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Everpower seeks extension for wind farm

Attorneys for Everpower Renewables filed a request for an extension for the first phase of the Buckeye Wind Project Tuesday, citing several ongoing legal fights over various aspects of the project.

Everpower’s attorneys are seeking an extension until May 28, 2018, to begin construction. The project’s certificate had been approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board in 2010, but expires in March of next year, according to court documents.

Everpower wants to build two phases of the project at the same time, but ongoing litigation has held up construction, said Jason Dagger, a spokesman for Everpower. If the certificate expires, Everpower would have to start the lengthy certification process from the beginning, said Matt Butler, a spokesman for the Ohio Power Siting Board.

“We continue to work to develop the project, but we need to vet these legal challenges,” Dagger said.

Attorneys representing Union Neighbors United, a group opposed to the project, said they were still reviewing the motion Tuesday, and it’s not yet clear if they will oppose the request. Combined, both phases of the project would build about 100 turbines across Champaign County, providing enough electricity to power as many as 50,000 homes per year and pumping up to $55 million in the local economy.

Opponents, however, have raised concerns about the project’s safety and proximity to homes, and have disputed the potential economic impact.

It’s not yet clear what action, if any, the county will take regarding the requested extension, said Jane Napier, assistant Champaign County Prosecutor.

Both phases of the project have been approved, but the second phase is being appealed with the Ohio Supreme Court. Court documents show UNU is also challenging a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Incidental Take Permit, which sets the conditions under which the turbines must operate to protect the endangered Indiana bat, which has been found in the project’s footprint.

“This litigation, outside the control of Buckeye Wind, has hampered Buckeye Wind’s ability to move forward with the project,” the motion states. Court documents also show that although the legal battles have delayed progress, Buckeye is still looking for ways to develop the project.

It is not unusual for projects to seek an extension, Butler said. In unrelated cases, American Municipal Power is seeking an extension for a planned natural gas facility in Meigs County, Ohio, while Lima Energy is seeking an extension for a natural gas facility it plans to build near Lima.

Buckeye received its initial certificate for the project’s first phase in March 2010, but one of the conditions was that it begin “a continuous course of construction” within five years.

Aside from the litigation, Everpower officials have also said two recent state laws are putting the project in jeopardy. Ohio HB 483 significantly increased how far a wind turbine must be from a neighboring property. Ohio SB 310 will freeze Ohio’s renewable energy mandates for two years and create a panel to study whether to change the state’s energy laws. Without the energy mandates, Everpower officials have said it will be more difficult to find a buyer for the electricity produced by the wind farm.

Despite investing as much as $10 million in three separate wind farms in Ohio, Everpower officials said it is too early to say for sure whether any of those projects will move forward.