May 18, 2016

Amazon lobbying Statehouse for changes to clear Ohio wind farm

Carrie Ghose, Staff reporter | Columbus Business First | Inc. is invoking the 2,000 jobs it’s bringing to the state in testimony before an Ohio House committee considering an exemption to siting rules that effectively ended interest in building large wind farms.

“Unfortunately Ohio’s wind turbine setback standards enacted a little more than two years ago have significantly diminished the attractiveness to further investments in wind generation in Ohio,” said prepared testimony from John Stephenson, the top lobbyist for the Seattle e-commerce giant. “In fact, the current setbacks have acted as a moratorium of sorts on new wind development.”

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) – which wants 40 percent of electricity to its global facilities to come from renewable energy by the end of the year – announced in November that it would be the customer for a 100-turbine wind farm planned by EDP Renewables in Paulding County to power Amazon Web Services data centers planned for Hilliard, New Albany and Dublin.

The power-hungry data centers in Central Ohio also can draw from an Amazon wind farm in Indiana.

But standards Gov. John Kasich signed into law in 2014 shrank to almost nil the area where new turbines could go– they have to be 1,125 feet away from property lines, plus the length of a blade, instead of the old standard of 1,125 feet from a dwelling. That has made new wind farms economically unfeasible, the industry says.

Stephenson was to testify at a hearing for a bill that would allow counties to return to the standard of 1,125 feet from a dwelling, plus 1.1 times the turbine’s height from the property line – or 540 feet for typical EDP turbines. The bill is sponsored by Republicans from northwest Ohio.

“Amazon believes the substitute version of H.B. 190 strikes a balance that will allow wind development in areas of Ohio where it makes the most economic and operational sense and will help bring into Ohio more high-tech operations that increasingly depend on renewable energy,” Stephenson said in prepared remarks.

The setbacks are on top of a two-year freeze on standards that would have required utilities to source more of their power from renewable sources, a related but separate issue also up for debate in the legislature.

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