It was billed as an educational meeting by Iberdrola Renewables officials, but the two-hour meeting was more like a grilling administered by eastern Van Wert County residents who believe they would be affected by Iberdrola’s proposed Dog Creek Wind Farm project.
The meeting began with a PowerPoint presentation by Eric Thumma, Iberdrola’s director of policy and regulatory affairs. The presentation included information about power plant economics – including the components of a electricity bill and the components of generation costs – wholesale energy markets, and how wind energy can act as an energy price hedge.
Thumma noted that wind power, while it has high capital costs, has the lowest fuel costs, since wind generation is essentially free. He also noted that new coal-fired and nuclear power plants are not economically competition when faced with market pricing, while wind power is competitive, and also talked about government subsidies for energy production, noting that all forms of energy generation are subsidized to a point.
Thumma also noted that, with wind energy in the wholesale energy market, overall energy costs are reduced since higher-cost power generators are not needed to generate power, for the most part.
He cited a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio study that confirmed that energy price suppression benefits from wind energy saved more than $8 million in 2012, while also noting that during the frigid winter temperatures caused by the polar vortex this past winter, wind energy saved $1.5 to $2 million per hour during peak periods.
Scott Potter, senior energy advisor for Ohio State University, was also at the meeting and talked about the reasons Ohio State entered into a 20-year contract with Iberdrola to receive wind energy generated by the Blue Creek Wind Farm.
Potter said no other power generating entity could guarantee a rate over the next 20 years, as Iberdrola did, noting that the longest period of time other energy generators would guarantee rates for was three years.
The information generated more than a little debate between Thumma and some of the approximately 75 people who attended the meeting. Most, but not all of those who criticized the figures – and wind energy in general – had Delphos addresses and apparently live near the area Iberdrola has outlined as being the likely site of the Dog Creek Wind Farm.
Many of the critics were skeptical of wind energy’s cost-effectiveness and several talked about the large government subsidies given to wind energy companies.
Two people who did not criticize Iberdrola or wind energy were Lincolnview Superintendent Jeff Snyder and Lincolnview Board President Eric Germann.
Snyder said the $400,000 received this year from Iberdrola through the state PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program as Lincolnview’s share of the Blue Creek Wind Farm went a long way toward helping make up for flat-lined state financial support.
“It’s been a godsend,” Snyder said. “It’s huge for us in this district.”
Crestview Local Schools also received $800,000 of the $2 million disbursed by Iberdrola as its first PILOT payment to county government and non-profit entities, while Vantage also received money from the company.
Lincolnview would stand to gain an estimated $600,000 in additional revenues if the Dog Creek Wind Farm is built, since the planned 60 wind turbines in the wind farm would all be located in the Lincolnview district.
Germann said he feels the revenues from Blue Creek Wind Farm and the proposed Dog Creek project could offset any future losses of revenue from the state foundation program as well.
However, whether the proposed wind farm is constructed is mostly up to the Van Wert County Board of Commissioners. All three commissioners attended Wednesday’s meeting, but did not speak.
With the county alternative energy zone no longer in existence, Iberdrola and the commissioners would have to come to an agreement on what the wind power company would need to do before they would give the go-ahead for the new wind farm project.
More meetings will likely be held to discuss any proposed agreement and its terms.
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