BELLE CENTER – Leasing half an acre of her farm to Everpower for a wind turbine would guarantee Kea Shaffer about $8,000 in rent a year, far more than what she could sell the ground for and far more than it would yield in crop production.
The rental income is guaranteed, unlike the annual gamble farmers take when they plant crops.
“It will allow us to maintain our farm, not sell it, keep it in our family,” Shaffer said. She also likes the payments in lieu of taxes that will help a financially struggling Upper Scioto Valley school district.
Shaffer also believes she has a fundamental right to use her property as she wishes.
Not far from Shaffer’s property, Michael Shepherd owns a home on five acres. He’s not leasing to Everpower, and his property would be surrounded by turbines that are part of a planned wind farm in Hardin and Logan counties. Shepherd has concerns about noise and something called called shadow flicker causing health problems for he and his family; the safety of the turbines and the value of his property.
“Our biggest concern, for the individuals not participating in the leases, this is a violation of our property rights,” Shepherd said. “When a neighbor has five junk cars, more power to him; it’s his property and it’s not bothering me. When he builds a 500-foot tall wind turbine that casts moving shadows into my home, that’s a violation of my private property.”
The number of planned wind farms in the region are resulting in the ultimate property rights question: When does one landowner’s rights end and another’s begin? The question has sparked debate on the Scioto Ridge Wind Farm.
The wind farm would place up to 176 turbines in Hardin and Logan counties and produce up to 300 megawatts of electricity (enough to power 600 homes a year). It is scheduled for construction in 2015. There are 17,000 acres in the project area, which straddles the Hardin/Logan county line east of state routes 235 and 117, south of state route 67 and west of U.S. Route 68.
By 2025, 25 percent of the electricity in Ohio must come from renewable and advanced sources. Wind farm companies are moving in quickly in the state. Since 2008, wind power developers have moved several projects forward, including the Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert and Paulding counties, and the Timber Road project in Paulding County. The two projects consist of 222 total turbines with a combined generating capacity of 449 megawatts. In addition to those two operational sites, eight more have been approved by the siting board in Ohio.
The Ohio Power Siting Board approved the Scioto Ridge project March 17. On Wednesday, the last day to do so, some of the landowners in Hardin County became represented by an attorney and appealed the decision.
Also, property owners in the Indian Lake area have filed to become interveners in the case, a legal distinction that would allow a different kind of challenge. The property owners filed after the deadline to do so but are arguing that they, as part-time property owners, weren’t properly notified of the project in time. They object to the project because it will devalue the property.
In Ohio, the Ohio Power Siting Board regulates major utilities and wind farms greater than 5 megawatts. A wind farm must comply with multiple regulations, such as setbacks from homes and environmental requirements, such as dealing with flight patterns and endangered animal species.
Also, Hardin County commissioners in 2010 approved the county as an alternative energy zone, which meant that any alternative energy developer would automatically be granted a tax abatement called a PILOT, a payment in lieu of taxes. The payment means Scioto Ridge will generate $2.7 million annually for school districts and local governments for the life of the project, typically 25 years.
In addition, the project will generate about 150 construction jobs and eight to 14 long-term maintenance jobs, said Jason Dagger, development manager with Everpower, and create a ripple economic effect. Everpower also plans to repair roads used during construction, as the company did with its Howard Wind Project in New York. The Hardin County engineer supports the project, as does a majority of Hardin County residents, according to a survey done by Everpower.
The company had a survey done, but didn’t identify the company as the sponsor. The study showed that 54 percent of Hardin County residents support the project, 30 percent don’t know or refused to answer and 16 percent don’t support it.
Critics don’t like the payments in lieu of taxes and believe companies should be paying full taxes on the turbines, which would generate millions more.
For every study Everpower has saying wind energy is safe, that it creates minimal noise (a hum, nothing above normal conversation) and that it doesn’t affect property values, opponents can point to a study showing wind farms cause health problems such as nausea and headaches and that they devalue property.
Dagger said the proof of the unobtrusive nature of turbines can only be experienced in person.
“Just pull into someone’s driveway and ask what they think,” Dagger said. It’s what he did when researching wind farms. His property is now part of a proposed Everpower project in Champaign County.
Setbacks, especially for non-participating property owners, make all the difference, Dagger said. It’s what allows turbines to work without being heard and minimizing shadow flicker, a condition that occurs when the sun is behind moving turbine blades and results in what feels and looks like a light flickering or turning on and off.
Shepherd said shadow flicker, which produces moving shadows, is supposed to be limited to 30 hours a year within his home, but that it has no limit on his property. The setback is from his home, not his property line, Shepherd said. That has him concerned with his and his family’s ability to use their property, including a garden, swim pond and play areas for his children.
Shepherd and his neighbors started opposition to the project late. Despite news articles and public meetings, they weren’t aware of the project. He’s owned his property 13 years, however, and wants to remain living in a rural area.
“We moved here from Kenton and chose a quiet road with little traffic,” Shepherd said. “I will go from living in the country to living in the middle of an industrial zone.”
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