SHELBY – The company behind a north central Ohio wind farm says the project is moving forward, but not as fast as it hoped.
Construction will be delayed at least a year from the original start date, the company confirmed Thursday.
“The soonest we would start construction is 2013, and it could even extend to 2014,” said Scott Hawken, senior project manager with Oregon-based alternative energy company Element Power.
The state board that certifies construction plans for energy facilities approved an agreement Monday that authorized the 91-turbine wind farm along the Crawford and Richland county line. The Ohio Power Siting Board announced construction would begin by spring and be complete by December.
“That was the targeted date for construction when we initially applied for the permit almost a year ago, but the permitting process with the state took longer than expected,” Hawken said.
A news release from Element Power called the approval process “one of the most rigorous state-level permitting processes in the country.”
The company said extension of the federal Production Tax Credit for renewable energy – which is set to expire at the end of 2012 – and securing a power sales contract with a utility company are key elements for construction to begin.
Hawken said the wind farm can be built with or without the federal tax credit, but the wind energy industry is optimistic it will be renewed.
“We still need to finalize road use agreements with Crawford and Richalnd county,” Hawken said. “We started that process last year as we were applying to Ohio Power Siting Board, but nothing is finalized.”
The permit approved by the state this week was contingent on a number of conditions, including a requirement the company enter into road use agreements with local governments before starting construction. It also requires the company to pay for any damage to government-maintained roads and bridges.
“That’s typically something the industry does across the country in these projects,” Hawken said.
He said the company is taking core samples and assessing the best routes to bring in equipment.
“There will be some (infrastructure) improvements that need to be made. The turning radius on some intersections may need to be improved temporarily while we bring in the large equipment,” Hawken said.
He said that the company has worked with the power siting board to address community concerns.
“We really appreciate the feedback and the support of the community and the landowners,” Hawken said.
He said the project will employ 100 to 200 people during the 10- to 12-month construction period.
“We try to use as much local labor as we can,” Hawken said. “We’ve talked to the different unions in the area and suppliers. We’re going to need concrete, gravel roads and other materials.”
He said the company typically brings in a general contractor with expertise in wind energy.
“We will likely have a local job fair so they can sub-contract out some pieces of work to local companies in the Mansfield, Shelby, Bucyrus area,” Hawken said.
Information about hiring will be shared as construction approaches. The wind farm is expected to create 10 permanent, high-skill positions.
Hawken said communities will split $1.8 million in annual tax revenues.
The project life is estimated at 20 to 25 years.
“I would anticipate in 20 years that these projects get upgraded with newer technology,” Hawken said. “This is a good location to gather wind for years and years to come.”
The wind farm will be capable of generating 200 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 55,000 homes.
Under Ohio’s alternative energy portfolio standard, 25 percent of electricity sold in Ohio must be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025. At least half of this energy must come from renewable energy sources, including wind, and one half of the renewable energy facilities must be located in Ohio.
With the addition of this project, the state has certified nine wind farms across Ohio, totaling 662 turbines and 1,251 megawatts of generating capacity.
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