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Wind power likely to blow in; Energy developer seeks final approval to build turbines in Champaign County  

There seems to be little doubt that Champaign County soon will become the center of Ohio’s march toward harnessing wind for power.

For years, there’s been lots of talk about building the towering, green-energy wind turbines in lots of places: along the Lake Erie shoreline, in Morrow or Logan counties, maybe even in Hardin County.

But while all those locations have been debated, EverPower Renewables has negotiated leases with at least 100 property owners, mostly in eastern Champaign County, for land for the turbines.

Now, the New York-based wind-energy developer plans to file two applications with the Ohio Power Siting Board for what, if approved and built, will dwarf Ohio’s only other wind farm, a four-turbine project in Bowling Green.

Anticipating no problems, the plan is to have the first of as many as 130 wind turbines go up in Champaign County next year, said Michael Speerschneider, EverPower’s Ohio project manager.

The project would be a $500 million capital investment for the company, which eventually will be able to tap into a federal program that allows a tax credit for each kilowatt-hour of power produced. So far, EverPower has not signed a contract to sell power to a utility.

The turbines, which will be just under 500 feet tall, are slated to go up across a wide swath of rural land in eastern Champaign County. The company also plans to put a few turbines in southern Logan County, Speerschneider said.

Each property owner who has signed a contract for a turbine likely stands to make about $15,000 a year, Speerschneider said.

Wind energy has long been controversial. Critics say the turbines don’t produce enough energy to make a dent in the United States’ reliance on foreign oil. That debate was back in the news full-force last week as Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, ranked by Forbes as the 117th richest man in America, made his wind-energy pitch to Congress.

Pickens was on a self-funded, $58 million publicity tour for alternative energy as he testified before a congressional committee. He said the government should begin building transmission lines for wind-generated power or extend tax credits so the lines can be privately built.

Julie Johnson was among those who paid attention to Pickens. She said she understands the need to find and fund alternative-energy sources. Wind turbines, she said, might be a good option. Just not in eastern Champaign County’s Union Township, land that is still rural but increasingly more residential than agricultural.

A retired bank executive, Johnson owns 210 acres in the township slated to become what she calls “wind-turbine central.” She attended an EverPower open house in June and studied a map of the proposed locations for about 78 turbines.

“I have numerous concerns,” she said. “One looked like it was sitting practically on top of my property. This just isn’t the right place.”

For well over a year, Champaign County and township officials have studied and, in some cases, approved regulations for wind turbines, deciding how tall they could be and how close to property lines and buildings they could go.

But EverPower’s project is so huge – about 300 megawatts in total, with each of the turbines capable of producing enough electricity to power 800 average-size homes – that local regulations don’t really apply. The Ohio Power Siting Board is in charge of the process.

Johnson is resigned to the fact that the turbines are coming. Now, she and the special-interest group to which she belongs, Union Neighbors United, intend to stay involved and up to date on the approval process.

“Wind energy is a complicated issue. It’s very scientific,” she said. “I hope that the project will be studied by professionals who will be fair and thorough.”

By Holly Zachariah

The Columbus Dispatch

27 July 2008

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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