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Ohio Farm Bureau official explains wind farm possibilities, downplays costs, shortcomings  

Wind turbines can be beneficial to farmers and communities, but they also come with challenges.

“There are a number of benefits and there are also a number of responsibilities,” said Dale Arnold, 15-year director of energy services for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “I want you to think of it as a business partnership. There is risk, but there’s also reward.”

Arnold spoke Tuesday to a full house at the Public Safety Building at the Seneca County fairgrounds.

JW Great Lakes Wind of Cleveland has been in contact with landowners in the area of CR 592 and TR 69 about lease agreements. The company is the same one planning a wind farm in Wood County.

Arnold said a company from Spain is looking into a similar project in eastern Seneca County, and several companies are researching wind power north of Tiffin. He said at least three years of research goes into an area before the company begins to contact landowners.

“Your interest here is the first step in getting involved in the process,” he told the group.

In general, Arnold said land lease payments average $7,000 per megawatt per year.

“That’s probably going to go to a farmer,” he said. “But where do farmers spend their money?” For every farmer in Seneca County, he said there are 16 people who provide them with inputs and services.

Local taxes average $10,000 per megawatt per year, he said.

Arnold said there are several reasons wind power is gaining attention in Ohio.

“Energy is a commodity. It’s bought and sold every day,” he said. “No matter who you talk to, energy prices will be continuing to go up.”

He said wind power is part of strategy at national and regional levels to control energy costs. Because Ohio already has infrastructure in place, he said the state is a prime location.

Arnold said 80 percent of electricity is produced by coal and nuclear plants.

“We’re not talking about getting rid of coal and nuclear,” he said. “We’re talking about your increased need for electricity.”

Estimates show electricity usage could double by 2050.

“Systems now in place will be combined with new technology to meet the need for the increased production,” he said.

By 2030, Arnold said a $2 trillion refit of the electricity infrastructure will be needed to keep up with demand.

“The fleet of coal-fired facilities is getting old,” he said. “They system put in in 1930s is still in use.”

Ohio’s existing system of transmission lines is an asset, he said. It easily reaches from Manitoba, Canada, to the Carolinas to the East Coast.

“We are sitting in the golden triangle of electric transmission,” he said. “That is our strength.”

Arnold said wind energy is part of a larger picture that includes solar, biomass and other forms of renewable generation.

He used the wind turbines off US 6 near Bowling Green as an example of the technology likely to be used in Seneca County. He suggested anyone interested in more information make an appointment to tour the four turbines. They are 391 feet tall and rotate at 16 rotations per minute when the wind is blowing between 9 and 56 miles per hour.

“The technology is always changing,” he said. “When installed, they were the largest operational in the Unites States, but no longer.”

But new technology doesn’t usually increase the size of the exterior. He said it increases generating capacity within the same framework.

In general, Arnold said companies are looking for at least 10 open acres for construction, with two acres needed long term. The area must be outside of restricted airplane areas and close to existing transmission infrastructure. The area also should be 750 feet from roads, 400 feet from property lines, 1,000 feet from buildings and allow 800 feet between turbines.

Factors that eliminate a site include proximity to other tall stuctures such as cell towers, as well as woodlots, wildlife habitat and wetlands.

“You’d be surprised the amount of research being done on wildlife habitat,” he said. For example, one study at the Bowling Green site researched the effect of turbines on the migration patterns of monarch butterflies. Other species being studied are birds and bats.

By Vicki Johnson, outdoors@advertiser-tribune.com

April 9, 2008

advertiser-tribune.com

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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