In this February 2014 file photo, Blue Creek Plant Manager Neil Voje (left side of check) presents a check for $2,070,000 to Van Wert County, township, and school district officials. The payment was made in lieu of property taxes and is the first of 20 annual payments. (DHI Media File Photo)
In this February 2014 file photo, Blue Creek Plant Manager Neil Voje (left side of check) presents a check for $2,070,000 to Van Wert County, township, and school district officials. The payment was made in lieu of property taxes and is the first of 20 annual payments. (DHI Media File Photo)

 

During the first five months of 2014, the wind energy industry looked like wind turbines would continue to stretch across the Van Wert County landscape for years to come. Iberdrola Renewables brought in a check for over $2 million as its payment in lieu of taxes to cover a year of operations at Blue Creek Wind Farm.Officials from county entities and schools had big smiles as the money was divided up between the entities under an agreed-upon formula. In early spring, Iberdrola held a meeting at Lincolnview about a proposed new wind farm to be called Dog Creek Wind Farm. The new proposal was causing its share of opponents to sound off, but otherwise progress toward construction seemed to continue even though an agreement on property taxes had not been reached, nor had an agreement on the roads to be used. But Van Wert County’s place as a leading destination for wind projects was not in any real danger. Three other wind farms were discussed during the year.

However, with the deal for the Ohio biennial budget, negotiations ended up seeing a two-year freeze in trying to meet the state’s renewable energy standard. The state had pledged to move 25 percent of electricity to renewable energy sources by 2025.

Like wind power.

Suddenly the incentive to back alternative energy projects in Ohio was placed on hold.

Then the next little bit to fall was the distance allowed between a turbine and an inhabited home. Well, it actually didn’t fall. The distance a turbine must be set back from a home increased. It increased so much that it made putting up a wind farm too expensive and too land-intensive to bother with building one in the first place. At least that was the opinion expressed by many wind farm developers. A few may keep hope alive and continue to work on a way to make a wind farm feasible. But without changes in the setback requirements, the future of Van Wert County wind farms and the money that comes with them look dismal. Some are celebrating these developments, but the leadership of Lincolnview Local Schools are missing out on approximately $1 million per year in payments had a deal similar to Blue Creek been made for Dog Creek. We likely have seen a huge change in the outlook of Van Wert County.