VAN WERT – A big crowd was back in the Kingsley United Methodist Church gymnasium on Tuesday night and just like two weeks earlier, they were thinking about the wind.
More particularly, their thoughts were on wind energy and on hand to talk with them about a proposed wind farm was Roger Brown, Business Developer for BP Wind Energy. Although the Long Prairie Wind Farm is still early in the planning stages, he was on hand to give a basic talk about the company and some of what goes into creating a wind farm. However, the vast majority of the evening was spent in open forum with Brown answering questions from the crowd of farmers and other residents.
Brown told the group that the project as currently proposed would encompass around 20,000 acres and in Phase I would aim to generate 200 megawatts of electricity. If all of the turbines had two megawatts of capacity, then about 100 towers would be needed for the first step. However, Brown said that figure is not cast in stone because more wind flow studies need to be completed before the size of the turbines would be decided. They might discover the natural currents could only support smaller turbines or, with the leaps and bounds that wind technology is maturing, the turbines may produce more megawatts and need fewer towers to reach the electricity production goal.
The area the company is currently looking at is south of U.S. 30, from the Indiana state line east to around Landeck in Allen County. It also extends far enough south to end around the Mercer County line. Included in the plan are two sub-stations that would feed the produced electricity into the grid. BP Wind Energy is currently offering landowners in the area 20-year lease agreements.
Most of the questions from the floor were routine. Brown explained that a megawatt measured the amount of electricity produced in one hour. He also discussed “flicker,” the passing of shadows from the blades over homes and other buildings, and how wind energy companies must keep the amount of flicker time to a limit. They also discussed measuring the noise from the turning blades, compaction of farm ground from heavy construction equipment, the breaking of field tile, water flow on access roads and even the study of wildlife in the area and any expected disruption to their habitats.
But mostly the landowners wanted to discuss liability issues, their rights and what a wind farm would do to their farming businesses.
“If we disrupt your farming, we will take care of it,” Brown said after a series of what-if questions. But he also clarified who had what responsibilities.
“Anything related to our activity is our responsibility,” he answered after a question about damages caused by a blade or other related event.
Brown also talked about the restrictions that were placed on tower placement. These included road setbacks, spacing between towers, distances away from residential buildings and microwave contaminations. In such a large group it was impossible to answer too many specific questions about setback footage and the other items but he did suggest anyone could go to www.opsb.ohio.gov to look at all of the formulas that decide such issues.
One question that drew a lot of attention from the participants was about taxes. At this point, Dale Arnold, Director of Energy Development for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, talked about how taking part in the wind farm may or may not affect land owners taxes. He pointed out that any difference between the CAUV tax and any commercial tax rate must be paid for by the wind energy company, in this case, BP Wind Energy. This is based upon legislation passed last year.
But he did offer one caveat. In Marion County, Indiana, the County Auditor was in the process of trying to re-evaluate the land where turbines had been placed in order to raise the tax base. Arnold urged anyone thinking about participating in the project to talk with Van Wert County Auditor Nancy Dixon to discuss possible ramifications locally.
After the meeting, Brown told The Times Bulletin that BP Wind Energy had not factored in any affect of Van Wert County already having been designated an Alternative Energy Zone. A very aggressive timeline would call for power from turbines by December of 2013 but Brown pointed out that time frame would need many things to fall directly in line, indicating it would most likely be 2014 before any power generation would be realized. However, with the first results of a transmission study due within the next 30 days, the Long Prairie project is already picking up momentum.
Brown also said the company is discussing a Phase II for some point in the future but following projects are just speculation at this time.
BP Wind Energy was started in 2005 as BP Alternative Energy and originally included wind, solar and bio-fuels. Over the past few years, the company has invested $5 billion in alternative energy production. They now own ten wind farms in seven states. Those farms have a capacity of over 1,300 megawatts or the equivalent 400,000 homes’ usage.
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