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Wind turbines blowing into Van Wert

VAN WERT – While wind turbines and wind farms have been a topic of discussion in Van Wert County for a few years, this spring they became a reality as turbines began popping up northwest of Van Wert.

They dot the landscape north of U.S. Route 30 from the split with U.S. Route 224 to the Indiana state line. The ones closest to Indiana have started spinning, the ones closer to Van Wert are still being constructed.

Visitors say they look the most impressive as you come east from Indiana. Many stop at the rest area just west of Van Wert to take pictures of them.

“A lot of people stop to look at them and take pictures,” rest area caretaker Mark Raudabaugh said. He said they look pretty as he drives in to work before sunrise. “It looks like a landing strip in the morning.”

Reactions on Friday ranged from confused to nonplussed.

Jimmie Pitney, of Dayton, wasn’t sure what the turbines were for, but said they looked odd.

“They look like a big old propeller,” he said. He wonders how they will impact the people living near them. “I just hope for the best.”

A couple driving back to Washington, D.C., from California were not impressed.

“I’ve seen them a lot of places before,” the woman said.

She wondered why they weren’t working yet.

Betsy Black and her family, from Goshen, Ind., agreed they looked weird.

“I just can’t imagine,” Black said. “I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to live with them around. I spent a lot of time looking at them while I was driving. I’d say it distracted me.”

Her 6-year-old daughter, Amelia, had a simple opinion. “I didn’t like them because they looked weird.”

Blooming Turbines

It began with train loads of turbine tower parts and the nacelles that top them. They were parked for a bit along Elida Road in Lima before heading to the Van Wert Terminal where cranes loaded them on to trucks. A few months back the towers began growing.

The first wind farm, Timber Road II, is nearly operational. Horizon Wind Energy is building the 55-turbine farm just north of the county line in Paulding County.

Site supervisor Rod Cossman, said the project should be fully operational in few weeks.

All 55 turbines are built and as of last week about half were operating.

“It’s gone well, Cossman said. “It’s just been Mother Nature. Other than that, things have been going well.”

The turbines closer to Van Wert are part of the Blue Creek Wind Farm being built by Iberdrola Renewables.

Dan Litchfield of Iberdrola said the farm will have 152 turbines and should be operational by the end of the year. About a dozen towers are fully constructed, he said.

Each project has employed several hundred workers at different times. The parking lots of the hotels on U.S. Route 127, just south of U.S. 30, fill up with muddy pickup trucks each weeknight as the workers call it a day.

Questions Answered

From his station at the rest area, Raudabaugh hears lots of questions about the turbines. Here are some of the answers.

The turbines spin in the wind to produce electricity.

Each turbine can produce about 2 million watts at peak, enough to power about 270 homes.

The towers will usually produce less than that, depending on wind speed.

The power from the wind farms will be sold to power companies like American Electric Power.

The turbines Horizon is using have cooling fins on top, the Iberdrola ones do not.

They are rotated into the wind by computers based on readings from an anemometer and wind vane.

If wind speeds top 55 mph or so, the turbines shut down automatically until the speeds drop to a safe level for more than 15 minutes.

What’s Next?

Horizon plans additional wind farms adjacent to Timber Road.

The next phase will be about 28 turbines to the north of the current ones, Cossman said.

Litchfield said Iberdrola has plans for a wind farm to the southeast of Blue Creek that’s two to five years away. He said Iberdrola will file an application for a farm in Putnam County soon.

BP Wind Energy has held meetings with landowners in southern Van Wert County to discuss a wind farm there. The Ohio Power Siting Board has also approved sites in Hardin County.