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KENTON – Backers are pressing forward on a plan to invest $600 million to build a 200-turbine wind farm in Hardin County. Progress has been tempered and concerns are mounting amid speculation changes to Ohio’s 3-year-old renewable energy law may be afoot.
Paul Fletcher, public relations manager for Invenergy, parent company of Hardin Wind Energy, told Hardin County commissioners on Thursday the first phase of the project is set to go before the Ohio Power Siting Board for approval on Monday.
“We don’t anticipate any reason as to why they would not approve that,” Fletcher said. “There is a movement afoot down in the statehouse, and I’m not sure that you’re aware of it, to repeal some of the renewable energy standards that were passed in 2008.”
The provisions, passed as part of Senate Bill 221 in 2008, set a target of 2025 for public electric utilities in Ohio to supply 25 percent of their electricity from advanced energy sources. The legislation also contained incentives to make it more cost-effective so clean-energy businesses have an opportunity to compete in the state. Repeal of the provisions would be devastating to the proposed $600 million project near Alger and McGuffey, Fletcher said.
Fletcher said state Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Powell, is the leading the charge and looking for co-sponsors for a bill to do repeal the renewable energy mandates. Jordan could not be reached for comment.
State Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, the senate president pro tempore, said he was not aware of any active push to repeal the renewable-energy provisions. Discussions about such proposals would likely be ongoing on the utilities committee – a group on which Faber does not serve, he said.
“From our perspective if that were to occur that’s pretty much a deal-breaker,” Fletcher said. “We would have the ability to come to a power purchase agreement with any of the utilities, however, the likelihood of that occurring in the near future is slim to none.”
Commissioners said they understand the concern.
“It takes away the incentive,” Commissioner Brice Beaman said.
Fletcher said Monday’s hearing in Columbus is one piece in the larger puzzle to get the project operational by the end of next year. The prospect of a rules change midstream has project officials wary, he said.
“It’s a difficult question to answer,” Fletcher said. “It really puts the project in limbo in some respects. We don’t know at this point are there going to be buyers out there for the power that we generate for the investment that we make.”
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