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Wind case ruling likely in spring

URBANA – As the second phase of the Buckeye Wind Project moves forward, project developers said they will have a temporary office available during construction to handle any questions or complaints from residents.

If the project is approved, it would install more than 50 wind turbines throughout the county at a cost of about $250 million, according to developers. It would also create as many as many as 80 temporary construction jobs and have an economic impact of as much as $55 million to the region. Combined with an earlier first phase of the project, as many as 100 turbines could be installed throughout the county.

During recent testimony before the Ohio Power Siting Board, Champaign County prosecutors and opponents raised concerns that the project’s local office is located in Bellefontaine, which is in Logan County. A state staff member for the siting board also testified he believed Bellefontaine was in Champaign County, although he also said he didn’t believe it is necessary for the developer to have an office in the same county as the project.

Developers have since said they will have a temporary office on the construction site to alleviate any concerns or questions residents may have if the project is approved.

“During construction we will have a local office where our maintenance folks will be housed and operate out of,” said Jason Dagger, project developer for the Buckeye Wind Project.

He said the office in Bellefontaine is for development purposes and will serve the company’s operations throughout Ohio. Everpower Renewables, the company in charge of the project, has also proposed a wind farm in Hardin County, although that project has not yet begun the siting process.

Opponents have argued that although the company has talked about the project’s economic impact on the county, the benefits will be spread out throughout seven counties, including Logan, Union, Madison and Clark counties, among others. Opponents said it is common to have a trailer on site during a construction project, but the Logan County office is an indication of the company’s lack of commitment to the county.

Testimony on the case was recently completed. Jack Van Kley, an attorney representing the Union Neighbors United group that is opposed to the project, said attorneys have until Jan. 14 to file briefs, including a summary of the evidence, and how it should affect the Ohio Power Siting Board’s final ruling on the case.

After attorneys have a chance to reply to those briefs, the adjudicatory law judges who heard the case will present their findings to the siting board.

Based on the experience from the first phase of the project, Dagger said a decision could come as early as this spring.

“We’re expecting a decision around the March time frame for this project as well,” Dagger said.