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Q&A: Watchdog group investigates Ohio wind energy foe

Q&A: Watchdog group investigates Ohio wind energy foe
Ohio state Rep. Bill Seitz, seen in this 2011 photo, “has arguably done more to block the growth of clean energy jobs in Ohio than anyone else in the state” according to the Checks and Balances Project.

 Source: Midwest Energy News

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Wind energy proposal may dictate industry’s future in Ohio


TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Wind energy’s future in Ohio is at a crossroads.

Two much different proposals — one easing restrictions stifling new wind farms and another adding more hurdles for future development — are being pitched to state lawmakers and regulators.

A look at the proposals and wind energy in Ohio:

State of wind

Plans for new wind farms have been stalled since lawmakers in 2014 installed a rule that requires wind turbine blades to be at least a quarter-mile from the nearest property line. Supporters of the rule said it protects homeowners who don’t want the towers near their properties.

Over the past three years, only those projects that were approved before the setback rule was put in place and exempt from the restrictions have been completed.

The majority of new wind projects that have gone up as of late have been small installations of just a few turbines to power factories and small businesses.

Falling behind

Because the setback rule is still in place, some developers say they are bypassing the state for now. One company has five projects on the drawing board that it says won’t move forward until the state rolls back its restrictions.

Ohio ranks in the middle of the pack among all states when it comes to wind energy capacity, but it lags behind all the Midwestern states and its neighbors, except for Kentucky.

The state’s wind energy capacity of 617 megawatts at the end of last year was just one-third of the capacity in Michigan, according to the American Wind Energy Association

With utilities scaling back on coal and nuclear power, there’s more for room wind projects in the state, but natural gas is positioned to become a dominant energy source with close to a dozen plants being built or in the planning stages.

Competing proposals

Backers of wind energy again are making an attempt to ease the state’s restrictions, proposing legislation that would allow construction of wind turbines closer to property lines.

Republican state Sen. Matt Dolan, the primary sponsor, said under the plan counties will have the final say on whether to approve the wind farms.

While both Republicans and Democrats have signed on to support the bill, getting it through the GOP-controlled legislature will be a challenge based on its past support for the tighter restrictions.

On the flip side, a state board that regulates wind farms sites has before it a change that would force wind developers to get the approval of more property owners before they could construct their turbines.

The American Wind Energy Association this month said that proposal would be “a death sentence for wind energy” in Ohio.

Republican state Rep. Bill Seitz said the proposal is better than one pushed forward last year.

But he noted that some neighborhood groups fighting wind farms don’t like the plan before the state siting board because they say it doesn’t go far enough.



North American Windpower

Proposed Bill Casts Dark Cloud Over Ohio’s Wind Industry

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, a wind energy proposal before the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) would be detrimental to the state’s wind industry.

Recently, the groups submitted comments to the OPSB to oppose changes to a wind farm setback waiver process proposed by State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, whom the groups call a “longtime wind opponent.” Last year, for example, Seitz spoke out in support of legislation to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy mandate.

Under current rules, all owners of property within the “already excessively long” setback radius of a wind turbine must sign a waiver before construction can begin, AWEA explains in a press release. If the proposed change enters into force, hundreds of additional waivers would be required from landowners with property adjacent to properties within the setback radius – effectively making it impossible to build a wind farm in Ohio, according to AWEA.

The comments to OPSB state, in part, “[The proposal] would introduce significant uncertainty in the marketplace, which has a chilling effect on investment. The state’s largest wind farm (Blue Creek in Van Wert County) was a $600 million project, the largest capital investment in Ohio the year it was constructed. Sophisticated financiers and lenders will simply not fund projects of this magnitude without regulatory certainty that all required waivers have been obtained.

“It is no understatement to suggest that if Ohio adopts this rule, the regulatory chaos over how many waivers are required and ‘from whom’ will cause the capital markets to close the door on Ohio development. This would be true even if the General Assembly reduces the onerous setback requirement in current law.”

Andrew Gohn, director of eastern state policy for AWEA, has issued the following statement:

“State Rep. Seitz’s proposal to the Ohio Power Siting Board would twist otherwise reasonable landowner input on wind farm development into an unconstitutional violation of personal freedom and property rights by requiring consent of dozens of neighboring landowners to approve land use changes on one owner’s private property.

“This change would also amount to a death sentence for wind energy in the Buckeye State, along with the in-state jobs it would deliver,” Gohn continues. “This is just another in a long line of attempts from Seitz to stop job creation, billions of dollars of new investment and millions of dollars in tax revenue to communities across the state. If this proposal goes through, Ohio will continue to fall behind neighboring states, making it extremely difficult to attract new investment from major corporations with renewable energy goals.”



World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Starts Construction

Offshore construction has kicked off at what will become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the Hornsea Project One.

The first of 174 monopiles, or foundations for offshore wind turbines, has been installed at the site, located off the Yorkshire coast in the United Kingdom.

The project, developed by Danish energy giant Ørsted (formerly called Dong Energy), is expected to be fully operational by 2020 and will have a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, or enough power for more than one million UK homes.

To compare, the London Array, currently the largest offshore wind farm in the world, has a 630-megawatt capacity, or enough to power about half a million homes.

“After years of planning it is fantastic to see the initial stages of offshore construction begin. My thanks to the teams working day and night on this significant milestone,” Duncan Clark, program director for the project, said in a statement.

“Onshore, we are continuing to construct the East Coast Hub which will serve as an operations and maintenance base for our existing wind farms in the area and both Hornsea Project One, and Project Two which we took a final investment decision on last year.”

Offshore wind technology is advancing at a rapid pace, meaning the Hornsea project could one day lose its title. For instance, the Netherlands is planning to build a massive offshore wind farm proposed by Dutch electric grid operator, TenneT.

If it gets the green-light, the 10,000-turbine complex could produce up to 30 gigawatts of power by 2027. That’s enough electricity to power a city of 20 million people.




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