Wind farm ruling a mixed bag, leaves a few hurdles
Credit: Written by Todd Hill | News Journal | March 30, 2013 | www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com ~~
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The Black Fork Wind Farm may be another step closer to becoming reality, but a few legal hurdles for the project remain.
On Wednesday the Ohio Supreme Court granted in part, but also denied in part, a motion to dismiss an appeal filed by opponents of the project, which was approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board in January 2012.
Among other technical legal points, the appeal claims inadequate financial protection if the turbines are decommissioned, and cites no record of how much it would cost to remove the decommissioned turbines.
The Black Fork project, to be operated by Element Power, an Oregon-based alternative energy company, would feature 91 wind turbines 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 Hefner of Shelby, Alan and Catherine Price of Crestline, John Warrington of Tiro, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Sharon Township Trustees, have appealed the state siting board’s approval of the project.
The wind farm would have a life span of 20 to 25 years.
“I would anticipate in 20 years that these projects get updated with newer technology,” Scott Hawken, a senior project manager with Element Power, said previously.
“If this company goes bankrupt, who’s going to pay for that? It’s going to cost $30,000 to take one of these things down,” said Patrick Murphy, a Bucyrus attorney representing the opponents.
In Wednesday’s court filing, two of the opponents’ three propositions of law were dismissed by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith L. French.
With regard to the opponents’ third proposition of law, one due-process argument – that they were denied the opportunity to cross-examine the project’s engineer – was dismissed, but two others were not.
The appeal will proceed to consider whether the opponents’ due process was violated through the prohibition of evidence presentation and by permitting the project to make post-certificate alterations and information submissions without a hearing.
Justice French also wants to further examine the issue of whether the project is required to post a bond before construction can commence.
No date for the next hearing has been announced. Element Power hopes to begin construction of the Black Fork Wind Farm in 2014 and possibly go online in 2015.
State law requires 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.
Another wind farm proposed for northeastern Morrow County has yet to be submitted for approval by the Ohio Power Siting Board, according to agency spokesman Steve Irwin.
That project, which would be operated by the Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, would be located in North Bloomfield, Troy, Congress and Perry townships, in the county’s northeastern corner.
Meanwhile, yet another wind energy project, the Republic Wind Farm, is in pre-application status at the siting board. To be operated by Nordex USA Inc., also of Chicago, the project would include 83 turbines on 15,000 acres near Republic in Seneca and Sandusky counties.
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