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Officials consider alternative energy zone in Clinton County

Clinton County officials are looking into declaring an alternative energy zone in the county.

During a recent meeting of county commissioners, the creation of an alternative energy zone was discussed. Also attending the meeting were Chris Schock, director of the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission; Paul Hunter, an avid supporter of alternative energy; and two representatives of The Ashbrook Group, a developer of alternative energy.

Now commissioners are waiting for the prosecutor’s office to prepare a resolution for the county, declaring an alternative energy zone.

The legislation could include the entire unincorporated area of the county or just Wilson Township where predicted winds range from 14.5 to 15.7 miles per hour – the strongest in the county, according to the Clinton County potential wind energy production map prepared by the Clinton County GIS (geological information system) Department.

“I’m in favor of it,” Commissioner Pat Haley said at a recent meeting. “I think we need to get the legal research (from the prosecutor’s office).”

Commission president Randy Riley also favored creating an alternative energy zone in the county. “I’m very much in favor of adopting a resolution.”

Haley said he would like for the prosecutor’s office to look into the “legal aspect of declaring an alternative energy zone.”

An alternative energy zone has the added advantage of providing an instant and direct revenue stream for local governments and schools, Hunter said.

Researching the project, Hunter said a proposed 45 megawatt wind project in Wilson Township could produce new annual revenue of $450,000. “And the revenue would keep coming in,” Hunter said.

Hunter said assuming the project labor content dictated that the mandatory service fee of $8,000 per megawatt and the commissioners added a general fund charge of $1,000, the estimated resultant revenue distribution would be: county general fund $45,000, plus $13,500 for a total of $58,500; miscellaneous county levies, $61,200; East Clinton School District, $227,000; Laurel Oaks, $18,000; Wilson Township, $17,000; and the fire district, $16,200.

Tying an alternative energy zone to the existing green enterprise zone would make an attractive offering to any and all companies interested in developing new green projects, Hunter said.

Since wind energy provides a good annual income for farm owners while preserving almost all of the farmland, Hunter said the agricultural base would be positively effected.

Ashley Chance and Dave Buffenbarger, partners in The Ashbrook Group, who attended the meeting, said their company has worked on another renewable energy project.

Hunter gave commissioners a letter from Lincoln Renewable Energy, LLC in Chicago, Ill., which develops solar and wind power projects from green field concept through to commercial operation. Byron Boone, a senior development director for the company, said the Lincoln management team has installed over 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy in more than 10 states.

“When looking for solar and wind energy opportunities in Ohio, the efforts of the Regional Planning Commission, Energize Clinton County and certain citizens drew us to Clinton County,” Boone said. “Given the obstacles that renewable energy projects often face, having a community that welcomes and support this type of investment is invaluable.”

Boone said in the letter that passing a resolution declaring an alternative energy zone in the county “ would further cement Clinton County as the place to be for renewable energy investment in the state of Ohio.”