The Van Wert County Board of Commissioners addressed the subject of wind turbines in a couple of meetings held Tuesday.
The commissioners first met with Mercer County resident Jerry Holscher, who is a member of the Neighbors United group that opposes installation of wind turbines in northern Mercer County.
Holscher stated a number of concerns he had about wind energy, but also learned that some of that information was outdated, according to information the commissioners provided.
The commissioners, themselves, learned a lot more about the wind turbine siting and certification process when Ohio Power Siting Board Executive Director Kim M. Wissman and four staff members attended a meeting on Tuesday.
Since her agency is the one that decides whether a wind turbine project over 5 megawatts will be constructed, Wissman and her staff talked about the siting process used to determine whether a project is certified.
The Power Siting Board is made up of seven voting members and four non-voting members and includes the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the directors of the Ohio departments of Development, Ohio EPA, Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources and an engineer appointed by the governor. Non-voting members include two members each of the Ohio House and Senate, two from each party.
The role of the Ohio Power Siting Board is to review any major utility facility project being considered for construction. In addition to wind energy projects of 5 megawatts and up, the Power Siting Board also determines the fate of other utility projects, including:
• Power generating facilities of 50 megawatts and up
• Electrical transmission systems of 125 kilovolts and up
• Natural gas transmission systems more than 500 feet long and nine inches in outside diameter are constructed
One of the driving forces for renewable energy, Power Siting Board staff members said, is the state renewable portfolio standard that requires the state to have 12.5 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy by 2025.
The Power Siting Board looks at a variety of factors prior to deciding whether a project should be constructed, including whether the proper transportation permits have been obtained, delivery routes for materials to be used in construction, and a plan developed for returning roads to their original condition prior to the construction process.
“The siting process, as you’ll find, is pretty all-encompassing,” Wissman said. “We do care about everything.”
A number of legal notices and meetings is also part of the process, including a public informational meeting, which provides an overview for a specific project, and a public hearing that allows area residents and others to “go on record” with their support or opposition to a specific utility project.
The Siting Board then holds an adjudicatory hearing to decide whether a project can be certified, and appeals can then be filed after the board’s decision to either issue or deny a certificate.
Wissman noted that her agency has sole jurisdiction over whether a project would be constructed and overrules local jurisdiction in such cases, although she also stated that the Power Siting Board
The process typically takes about a year to finalize, but can be significantly longer, depending on how much opposition there is to a specific project.
“That can push the siting process to well over a year,” Wissman explained.
Areas the Power Siting Board does not deal with are tax credit programs, including federal renewable energy tax credits and alternative energy zones.
Wissman did note that those who have problems created by a wind project, including shadow flicker or noise, should contact her agency, since the Siting Board also works to provide solutions to those problems.