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The winds of change  

The four giant windmills just outside of Bowling Green might be in for some company.

In conjunction with JW Great Lakes Wind and American Municipal Power-Ohio, a joint-action group for municipal utilities, the city is investigating the idea of adding onto the state’s only utility-size wind farm.

The current facility, near the Wood County landfill, creates about 7.2 megawatts of clean energy – enough to power 1,560 homes.

The proposed new facility would dwarf that amount, creating nearly seven times the power, Kevin Maynard, director of city utilities said.

“We’re actually investigating up to 50 megawatts of electricity in the Bowling Green area,” he said. “But the emphasis should be that we’re investigating it.”

One of several designs the group is researching would include 33 wind turbines, producing about 1.5 megawatts of power each.

“Our electricity needs increase as city grows, as the University grows, as industry grows. How do we answer that growth with renewable resources?” Maynard asked. “We build or we buy.”

He likened the windmill project to buying versus renting a home.

“It’s like owning or renting a home. Ownership for the long term is better,” he said. “If we’re not generating [electricity], then we need to buy it from someone else.”

No price has yet been set for the possible project, though it would be paid for through revenue generated by utility rates, Maynard said, and not though taxes.

However, not everyone is thrilled by the idea of new turbines.

The sheer size of the would-be wind farm has some citizens living near the proposed site a little uneasy.

Ken Sperber, who’s been living on Euler Road – which is within the proposed build site – since 1961, said he’s not opposed to wind energy, he just doesn’t want the windmills in his backyard.

“There was a meeting of about 40 people on the road here [Monday] and we just don’t think it’s the proper place for windmills. There’s just too many,” Sperber said.

Maynard noted that nothing in the project is finalized, including the number and placement of the turbines, and more research needs to be done before it’s determined whether or not it will come to fruition.

“I think there’s been a lot of misinformation,” he said. “Bottom line, if the community at large is opposed to them, I doubt it will happen – it’d probably just happen somewhere else.”

Bryan Starry, director of project development for JW Great Lakes Wind, said an open meeting between his company, BG utilities, AMP-Ohio and the community, is planned for the beginning of September.

“Wind technology has been in the U.S. for 20 years, but a lot of people aren’t familiar with the pieces that go into it,” Starry said. “Nothing’s written in stone at this point.”

The area of perspective development is about 10 minutes outside of town. On the north and east, it’s bordered by state Route 6 and Mitchell Road, respectively, and extends to Portage Road in the south and Range Line Road in the west.

To help finance the project, the development would be co-owned by Bowling Green and a number of other interested cities and villages in the area that are members of AMP -Ohio.

The involved municipalities would then split the energy produced by the wind giants, Maynard explained.

However, that’s caused another issue for residents living within the perspective area. Their energy isn’t supplied through AMP-Ohio, meaning they wouldn’t receive any of the energy the wind turbines produce.

Phil Titus, who lives in the area, said for him, it’s an issue of fairness.

“The landscape would basically be ravaged and we wouldn’t even benefit from this. … We don’t get our power from AMP-Ohio, our power comes from Toledo Edison.”

“I’m not sure what they want,” Maynard said in response. “Do they want us to put up power lines out there? Do they not want the turbines? … Surely they’d rather see those in their neighborhoods than the alternatives,” he said, referring to coal fire and nuclear facilities, among others.

“I’ve heard a lot about what they don’t want, I’d like to hear what they do want,” Maynard continued. “We’ll be glad to consider whatever they present.”

The investigative period for the wind project is slated to continue through March 2008, according to AMP-Ohio, although both Maynard and Starry are hoping to “have a better handle on it” by the end of the year.

Travis Chapin, a 12-year Euler Road resident, said he’s encouraged by the September meeting date and cautioned that many of the residents are simply anxious for more information.

“It’s just that uncertainty that’s unsettling,” he explained. “I don’t think the problems are going to evaporate and disappear, but we’re making great strides in working out many misunderstandings and differences. … I think all parties are interested in dialogue moving forward.”

By Laura Simmons

24 August 2007

The BG News

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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