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Wind developers address issues as local residents ask for new hearing  

Credit:  Written by REUBEN MEES | Bellefontaine Examiner | 21 April 2014 | www.examiner.org ~~

Representatives of EverPower Wind Holdings touted a new survey they believe shows a majority of residents of Logan and Hardin counties support a wind energy development as two opposition groups asked the state to reconsider its decision to allow the project to move forward.

EverPower plans to build up to 176 wind turbines in northern Logan and southern Hardin counties in a project known as the Scioto Ridge Wind Farm. Listed as a 300 megawatt wind development, the project could generate enough energy to power up to 75,000 homes per year, company officials say.

The Ohio Power Siting Board issued a permit to install on March 17, but local resident Joe Grant, the only current intervenor in the case, filed an appeal for a rehearing last week. He was joined by a separate group of Indian Lake property owners who asked to be included as intervenors in a new hearing.

Meanwhile, project managers Jason Dagger and Mike Pullins in an interview with the Bellefontaine Examiner presented results of a survey that indicates strong support for wind development throughout Logan and Hardin counties.

According to the survey conducted by the Canal Winchester-based SBR Strategy Group Inc., of the 304 people who responded, 54 percent supported wind development while 17 percent opposed it and 29 percent said they did not have enough information to form a reasonable opinion.

The survey provided does not specify many details of the group’s demographics or how it was selected, but does note that 69 percent of the individuals participating have lived in the area for more than 20 years and 29 percent have lived in the area 20 years or less. Full results of the survey are available here.

Mr. Dagger and Mr. Pullins were joined by John Reed, who lives on Seminole Island but owns properties in McDonald Township in Hardin County where nine turbines and a substation will be built.

While some of his neighbors on the Indian Lake islands are opposed to the project, many seem indifferent and he believes if it came to a full public opinion of residents throughout Logan and Hardin counties the issue would be looked upon favorably.

“I do hear concerns about property values at Indian Lake, but I know a lot of my neighbors who are getting turbines too,” Mr. Reed said. “If you go to meetings you don’t hear anything from those people, but if they took a vote, I wonder if it wouldn’t really pass.”

The effects on the views of Indian Lake and property values are among the main concerns expressed by the new group asking to intervene in the siting board hearing process. The individuals named in that group are James Rudolph, Rich Rudolph, Ron Brown, John Ross, Frances Ross and Charles Ruma.

The group says in the legal document they were not aware of the proposed wind development’s proximity to and potential impact on Indian Lake until after the March 17 ruling. They also argue that because many Indian Lake residents are not full-time residents they did not see required legal publications before the hearings.

“The result of the installation of the wind turbines is a dramatic, manmade change to a lake that was once enjoyed for its unspoiled beauty,” the appeal reads.

“The State of Ohio should be preserving its state parks and its scenic and recreational lakes. The wind turbines are visual pollution that will create a new obtrusive skyline for everybody that enjoys Indian Lake.”

EverPower submitted two drawings to the siting board, which includes Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer as a member. The drawings use engineering models to superimpose distant wind turbines on actual photos of the Indian Lake skyline.

While the Indian Lake residents acknowledge those photos, they say they do not go far enough to address the impact the turbines could have on lake views.

Mr. Grant’s motion for rehearing is based upon several issues addressed at hearings in advance of the ruling, including the threat to the endangered Indiana brown bat, setback distances, noise, shadow flicker and that residents oppose the project.

In their interview with the Examiner, the local EverPower representatives also addressed several other concerns.

High among the list was the taxation issue.

For the nearly 60 turbines proposed for Logan County to be erected as planned, the Logan County Commissioners must approve a request for a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, Mr. Dagger said. Hardin County is already an alternative energy zone and no such request is necessary there.

According to the PILOT agreement, the two counties would split an annual payment of $2.7 million, which would be divided among the various schools and political districts.

The project is still undergoing engineering work and decisions on the appeals must first be finalized, but EverPower does plan to ask for the tax incentive.

“We need to have a better plan before we come to the commission; we are a ways out on that yet,” Mr. Dagger said.

He did indicate if commissioners refuse the request, that turbines may not be built south of the Logan-Hardin county line, but Logan County would not share in the tax benefit either.

“We still have to decide what we would do if that is the case,” he said.

The company officials said the project would create eight to 14 full-time jobs that pay an average of about $65,000 per year, Mr. Dagger said. And the jobs could be filled with current local residents if they have appropriate experience to build upon.

“These would be jobs that would involve general electrical skills and maintenance along with computer technology,” Mr. Dagger said. “You can train anybody if they already have the right skill set. We as a company encourage local folks because they do stay here.”

They also addressed the Buckeye Wind Farm, which is a two-part development in six townships in Champaign County that is only slightly smaller than the Scioto Ridge proposal.

Buckeye Wind also awaits outcomes of legal appeals and tax requests, but Mr. Dagger said even if both Buckeye and Scioto Ridge move forward there are no plans to eventually build on Logan County’s Bristol Ridge, which contains the highest points in the state.

“We have discussed this at length and the answer is no,” he said. “There are a lot of issues with building on those ridges and we have no plans to pursue that.”

The next step in the process is for the Ohio Power Siting Board to decide if or when it will conduct a new hearing on the permit. After that, the intervenors or others could file a legal appeal.

Source:  Written by REUBEN MEES | Bellefontaine Examiner | 21 April 2014 | www.examiner.org

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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