OAK HARBOR – Plans to put a wind turbine on the Oak Harbor High School property have been put on hold.
Earlier this month, Village Administrator Robert Pauley announced Tim Rathbun, the CEO of SUREnergy, had withdrawn an application for zoning changes that would allow for a turbine to be constructed within the village limits.
Rathbun said state and federal governments award different types of grants, depending on whether the energy is provided by a commercial provider such as FirstEnergy or a municipal provider such as the Village of Oak Harbor.
According to Rathbun, in similar situations at Huron and Margaretta schools his company has been reimbursed about $380,000 for a $500,000 project, leaving the “gift portion” from his company costing about $120,000.
“In the case of Oak Harbor, they’re not eligible. That location is not eligible in the state program … $320,000 is the remaining balance and we couldn’t come up with enough gift money for it,” he said.
SUREnergy is left with two options – pursue the project in a location outside the village limits, or apply for another grant.
The USDA has a $125,000 grant available, Rathbun said. “It’s not a guaranteed grant. You have to apply for it, and early next year they make a determination.”
Zoning requirements are part of the application. The company asked Oak Harbor Village Council to waive the $1,250 in fees for the permit process during the Oct. 18 meeting. Council refused, at least in part because much of the money goes to “hard costs” that the village would have to pay out-of-pocket.
“I didn’t want to spend the money on the permitting before I know whether the USDA grant is available. If it’s not, the project dies and we would try to do something at Graytown or Rocky Ridge or one of the other schools,” Rathbun said.
He plans to submit the application with an outline of how he plans to deal with the zoning issue.
“No one issue passes it or fails it. Having the permit in hand secures you five points,” he said. “If you can secure that five points in another way, then it doesn’t matter.”
Rathbun said Pauley had been helpful in describing how the process works so he can fill out the application.
Diane Kershaw, the superintendent of the Benton-Carroll-Salem schools, said she’s excited about the project.
“There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and we’re doing this one step at a time, and we very much would like this project to move forward, and we’re more than willing to do what we have to do,” she said.
She’s open to the idea of having a wind turbine at one of the elementary schools. “As far as the district is concerned, any of those places would be fine,” she said.
If the turbine were at the high school, it could be used for science or agricultural education.
“It makes the most sense to be at the high school, but we certainly could make it work wherever it would go,” Kershaw said.
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