TIRO – A last-minute rescue of a federal tax credit for renewable energy last week was welcomed by the companies behind two proposed wind-turbine projects in the area. However, it will likely be years before anyone around here sees any giant windmills going in the ground.
A U.S. production tax credit, extended as part of the fiscal-cliff deal passed by Congress and signed by the president, provides a rebate of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour over a wind farm’s first 10 years of operation. That rebate can knock up to 30 percent off the cost of such a project.
But two wind farms in the works in north central Ohio still have numerous hurdles to clear before they can take advantage of the tax giveaway.
The Black Fork Wind Farm, a 91-turbine project west of Shelby that was given the go-ahead by the state a year ago, is slowly working its way through the appeals process in the Ohio Supreme Court – anumber of area residents are seeking to halt the project on legal grounds.
Meanwhile, another wind farm proposed for northeastern Morrow County is still awaiting approval by the Ohio Power Siting Board before it can proceed.
“We are still actively developing the project. We were meeting with Richland and Crawford counties back in November and December and are working through the road-use issues,” said Scott Hawken, senior project manager with Element Power, an Oregon-based alternative energy company that’s handling the Black Fork project.
That wind farm is to be built over 24,200 acres in Crawford County’s Auburn, Jackson, Jefferson and Vernon townships and Richland County’s Plymouth, Sandusky and Sharon townships, with the cooperation of 150 landowners. It would be located west of Shelby, north of Crestline and nearly surround the village of Tiro. Ohio 598 would bisect the entire site from north to south.
The vast majority of the turbines would be 494 feet high. The project is expected to generate 200 megawatts of power.
Several area residents, including Gary Biglin and Brett Heffner of Shelby, Alan and Catherine Price of Crestline, John Warrington of Tiro, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the Sharon Township Trustees, have appealed the state siting board’s approval of the project.
Among other legal points, the appeal claims inadequate financial protection in the event the turbines are decommissioned, and cites no record of how much it would cost to remove the decommissioned turbines.
Hawken, who noted local communities would split an estimated $1.8 million in tax revenues, said the Black Fork project would have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years.
“I would anticipate in 20 years that these projects get upgraded with newer technology,” he said. “This is a good location to gather wind for years and years to come.”
Opponents of wind turbines have cited their danger to birds, noise level and aesthetic concerns. Studies into shadow flicker, caused by rapidly rotating blades, have not uncovered any significant health threat, although the flicker’s strobing effect has been shown to spook horses, disorient livestock and cause headaches in people.
Although the Black Fork project has yet to secure a long-term agreement to purchase power from local utilities, “because of Ohio’s alternative energy portfolio standard, we are well-positioned to proceed with this project, with or without the tax incentive,” Hawken said.
State law requires that 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.
“It’s part of doing business,” Hawken said of the last-minute renewal of the tax credit, which was first enacted in 1992 and has been renewed or expanded several times since then. “We hope to start construction in 2014 and to maybe go online in 2015.”
The proposed Morrow County wind farm would be located in North Bloomfield, Troy, Congress and Perry townships, in the county’s northeastern corner. Villages in the vicinity are Steam Corners, Blooming Grove, West Point, Williamsport, Johnsville, North Woodbury and the subdivision of Candlewood Lake.
“As we review details of the recently passed federal legislation, we’re formulating business strategy for a number of proposed projects here in the United States, including the Morrow County wind facility,” said Alissa Krinsky, director of communications for the Chicago-based Invenergy LLC.
“With regard to Morrow County in particular, we have multiple development activities in motion, including filing applications, signing landowner lease agreements and seeking a power-marketing agreement. And so a more detailed project timeline still is to be determined.”
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