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Legislation would pose challenges for Hardin, Logan wind farm

BELLE CENTER – Two legislative efforts nearing the governor’s desk would result in significant challenges for the company developing wind farms in Hardin and Logan counties.

The first was a bill poised for Ohio House passage Wednesday that would pause Ohio’s targets for solar, wind and other renewable sources for two years to let a 12-member legislative commission study the matter. The mandates continue in 2017 unless lawmakers act.

The bill, Senate Bill 310 passed by the Senate in April, would freeze a direction the state had been headed in since 2008, that by 2025, 25 percent of the electricity in Ohio must come from renewable and advanced sources. Wind farm companies had been moving in quickly in the state.

The second is an amendment placed by the Senate Finance Committee into the state’s Mid-Biennium Budget Review, House Bill 483, which would increase the amount of setback required for wind farm turbines. Currently, a setback is measured from a neighboring home; the new legislation would require the measurement begin at a neighboring property line.

The planned Scioto Ridge 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.

Both issues would harm Scioto Ridge parent company Everpower’s efforts, company chief permitting and public policy officer Mike Speerschneider said.

The alternative energy mandate has resulted in job creation, construction and investment in Ohio, Speerschneider said.

“I’m dumbfounded why the Legislature is looking at changing it at this point,” Speerschneider said. Pausing the targets “would certainly make it more difficult to find purchasers of power, and that would make building the project more difficult.”

The setback amendment has received less attention, but could be a devastating blow, because as Everpower understands the language, it would be applied retroactively. That would mean that even though the Ohio Power Siting Board approved the project in March, Everpower would have to go back and redesign the turbines with new setbacks.

“Being retroactive would be very difficult,” Speerschneider said. “Especially changing the rules after we followed the appropriate process and developed the project appropriately. The biggest impact there would be the message sent to investors, not just wind investors, but investors in any project, that in Ohio the rules can be changed after the fact.”

Land and homeowners in the Scioto Ridge boundaries have applauded the proposed setback amendment and pausing the alternative energy target.

“Wind developers are private for-profit businesses that should be required to negotiate easements and compensate neighboring properties for intrusion. Homeowners have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of their home,” said Kevon Martis, executive director of Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition on behalf of the residents of northwest Ohio.

Tom Stacy, a spokesman with Save Western Ohio, one of the groups opposed to the wind farms, said not addressing the mandate will mean electricity rates in Ohio will continue to escalate unnecessarily.

“The subsidy, market, technical and indirect cost implications of wind electricity are enormous, and driving rates up unnecessarily will cost the state billions, in addition to the possibility of losing tens of thousands of jobs in energy-intensive industries,” Stacy said.