Richland County is ideally situated for the siting of wind turbines, at least to some people.
The northwestern third of Ohio has garnered a wind power classification 2 rating from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Mansfield sits on the southeastern edge of that zone.
Three wind-turbine farms are now operating in the Buckeye State, with six under construction – all in Ohio’s flat, open northwestern third. Two more are still in the proposal stage, including the Black Fork Wind Farm along the Richland-Crawford county line.
With the cooperation of 150 landowners, the facility would 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. It would be located west of Shelby, north of Crestline and nearly surround the village of Tiro.
The vast majority of the turbines would be 494 feet high. The project is expected to generate 200 megawatts of power.
The Black Fork Wind Farm faces a few hurdles before it can become reality – although Element Power, the Oregon-based alternative energy company behind the project, has made some progress with the Richland County commissioners on road use.
The county’s roads have a 10-ton limit, while a typical wind turbine, once fully assembled, can top 300 tons.
“The road agreement is done, but has not been agreed to,” county commissioner Ed Olson said. “My understanding is the project is treading water right now.”
The agreement is intended to ensure that Element Power will maintain and repair any roads damaged during transport of turbine parts and materials.
“Our interest is protecting the road system from extreme damage,” Olson said. “Who’s going to pay for it? Repairing the road system should be part of your business plan. If you damage the road, we want to have some kind of security, cash or insurance or something that is collateral that you’re putting up in case you fail to fix the roads.”
The Black Fork Wind Farm is also confronted with a prolonged court battle, as opponents have appealed the Ohio Power Siting Board’s approval of the project to the Ohio Supreme Court.
But Element Power has state law on its side.
Ohio requires that 25 percent of electricity sold in the state by 2025 be generated from alternative energy sources. At least 12.5 percent of that must be generated from renewable energy resources such as wind, hydro, biomass and solar. Also, at least half of the renewable energy used must be generated in the state.
Still, Element Power doesn’t expect construction on the Black Fork Wind Farm to begin until 2014 at the earliest.
If built, the Black Fork Wind Farm would be more than twice as big as what is now the biggest such facility in the state. The Timber Road II Wind Farm in Paulding County, is three miles east of the Indiana state line. That 99-megawatt facility, which went online in October 2011, powers more than 27,000 homes.
Meanwhile, another wind farm proposed for northeastern Morrow County is still awaiting approval by the siting board. It would be located in North Bloomfield, Troy, Congress and Perry townships, in the county’s northeastern corner.
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