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Amazon pins big hopes on area wind farm; Site to have 48 turbines when it’s running in 2017

As Amazon.com Inc. moves forward with a billion-dollar project to build a trio of data centers in central Ohio for its web services subsidiary, the online retail giant will simultaneously develop a wind farm in Paulding County to help power them.

Amazon hasn’t said how much it intends to invest in the wind project, but economic development officials estimate the project will cost between $175 million and $200 million.

“It’s great to have them in northwest Ohio,” said Jerry Zielke, director of Paulding County Economic Development Inc. “It’s a growing company and I don’t see them slowing down at this point. We welcome them.”

Once they are finished, Amazon’s 48 wind turbines will generate as much as 100 megawatts of electricity, enough juice to power about 29,000 homes.

Amazon is targeting May, 2017, to have the site up and running.

A start date for construction hasn’t yet been announced, and a spokesman for the company declined to comment beyond the official announcement.

The online retailer has come to Ohio in a big way over the last year.

The Seattle-based company first announced plans in May to build the three data centers near Columbus to provide cloud storage, database, and analytic services through Amazon Web Services. That investment is expected to total about $1.1 billion.

In November, Amazon announced it would also open two fulfillment centers near Columbus. Totaling more than 1.8-million-square-feet, the two centers will employ about 2,000 people.

Those projects led Amazon to move forward with the wind project.

“This was all tied to the data centers and fulfillment centers they’re going to build around Columbus,” Mr. Zielke said.

The state offered tax incentives for the data center and fulfillment projects. No tax incentives were offered for the wind project.

American Electric Power Co. provides electricity to parts of Paulding County and serves much of the territory around Columbus, which likely would be the utility for the data and fulfillment centers.

Amazon has put a high emphasis on using electricity from renewable sources for its operations.

The Paulding County project will be Amazon Web Services’ third wind farm. The company announced plans for a 208-megawatt site in North Carolina and a 150-megawatt site in western Indiana. The Indiana wind farm was expected to begin generating power by the end of last year.

“We continue to pursue projects that help to develop more renewable energy sources to the grids that power AWS data centers and bring us closer to achieving our long term goal of powering our global infrastructure with 100 percent renewable energy,” Jerry Hunter, vice president of infrastructure at Amazon Web Services, said at the time of the project announcement.

Mr. Hunter said Amazon Web Services expects to surpass its goal of using 40 percent renewable energy globally by the end of this year.

For Paulding County, the Amazon wind farm will be the third such development to go online. The county currently has 92 operating turbines.

Policy changes have stymied development of wind energy in Ohio of late, though changes in last year’s budget paved the way for previously approved but not yet begun projects to move forward. That’s the case with the Amazon Web Services project, which will be built and operated by EDP Renewables. EDP developed one of Paulding County’s other wind farms.

Though wind energy has been somewhat controversial in some quarters, Mr. Zielke said it’s been positive for Paulding County.

“The economic impact down the road after they’re built is the lease payment to landowners and tax payments to schools, townships, and the county. It’s been a win-win in this county,” he said.