A plan to build a nearly $300 million wind farm on approximately 4,500 acres of land in eastern Logan County is moving forward full steam, representatives of the wind development company Babcock and Brown said during a Tuesday evening meeting.
“We have enough landowners that we could proceed with the project and we are prepared to begin our studies,” said Beth O’Brien, the company’s community liaison. “We want to submit our project and we are moving as quickly as possible to do that.”
Between 75 and 100 county residents braved frigid temperatures and icy roads to attend the meeting, which was moved at the last minute to the Holland Theatre after Ohio Hi-Point Career Center closed its building because of weather.
The representatives were invited to the area by residents who have signed leases or who support wind energy development.
The immediate goal for the developers is to gather meteorological data, assess roads to determine how the massive wind turbine components can be delivered to sites and conduct other studies such as environmental and wildlife impacts, Ms. O’Brien said. Currently, landowners Roger Brown and Rick Amerine have applied for zoning permits to install anemometer towers – devices that collect the meteorological data.
The next step is to apply for permits and Ms. O’Brien said that will require a series of public meetings, the first of which could occur within the next two months.
Construction of the wind farm, which would last between six and nine months and create between 100 and 200 jobs, likely would not begin until sometime in 2010 or 2011, she said. About 10 to 20 people would be needed to oversee the day-to-day operation of the farm when complete.
The total project, which would be in both Jefferson and Monroe townships, would generate between 100 and 150 megawatts. The energy could be used to reduce the state’s reliance on coal-fired electric generation plants that have been the backbone of Ohio’s energy production for many years, according to Dale Arnold, Ohio Department of Agriculture’s energy development director.
“When you use this type of generation in a teamwork-type application with traditional generation, it reduces the cost to customers,” he said.
Wind energy can provide an affordable option in times of moderate to peak energy demands, Mr. Arnold added.
Ms. O’Brien and Mr. Arnold were joined by Scott Jensen, a Bureau County, Ill., farmer who signed a wind turbine lease and now operates the 2,200-acre Crescent Ridge Wind Farm with 33 turbines, the majority of which are owned by Babcock and Brown.
He said like many local residents, he had numerous questions about the impact of the turbines on his own property and visited several wind farm operations before deciding to sign a lease.
“We were in the same boat as you guys because there weren’t any wind farms in our state,” he said, noting that developers in his area were not aware of many issues that residents were concerned with.
After two years operating the site, measuring the impact of noise and other issues and gauging community response, Mr. Jensen said he believes the wind companies lived up to their promises to the community.
That was reassuring for Jefferson Township landowner Don King, who has signed a lease on his property.
“The whole thing made me feel better about my decision – from them saying they would fix the land they work on to the noise,” he said.
But residents opposed to wind turbine development in the area were not so easily convinced.
“There is a right area for wind development in our community, but this area is too densely populated,” Tom Mazurek said.
The officials also addressed numerous concerns raised by residents, especially regarding noise, scenic and wildlife impacts and the potential for tower collapses or ice being thrown from the blades.
• Ms. O’Brien said a wind turbine at 1,000 feet – a typical setback from a home – sounds about as loud as a modern refrigerator.
• Modern technology, which includes slower rotating turbines and a single-pole design, has significantly reduced the number of bird deaths, and bird advocacy groups endorse wind energy as more friendly to birds and the environment than traditional energy generation systems, Ms. O’Brien said.
• Nearly all wind turbine collapses occur at about twothirds the height of the tower and no wind tower has been documented to have fallen over at the base, Mr. Jensen said.
• Weather conditions only infrequently allow ice to build up on turbine blades, Mr. Jensen said. When ice does build up, the turbines stop operating and ice falls from the blades to the ground instead of being thrown hundreds of yards as some people claim, he said.
They also addressed the impact on the local tax base, which was reported between $500,000 and $2 million a year for similar sized projects in other areas of the country.
Monroe Township Trustee Don Bradley said the new taxes, along with possible community projects supported by the company, were pluses for elected officials.
“If they continue to move forward with the people of this community, the taxes would be a major benefit,” he said. “I am also willing to ask if there are any additional benefits or partnerships available to people in the community.”
Breaking down wind
About the Logan County wind project
DEVELOPER: Babcock and Brown
SIZE: Approximately 4,500 acres in Jefferson and Monroe townships Generating capacity: Between 100 and 150 megawatts
TURBINES: An undetermined number between 2 megawatts and 2.4 megawatts each
COST: Nearly $300 million
TIMELINE: Construction could begin in 2010 and be online late that year or early 2011
JOBS: Between 100 and 200 during construction, about 10 to 20 when in operation
By Reuben Mees
Examiner Staff Writer
13 February 2008
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