August 19, 2011

Trustees updated on next wind farm project

By ED GEBERT, Times Bulletin News Writer, 19 August 2011

VAN WERT – Residents on the north side of Van Wert County are getting used to seeing wind turbines, but those in the southern half are monitoring a wind farm project that will affect portions of Harrison, Pleasant, York, Liberty and Willshire townships. Several township trustees met with the Van Wert County and BP Wind’s Roger Brown Thursday afternoon for an update on what could become Long Prairie Wind Farm.

Don’t go looking for turbine sites just yet. Brown noted that the project is about a year away from even beginning the submission process with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). The current plan is for the first phase of the wind farm to consist of a total of 200 megawatts (MW). Although Brown would not commit to a firm number of sites, if BP Wind uses a turbine generating just over 2 MW, that would mean between 90-95 turbines in the first phase. And more phases of the project are on the drawing board.

“One of the things we are still waiting on is the results for any kind of transmission study. Those are being delayed in the study phase,” Brown reported. “Basically that will tell us what kind of transmission upgrades we need on our project. And we started our wildlife studies this week.”

Among the efforts under way are a bird count and a bat study to comply with all the requirements set forth by the state. “It’s a pretty serious matter, and something we have to do. Obviously U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources will be looking very closely at the work,” added Brown.

According to Brown, a very preliminary site map is being sketched out beginning this week. That map will most likely change multiple times over the next 12-18 months. He revealed, “It’s still very early, but we’re getting down to that point where we are starting to see where we are ultimately going to be.”

Although Brown stated that the project is going very well at this point, he admitted it is frustrating waiting for study results. But he knows some of the factors that are holding up the results. “That’s partly because there is so much activity going on in this state,” Brown reasoned. “The utilities are involved in that process. They have to look very carefully at stability of the transmission system. This is a power plant, so they have to look at how it impacts and what kinds of upgrades are needed.”

The decision on whether the generated power will go east or go west will determine the location of a substation, however Brown pointed out on a map the general area where the turbines will be located. Since the former rail corridor for the Erie Lackawana Railroad is planned to be key to the transmission system, many of the turbine sites will generally be to the north and the south of that line.

Waiting for the transmission study results also has put the sales portion of the project on hold. Where other companies may build a wind farm before a power sale contract is set, Brown said that is not the case with BP Wind. “Before we ever build, we will have a contract in place to sell the power, and it will be a long-term agreement,” he declared.

Once a map of turbine sites is set, then BP representatives can address potential concerns with people living near the locations. In the meantime, the company is hoping to put up a temporary 80-100 meter meteorological tower to gain more accurate information about the wind in the area.

The township officials meeting with Brown on Thursday seemed satisfied with the situation at present, knowing it will still be many months before work of sites or roads will begin – assuming the project is licensed by the OPSB.

Brown is looking forward to wrapping up some of the preliminary work and moving on in the project. “Hopefully in one year we’ll be at the point where we go in with the Ohio Power Siting Board, and we’ll start the process with public hearings, etc.,” he expressed.

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