MANSFIELD – A representative of the company developing the Black Forest Wind Farm told Richland County Commissioners that the company plans to start construction this year but there is no guarantee that will happen.
Bill Behling, a business development manager with Capital Power, the Canadian-based developer associated with the wind farm being built in the northwest corner of Richland County, began his updates for the commssioners with clarifications for a news article printed in Crawford County.
“I met with Crawford County commissioners last week, there was a story in the paper, the first sentence essentially said, ‘We’re going to be in the ground this year.’ I want to clarify that, that’s not necessarily true. We want to start construction, that’s our goal, that’s our intent. But we’re starting construction and to start construction, you have to place a deposit for equipment with the Internal Revenue Service.”
Behling said the project was still on-schedule, telling commissioners the contract discussions will take place in the first half of this year and final design should be complete by this spring.
Behling said construction would take about one year and he hopes the project would be completed by 2017.
Behling told the commissioners and seven private citizens in the audience the production tax credit extension had been approved in December. This extended the credit for five years and it will reduce by 20 percent every year over the next five years, calling it a “phase out”
“If we start construction in 2016, by beating that IRS test we qualify 10 years of production tax credit at 2.3 cents,” Behling said. “We start production in 2017, and that amount is reduced by 20 percent. So, it goes from being 2.3 (cents) to roughly 1.9 cents. For each year it declines.”
Behling said many at his company and in the industry are working diligently to move the project forward in order to not lose out to the degrading value of tax credits.
Reminding the commissioners of Amazon’s commitment to renewable energy for their warehouse in Licking County’s Etna Township, Behling said the company has recently purchased 150 megawatts of wind from this wind farm.
“There has been a lot of development in terms of interest in renewable power projects, certainly from the commercial investment corporations,” Behling said. “In 2014, 19 percent of new renewable energy purchases were from (commercial investment corporations) customers, and in 2015 that increased to 56 percent. So more corporations are buying renewable energy than they are utilities across the country.”
Commissioner Marilyn John opened the floor to questions from the audience after Behling was finished speaking.
Jon Parman of the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters asked Behling about local job availability. He also asked if a written agreement could be made because there is no law mandating local forces be used, but he felt it was ethical to use local laborers.
“It seems like the community has been very cooperative with this wind turbine project,” Parman said. “What percentage of manpower do you expect to use, locally, to construct these wind turbines?”
“We retain five or six national engineering procuring construction firms that this is their business. We will be in contact with them; they will essentially be our constructor. We will contract with them and they will determine who they will subcontract with,” Behling replied.
After Behling left the commissioners’ meeting, many audience members felt his answer was a standard way of distilling responsibility of hiring local labor.
“I’ve heard that answer before. The answer he gave was the standard answer, ‘We’ll hire a firm to make that decision,’” said Matt Mclester, a field representative of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. “We’ll see; time will tell.”
Matt Williams, a representative of labor unions, told the commissioners Mansfield had at least 60 wind turbine-trained workers who could do the work if they were allowed.
“I’ve visited the training center in Howard, and they mentioned they do training specifically to work in this field,” John said.
“They spent the money in order to do the training, the majority of them live in the county. It would be nice to see them get to use that (training),” Mclester said.
Behling said no turbines had been purchased, but after being asked by Brett Heffner, a private citizen, about purchasing from American turbine companies, Behling said the turbine options included turbines built by Siemens in Kansas; General Electric, which is an American company despite the turbines being built in Canada; and Vestas Turbines from Colorado.
Parman asked Behling to share reasons why this wind farm is good for the community. Behling said the Black Forest Wind Farm Project would provide substantial property taxes for the city, more than 150 job opportunities, and about 10 to 15 long term jobs in maintaining the farms’ operations.
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