COLUMBUS – Two northwest Ohio lawmakers used a business pitch on Wednesday in hopes of persuading fellow Republicans to weaken past moves they argue stymie development of large-scale wind farms.
They pointed to the $1.1 billion expected to be invested in a new energy-intensive data center in central Ohio by Amazon, a company that prides itself in buying power from alternative sources.
“When combined with a wind farm investment of $500 million to $600 million, that is quite an economic development opportunity for our state,” said Rep. Tim Brown (R., Bowling Green), whose Wood County district includes wind turbines.
“And I am certain some northwest Ohio counties would appreciate being home to the wind farm that powers Amazon, Google, Facebook, or the like,” he said.
He and Rep. Tony Burkley (R., Payne) have introduced House Bill 190, designed in part to ease a property setback provision enacted last year that they claim makes investment in new wind farms impractical.
The new law requires turbines to be at least 1,300 feet off the property line, up from approximately 540 feet under prior law. If that new restriction had been in place when the 152-turbine Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert County in Mr. Burkley’s district was established, the wind farm would have been allowed just 12 turbines.
“As a practical matter, that kills the project entirely because no developer would lease all the land and embark on the construction process for just 12 turbines,” Mr. Payne told the House Public Utilities Committee.
Their bill would allow county commissioners to choose between the current state standard and the less restrictive standard that preceded it.
House Bill 190 would also extend by five years an incentive allowing alternative energy projects to make payments in lieu of the tangible personal property tax that other utilities must pay. That, the lawmakers said, is the difference between a tax bill of up to $40,000 per megawatt and $3,000 to $10,000 per megawatt.
It’s been less than a year since lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich enacted the stricter property setback along with a separate law that at least temporarily halted the state’s mandated march toward renewable energy.
Rep. Kristina Roegner (R., Hudson), the committee’s vice chairman, said she wants to hear more about how the price of wind energy stacks up these days to other sources of energy.
“If we have to give this tax break to wind, why don’t we do the same for oil, gas, coal, and any of the others as well?” she asked.
This bill does not affect the legislative committee currently studying Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. That committee must report back to the General Assembly by Dec. 15 with its recommendations on whether to restart Ohio’s incremental steps toward finding at least 25 percent of Ohio’s power from renewable and advanced technology sources or to rethink the state’s strategy.
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