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Wind Farm Study to Start Over

AMP-Ohio is taking a step back but not backing away from plans for a wind farm in Wood County, company representatives said Saturday.

After apologizing for how the project has been handled, Pam Sullivan, vice president of marketing for the Columbus-based non-profit organization, said AMP-Ohio is scrapping recent work and starting over, this time with the aim to gather more community input. Representatives of AMP-Ohio, JW Great Lakes Wind LLC of Cleveland and Bowling Green Utilities held the public meeting after catching wind of rumors and misinformation among residents of Plain and Liberty townships, where turbines were understood to be sited.

“This is not how AMP-Ohio does it,” Sullivan said in her apology, dispelling inaccuracies like 33 turbines or a 2008 construction date – or that Plain and Liberty were chosen with nothing residents could do to stop it. “We do truly care about your concerns … we apologize for not getting your input, and are taking steps back to get that.”

Absent from the meeting was the man to whom residents and project planners attribute much of the scare, JWGL Director of Project Development Bryan Starry. Starry lead studies for turbine placement and in so doing got ahead of AMP-Ohio while failing to keep them and BG informed, according to Sullivan, and was released from his job earlier in the week to her and others’ surprise.

“Whatever you received from Bryan Starry, be it maps or lease agreements, tear it up,” AMP-Ohio Director of Communications Kent Carson said on behalf of CEO Mark Gerken, who could not attend the meeting because of a death in the family.

Sullivan stressed that at this point AMP is only interested in assessing the feasibility of a wind farm in the county and has not decided on location or number of windmills, only that the goal is up to 50 megawatts of power generation – with no intention, as some feared, to endlessly expand on the site. She also assured residents that studies would assess concerns like residential impact, acknowledging that work up to now has not done a good job in that regard.

AMP-Ohio must make a decision to move forward or not by March 2008 according to an agreement with JWGL signed in April, which is when AMP-Ohio hired the subsidiary of Germany-based Juwi International to conduct the study. It is not yet known who would have ownership of the prospective wind farm, or what JWGL would do with the data it collected if the partnership dissolves with no decision by March.

On hearing this, some residents speculated that JWGL might take its wind data and $2 million Ohio grant and run.

Mark Steffen, project coordinator for JW Prairie Windpower in Iowa and temporarily serving Starry’s function locally, could not answer for Starry’s intentions or his release from the company, but said he was not aware of any other agreements. Sullivan agreed that she would be very surprised if JWGL had other arrangements.

BG Mayor John Quinn speculated as to how JWGL had gotten the state grant with such apparent ease. “‘I’m guessing that the governor is so eager to put his footprint on green energy that he didn’t require the type of background he otherwise would have, and said “Let’s throw some money at it” … it was probably all done in Columbus, with no input from here.”

Among other answers, Sullivan said the wind farm would not be regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio even if it exceeded 50 MW generation, but that it would have to abide by local zoning laws. Some residents seemed encouraged by her promise to seek input, while others remained skeptical and continued to insist, despite repeated assurances, that windmills go nowhere near their homes.

There were murmured allegations of corporate conspiracy against Plain and Liberty residents, and some remarked that Starry’s release was “convenient” – “You’ve done a great job sidestepping,” said Don Stichler, who considered the meeting a waste of time without Starry there to answer questions. Sullivan responded that she did not consider it a waste for her because of the feedback she was able to receive.

She added AMP-Ohio hopes to have some indication by October whether the project is worth continuing or not, and said anyone who wants to join the community input group can contact her at psullivan@amp-ohio.org.

Another public meeting with planners, during which the same information as Saturday will be provided, is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Wood County Educational Services Center.

September 17, 2007
Jordan Fouts
Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune