The 2012 approval of the Black Fork Wind Farm by the Ohio Power Siting Board was affirmed in a decision handed down Wednesday by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Opponents of the planned wind-turbine project, to be constructed in northern Richland and Crawford counties, included a handful of residents in Shelby, Crestline and Tiro. They had appealed the siting board’s approval.
The appellants’ remaining contention, that their due process was violated when they were denied the opportunity to cross-examine siting board staff members at the evidentiary hearing on Element Power’s application to site the Black Fork project, was itself denied Wednesday.
“Our review of the record indicates that appellants were permitted to intervene as parties and were actively involved throughout the certification proceeding. They participated in the prehearing and settlement conferences, cross-examined witnesses, testified themselves, and delivered closing arguments at the evidentiary hearing,” the court concluded in its opinion.
“And the board’s 75-page order shows that it carefully considered appellants’ challenges to the proposed wind farm, including their concerns about property values, the impact of bird breeding, the minimum setback requirements, the noise impact, and the impact on county and township roads.
“In short, appellants were granted the opportunity to be heard. … (They) have not sustained their burden of showing that the board’s order in this case is unlawful or unreasonable. The board’s order is therefore affirmed.”
The appellants in the case were Gary J. Biglin, Brett A. Heffner, Alan Price, Catherine Price and John Warrington.
“Until we sit down and read all the papers, and sit down with the attorney, I have nothing to say. … I need to end this phone call,” said Catherine Price, of Crestline.
Patrick Murphy of Bucyrus, the counsel of record in the case against the siting board’s decision, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday morning.
The planned wind farm would be 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 91 turbines would be 494 feet high. The project is expected to generate up to 200 megawatts of power and have a life span of 20 to 25 years.
“Sooner or later these things will have to come down, because everything eventually becomes obsolete,” Murphy said earlier this year. “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.
“These farmers don’t want to be surrounded by 50-story structures. It doesn’t make any sense at all to do this.”
Element Power, based in Portland, Ore., maintains the turbines would have effectively zero air emissions and waste generation.
Scott Zeimetz, a spokesperson for Element Power, said the company has no hard timeline for beginning construction on the wind farm, but that it definitely won’t be in 2014. The company is still trying to nail down a utility contract, but the siting board permit lasts for five years.
“I would anticipate in 20 years that these projects get upgraded with newer technology,” a spokesman for Element Power said earlier this year. “This is a good location to gather wind for years and years to come.”
In addition to the turbines, the project includes access roads, electrical collection lines, a construction-staging area, concrete-batch plant, substation, and an operation and maintenance facility, all located on 14,800 acres of private land leased from 150 landowners who have signed agreements with Element Power. The entire project area would cover 24,000 acres.
The Black Fork is one of several wind farms in the early stages of development across north central Ohio, and would be the largest of those projects.
A subsidiary of Windlab Developments USA Ltd. wants to build a 25-turbine wind farm on 4,600 acres of leased land in Huron County’s Greenwich Township, bordering Richland County. The Greenwich Wind Park has a pre-application status with the Ohio Power Siting Board.
The Republic Wind Farm, also in pre-application status at the siting board, would include 83 turbines on 15,000 acres near Republic in Seneca and Sandusky counties. It’s being proposed by Nordex USA Inc. of Chicago.
Finally, a fourth wind farm proposed for northeastern Morrow County, to be operated by Invenergy LLC, also of Chicago, has yet to be submitted to the siting board for approval.
A U.S. production tax credit 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.
State law requires 25 percent of electricity sold in Ohio to be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025. At least half of this energy must come from renewable energy sources, including wind, and half of the renewable facilities must be located in the state.
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