the past few years.
Dog Creek was projected to bring in payments in lieu of taxes of more than $600,000 for Lincolnview Local Schools alone, plus payments for other organizations and governments in that area of the county.
Had the project started construction before the law were changed about a month ago, it could have been grandfathered in under the old requirements. However, when the Van Wert County Commissioners rescinded the Alternative Energy Zone designation, the timetable for signing a tax deal and road agreement was shortened considerably. The tax decision was handed to the township trustees by the commissioners, and Litchfield stated that he began negotiating with the township trustees to put declare an Alternative Energy Zone for this project, but no agreement could be finalized in time to start construction.
The new is also disappointing in the Leipsic area, where Iberdrola was planning another windfarm of approximately 75 turbines. Under the new law, that area can now only support two turbines.
Litchfield noted that Blue Creek Wind Farm, in Van Wert and Paulding counties, sells power on 20-year contracts to First Energy Solutions and to Ohio State University’s Columbus campus. He noted that the price of wind power does not fluctuate as other electricity supplies can and that both First and OSU wanted to lock down steady pricing when they signed purchased agreements.
Litchfield did note, “It does not appear the law will affect the existing Blue Creek project.” But more wind farm construction under these laws will not happen. “House Bill 483 makes it impossible to site new windfarms in Ohio,” he said flatly.
The loss in economic impact for the county will be great, between lease payments for landowners, construction and costs, and payments in lieu of taxes.