The Black Fork Wind Farm, consisting of 91 turbines at a height of 494 feet, will be spread out across 14,800 acres of private land leased from 150 landowners west of Shelby, north of Crestline and almost surrounding the tiny village of Tiro.
That is, if it ever gets off the ground.
“Element Power continues to invest in the project and believe in the market. As far as moving forward this year or early next year, that’s not likely,” said Scott Zeimetz, a spokesperson for the Portland, Oregon-based renewable-energy company that would maintain the project’s wind turbines.
In addition to various legislative and marketplace hurdles facing the project, the Black Fork Wind Farm was stuck in the state’s court system for a year, until last December, when the Ohio Supreme Court finally ruled that opponents’ due process was not violated during the siting board’s hearing on Element Power’s application to site the Black Fork project.
And now the project might end up in the courts again. At the very least, it’s returned to the Ohio Power Siting Board, requesting an extension of its certificate of environmental compatibility and public need from 2017 to 2019. Element Power also wants to add two additional turbine models to the project.
“Litigation hampered Black Fork’s ability to move forward with construction for nearly two years. Accordingly, extending the certificate now is a reasonable allowance for Black Fork to recoup the time it had to delay construction in order to defend against the intervenors’ appeals,” Michael Settineri, a Columbus-based attorney for Element Power, wrote in the motion for certificate extension, filed Sept. 12.
Settineri also blamed delays on increasing natural gas supplies coupled with lower demands for electricity.
“Those two factors resulted in lower prices that undercut Black Fork’s ability to enter into an economic power purchase agreement for the project’s energy and renewable energy credits at a price sufficient to support the construction and financing of the project,” Settineri wrote.
Since Element Power’s motion was filed, opponents of the project – about a dozen residents in and around Shelby, Crestline and Tiro – have filed objections.
“The financial risk of Black Fork is disproportionately placed upon the lifelong residents of the project area. The greatest investment of the lives of 1,413 residents is subject to noise effects and 604 homes are subject to shadow-flicker effects,” John Warrington, who lives on Ohio 96 near Tiro, wrote in his objection.
“It is hoped that in the light of new information concerning property devaluation and industrial wind complexes, the leadership of Ohio may take a slow and cautious approach to the siting process.”
Element Power, however, has precedent on its side.
The OPSB recently granted a three-year certificate-of-need extension for Hardin Wind Energy LLC, in Hardin County, citing market conditions, as well as another three-year extension for Buckeye Wind LLC, in Champaign County, because of delays caused by litigation.
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