November 17, 2012

Battle over economic benefits, tear down costs for turbines

By Matt Sanctis, Staff Writer | Springfield News-Sun | Nov. 16, 2012 |

URBANA – Opposing sides battled over the economic impact and decommissioning costs of the second phase of the proposed $55 million Buckeye Wind Project in Columbus on Friday as the state continues its review of the plan.

The controversial proposal could create more than 80 temporary jobs during the construction phase, along with a handful of permanent jobs. It could also add as much as $1.26 million to the region’s economy, but opponents have raised concern with the safety of the project, and argued the proposed turbines are too close to homes in the project’s footprint.

Combined with a first phase of the project that has already been approved, the total wind farm could include more than 100 turbines spread throughout Champaign County.

The Ohio Power Siting Board is in the midst of nearly two weeks of testimony in Columbus as part of the state review process for the proposed wind farm.

The economic impact to Champaign County was debated before the board Friday.

Don Bauer, a Champaign County business owner who will have turbines on his farm, said the project will bring needed tax dollars and new jobs to the county.

But Champaign County prosecutor Nick Selvaggio questioned how much money the county would truly benefit from the project. He pointed out that although the project itself is located in Champaign County, Everpower’s local offices are in Logan County. Selvaggio questioned how much Champaign County would benefit in the long term because the majority of proposed jobs would disappear after the project is built.

The county will also potentially receive more than $1 million in tax dollars overall if the county approves an alternative tax agreement, Bauer said. But Selvaggio questioned how much the county will actually receive in its general fund after that revenue is split between numerous other entities in the county.

Included in Friday’s hearing, Jonathan Knauth, a former vice president of project management for the Rome Iron Group, testified about his experience decommissioning large steel projects. County attorneys have argued a $5,000 decommissioning bond per turbine required by the state might not be adequate to tear down the project if necessary.

Attorneys for Everpower Renewables, the company in charge of the project, have said the bond, along with the value of the scrap metal, should be enough to cover those costs.

But Knauth testified it’s difficult to determine whether that amount is adequate because the company didn’t present any estimated costs for decommissioning or anticipated scrap value in its application to the state. He also said it’s difficult to determine the value of scrap over the 20-year life of the project.

“It’s a market that’s extremely volatile,” Knauth said.

Knauth also recommended that the costs to decommission the project be reviewed more frequently over the life of the project to get a better idea of potential costs.

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