URBANA – A wind advocacy group believes a provision in a state bill could hurt Champaign County’s Buckeye Wind Project and other wind farms.
The provision in Ohio Senate Bill 315, which will likely be signed into law, would allow combined heat and power technology systems in use at the University of Cincinnati and Kent State University to count as renewable energy.
But Daina Baird, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, said the legislation could create instability in the renewable energy market by expanding the size of the market and reducing incentives to invest in wind power. In the long run, that could possibly damage a proposed $55 million, 100-plus turbine project in Champaign County and other wind farms, she said.
Officials at UC and Kent State said those concerns are unwarranted.
Joe Harrell, executive director of utilities at UC, said the technology is renewable because it makes producing energy at the campuses more efficient and cost effective.
The combined heat technology, which is most commonly used at hospitals, universities and manufacturing facilities, generally involves a power plant that runs on natural gas or other fuel sources. As electricity is produced, excess heat is captured, recycled and reused.
At UC and Kent State, the additional energy is used to produce hot water and heat dorms, among other uses.
Wind energy companies often sell renewable energy credits to utility companies to help them meet state requirements for using renewable energy. The legislation would allow the two universities to also sell those credits.
Combined heat and power projects use fossil fuels to produce their energy initially, so, Baird said, they shouldn’t qualify to help meet the state’s renewable energy goals.
“It created a whole bunch of market uncertainty,” Baird said.
Tom Euclide, Kent State assistant vice president for facilities planning and operations, said he understands the wind association’s complaint. But he said the amount of competition the universities would create for the energy credits is minimal compared to an industrial wind operation.
Harrell said wind companies get large amounts of federal and state tax credits for the energy they produce, but universities weren’t allowed to do the same because they are public entities.
The bill has passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
If he signs it, Baird said, Ohio will be the only state to consider combined heat technology as renewable. She also said there is a concern other universities might pressure the legislature to allow additional similar projects.
“It opens the door for future expansion down the road,” Baird said.
Unlike wind projects, which require much money to construct, builders of the combined heat units do little to invest in the state, she said.
State Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., helped draft the legislation and countered that the state should examine a wide range of options to produce renewable energy to see what makes the most sense.
“The best way to decide what’s best is let the consumers decide,” Coley said.
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