BUCYRUS – One of two large wind energy projects proposed for the northern reaches of Crawford County is no longer going forward.
The Honey Creek Wind Farm, which had been in the preliminary stages of development since 2011, would have consisted of about 115 wind turbines spread across 14,000 acres of leased land in Crawford County’s Lykens and Chatfield townships, as well as Bloomville, Bloom and Venice townships in Seneca County.
However, the developer behind the project, NextEra Energy Honey Creek Wind LLC, is pulling out.
“Honey Creek has proceeded through the very early stages of the application process, but has concluded that it will no longer go forward with this project,” an attorney working for the energy company informed the Ohio Power Siting Board recently.
“This has been in a holding pattern for some time. I believe they want to concentrate on other projects in other states,” Sally Bloomfield, an attorney in Columbus, said.
NextEra Energy, based in Florida, maintains nearly 100 wind farms in the U.S. and Canada, most out west but quite a few in a handful of eastern states as well. However, Honey Creek would have been its only project in Ohio.
“Wind resource is extremely limited in Ohio; there are not many project sites with the wind resource necessary to support a utility-scale project. The convergence of sufficient wind resources, sufficient transmission capacity and interested landowners willing to lease their land – all are needed for a viable wind energy project,” NextEra said in a motion before the Ohio Power Siting Board in 2011.
The Honey Creek project never got past pre-application status with the state board.
“They had options to lease land, but they have elected not to go forward,” Bloomfield said of NextEra. The energy company did not return a call seeking comment on the project’s termination.
Another wind farm proposed for Crawford County, however, which would be nearly as large as the canceled Honey Creek project, is still alive, although it too has been in the preliminary stages of development for years. The Black Fork wind farm, slated for Crawford and Richland counties and consisting of about 91 500-foot-tall turbines, would be spread 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.
A few months ago, Capital Power became the third developer associated with the project since the acquisition of land rights began in the area in the fall of 2007, a transfer of responsibility seen as unlikely for the Honey Creek project.
“I don’t think that’s the case here,” Bloomfield said.
Last year, the Black Fork’s previous developer, Element Power, asked the siting board for an extension of the project’s certificate of environmental compatibility and public need from 2017 to 2019. Its attorney said litigation instigated by opponents of the project had pushed construction back a couple of years.
But the delays were also blamed on increased natural gas supplies coupled with lower demands for electricity. Element had not been able to secure a power purchase agreement with an electric utility or other customer before unloading the Black Fork project.
Capital Power is hoping to have a customer for Black Fork’s power generation within six months, and wants to begin turbine construction by the fall of 2016 or spring of 2017, going operational in the fall of 2017.
Yet another, smaller, wind farm proposed for this region, the Greenwich Wind Park in southern Huron County, which was approved by the state in 2014, has met with quite a bit of opposition from local residents, organized as Greenwich Neighbors United, and has going back and forth with them in the courts for months.
Including the Black Fork and Greenwich projects, the Ohio Power Siting Board currently has seven wind energy projects in approval status across the state, three of them in Hardin County, while Logan, Champaign and Paulding counties are also affected. Three more projects are now in pre-application status, in Seneca, Sandusky, Paulding and Ashtabula counties.
Only two wind farms are presently operational in Ohio, the Timber Road facility in Paulding County and the large Blue Creek wind farm in Van Wert and Paulding counties.
Ohio’s governor last year froze the state’s renewable-energy standards, which require that 12.5 percent of electricity sold in the state be generated from renewable sources by 2027, and there has been talk in the Statehouse of rolling that number back, which the governor has opposed.
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