URBANA – A company that wants to build more than 50 wind turbines in Champaign County is acquiring leases that could allow to build even more in the future.
Local residents with lease agreements from Invenergy Wind North America LLC said they received a letter from the company notifying them of an agreement between Invenergy and EverPower Wind Holdings Inc.
Ted Black, who owns a farm in Union Twp., said Invenergy first approached him about a lease agreement about six years ago. But Black said he received a letter from the company in October stating that Invenergy was in the process of selling its leasing rights to Champaign Wind LLC, a subsidiary of EverPower.
Invenergy had more than 30 agreements with local residents, according to a News-Sun review of records in the Champaign County Recorder’s Office.
EverPower is in the process of constructing more than 50 wind turbines in Champaign County as part of the Buckeye Wind Project.
Although the project was approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board last year, opponents filed an appeal, and the case is now being reviewed by the Ohio Supreme Court.
If approved, the project is expected to generate 150 to 200 temporary jobs and 8 to 10 full-time jobs. It would provide as much as $20 million in taxes to the state, county and township governments and to local schools over the life of the project, according to information from the company.
Jason Dagger, a spokesman for Buckeye Wind, said the project cannot move forward without a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, but said a ruling is expected any day.
Dagger declined to discuss the agreement with Invenergy but said construction on Buckeye Wind could begin as early as the second quarter of 2012.
Environmental permits, road use agreements and other items must first be completed.
“We expect a Supreme Court ruling any day, and we feel that’s going to be very positive for the project,” Dagger said.
Representatives from Invenergy, based in Chicago, declined to comment Thursday.
Black said he has yet to sit down with representatives from either company since receiving the letter.
“It’s just going to kind of simplify the project in this area,” Black said.
Jon Berry, a Champaign County resident who also has a lease agreement with Invenergy, said he received a similar letter informing him of the agreement between Invenergy and EverPower. Berry said the terms of his lease with Invenergy will not change.
Matt Butler, a spokesman for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said if EverPower decides to use the leases to add a second phase to the project, it would have to submit a new application for approval. He said the state would not have to approve the lease agreement, but would have to approve any proposal for new turbines.
In the meantime, the Ohio Supreme Court is still reviewing an appeal filed in the Buckeye Wind Project, which would include 54 turbines throughout the county.
Union Neighbors United, a group opposed to the wind farm, objected to the process in which the Ohio Power Siting Board approved the project.
Chris Walker, an attorney for UNU, said the siting board failed to set a clear standard for how much noise turbines could produce and did not do enough to hold the project accountable to residents before issuing its approval.
“It all boils down to how far away should the turbines be from adjoining neighbors’ properties,” Walker said.
Walker argued the siting board also did not provide enough opportunities for opponents to present evidence on certain aspects of the plan, including which turbine will be used.
Champaign County prosecutors have said they neither oppose nor approve of the Buckeye Wind Project. But they argued that although the OPSB required Buckeye Wind to provide $5,000 per turbine for decommissioning, no evidence was presented to show how the OPSB decided on that amount.
Buckeye Wind is waiting on the court’s decision before selecting the model of turbine that will be used in the project. Dagger said Buckeye is in talks with several vendors and will narrow the list after the court’s ruling.
“Technology continues to change at lightning speed,” Dagger said.
When it was first proposed, Buckeye Wind was the first large-scale wind project in Ohio to begin the approval process with the OPSB. While it has been delayed in the courts, other projects in the state have since become operational.
Dagger said he is not sure why there was more opposition to the Champaign County project.
“We fall under the same siting regulations as those other projects,” he said.
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