SHELBY – Element Power is one step closer to bringing its massive wind energy project to rural Richland and Crawford counties.
Tuesday night’s public information meeting was required by the Ohio Power Siting Board, and drew 150 people to Shelby High School. The two-hour event produced lively discussion between the community and Black Fork Wind Energy Project representatives.
“We hope to submit our application to the OPSB in the beginning of 2011,” said Scott Hawken, senior project manager. “We’re still in the development phase of the project. We’ve got to have our permit approved and then market the project to Ohio utilities to purchase the power.”
Hawken said a viable timeline shows construction beginning early in 2012, with power generation possible by the end of that year.
“We are fairly well along. We’re excited to be here – bringing renewable energy to the heart of Ohio with a $300 million project,” Hawken said.
Many of those in attendance voiced their concerns about possible noise generated by the turbines.
“We’re doing studies now on any sound impacts the facility could have on the community,” Hawken said. “For those not familiar with turbines, they sound kind of like the compressor on the fridge. You can hold a conversation at the base and not have any problem hearing. The Ohio Power Siting Board mandates the allowable decibel level, and we must adhere to their standards.”
Dairy farmers Orva and DeeDee Dawson of Hazelbrush Road attended the meeting in support of the wind project.
“We’ll have a couple of the towers on our land and we’re 100 percent in favor,” Orva Dawson said. “We’d take two more if we could. We’ve supported the project from the beginning and believe this alternative form of energy is the way to go.”
DeeDee Dawson said this type of energy is good for the environment.
“Burning coal is ruining our atmosphere,” she said.
Robert Scherer of West Smiley Road disagreed.
“As far as wind energy goes, it’s good,” Scherer said. “But I don’t like this project. First of all, these turbines are being subsidized by our tax dollars and I don’t think they’re going to be cost-effective.
“Second, they have the power to lease the turbines to anyone they want to and we have no control of that. They’re going to pour tons and tons of concrete, bringing them in on our rural roads. They’ve promised to fix the roads when they’re done, but we’ll see. I’m also worried about the transmission lines they’re going to put under the ground. The farmers’ tiles are going to be torn up. I’ve got my reservations.
“My philosophy is, if it sounds too good to be true, don’t do it.”
Scherer wasn’t alone.
“I don’t like the idea that the wind isn’t there all the time and they don’t have any way of storing the power,” Geneva Clary said. “I don’t like the lights or that they’re a danger to birds. I’m not a farmer, but I am a farmer’s daughter. The pads they’re mounting the towers to are going to go so deep I’m afraid the underground water will be disturbed. I also think the blades and motors are being made in China.”
Farmer Fred Cooke said this project could give a lift to the Shelby economy.
“I do think this is a sign of the future,” Cooke said. “It’s a form of alternative energy we’ve got to explore.
“I visited the wind farm in Fowler, Indiana, so I could see for myself the impact they make on the rural landscape. I would encourage anyone to be objective and make the two-and-a-half hour drive to see the wind fields for themselves. We sat and looked at them and we stood under them. They were fascinating to watch, and they made no sound.”
Charles Hout, of Ohio 598, said wind energy moving into the community is probably for the best.
“With the economy the way it is, this will create some jobs. There are two turbines proposed for my property, but nothing is definite yet,” Hout said. “Look how much the project has changed since Element Power took over.”
The Black Fork Wind Project was originally developed by Gary Energetics, with a first phase to include the construction of 117 wind turbines.
“We pulled the application to the OPSB submitted by Gary Energetics so we could rework the design to answer aerospace constraints near the airport and address a few setback and sound concerns,” said David Stoner, Element’s senior vice president of eastern development. “At this point, we’re looking at 89 towers, which is still subject to change. We’re working on the final design now. The project will produce up to 200 megawatts of energy and invest up to $300 million in the community by providing renewable energy.
“The economic benefit to the area includes the direct payments to landowners, the property tax and the jobs.”
Stoner said 200 construction jobs will be awarded locally, with eight to 10 permanent jobs available after the facility is built.
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