BUCYRUS – Crawford County Commissioners met with representatives of Element Power on March 26 to discuss Black Fork Wind Farm, a proposed project in which 91 wind turbines would be installed. 76 would be located throughout eastern Crawford County, the remaining turbines would be in Richland County. If the project is ever started, it would be the largest wind farm in the state, capable of generating up to 200 megawatts of power.
Element Power is a global renewable energy developer that develops, acquires, builds, owns and operates a portfolio of wind and solar power generation facilities worldwide. It is a subsidiary of Hudson Clean Energy Partners, founded in 2008 and based in London.
Scott Hawkin from Element said the Federal tax credit for renewable energy projects has been extended and they are waiting on the specifics from the Internal Revenue Service.
Commissioner Doug Weisenauer said it was his understanding that to qualify for the extension, construction needs to start in 2013.
Hawkin replied that they are still waiting on the definition as to what qualifies as “construction,” whether it is physical labor being done or financial commitments.
Before construction can begin, however, the Ohio Supreme Court will need to rule in Element’s favor in an appeal case involving the permitting for Black Fork. Element filed a project application with the Ohio Power Siting Board on March 10, 2011. The Board issued a certificate on January 23, 2012. Opponents to the project filed an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court on May 24, 2012.
“We hoped that they would have made a decision by this point,” Hawkin stated. He added that he thinks they will be successful.
During the meeting, the new project developer for Black Fork was introduced: John Knight, director of development for Element. His office is in Portland, Ore. He was also hopeful the project will move forward, saying it is “very well-positioned.”
Knight reported that Element continues to work with local officials on the road use agreement. Due to the heavy trucks and machinery needed for the project, in addition to the hundreds of tons in construction materials, nearby roadways will be damaged. The agreement would hold Element financially accountable to repair those roads.
Mike McBeth, Regional Planning Commission executive director, also attended the meeting. He advised the representatives to also keep field drainage in mind. He suggested that they work with local farmers if the project moves forward, because there is a lot of drainage tile in the proposed project site.
Knight noted that tile repairs will be included in project financing.
Another key issue discussed was opposition from neighbors. If one drives through that part of the county, signs are displayed in many yards that read “No wind turbines.” Many opposition groups point out that the towers are massive—some more than 400 feet high. The materials weigh hundreds of tons, so several acres around each turbine need to be cleared.
Knight agreed that there is always some opposition to energy projects like this. He said there would be a community meeting before construction begins (which would take 8–10 months). “A key part of our job is educating the community about this project and what to expect.”
Yet another kink in the project that needs to be resolved is a repeal of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (see box), which is currently going through the State congress. Knight said the repeal would be “disasterous” for Black Fork if it passed.
More on the Renewable Portfolio Standard:
Ohio law requires electric distribution utilities and electric services companies to secure a portion of their electricity supplies from alternative energy resources. By the year 2025, 25 percent of the electricity sold by each company within Ohio must be generated from alternative energy sources.
By 2024, at least 12.5 percent must be generated from renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc. At least one half of the renewable energy used must be generated at facilities located in Ohio.
For more information, visit the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio website at www.puco.ohio.gov.
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