COLUMBUS – State lawmakers are considering a bill that would create an Ohio Wind Corridor encompassing much of the northwestern portion of the state that could be spared from property setback restrictions the industry contends make new large-scale wind farms impractical.
“This is the area that has the most consistent wind patterns to allow [the wind industry] to make investment with a reasonable return,” said Rep. Tim Brown (R., Bowling Green), who is sponsoring House Bill 190 with Rep. Tony Burkley (R., Payne).
Mr. Brown said he’s open to adding other geographic territory to the corridor.
The language was inserted in House Bill 190 last week as a possible way for the region to get around restrictions enacted in 2014 that require newly installed wind turbines to be located at least 1,300 feet from the nearest property line. Prior law required the extended tip of a turbine to be at least 1,125 from the nearest home.
“The 152 wind turbines on the [existing] wind farm in Mercer, Paulding, and Van Wert [counties], under the restrictions put in place in the budget, would shrink to just 12, which virtually makes investment in wind farms in Ohio unrealistic,” he said.
The bill would allow the Ohio Power Siting Board to develop alternative minimum setback restrictions within the northwest wind corridor that, Mr. Brown said, could be geographic or project specific. As introduced, the bill would have given counties the option of imposing the old setback requirement instead of the more restrictive one.
The bill is pending before the House Public Utilities Committee but is not expected to move before lawmakers recess as early as next week for the summer.
The stricter setback language was adopted in 2014 in reaction to complaints from residents near wind farms.
In testimony submitted last week, Julia F. Johnston of Urbana told the committee that the impact of wind farms, particularly in mechanical accidents, can stretch well into neighbors’ property.
“Not every location is a good place for wind development,” she said. “Most wind developers are not in the energy business but are private equity investors looking for a handsome return subsidized by taxpayers and ratepayers.
“H.B. 190 would now add Ohio families living in the Wind Corridor as subsidy providers where they would be forced to donate their land if setbacks are not measured from property lines,” Ms. Johnston said. “We call this ‘trespass zoning.’…”
The bill’s supporters have argued that the setback restrictions stand in the way of attracting large energy-consuming data centers that are committed to buying power from renewable sources.
The setback provision didn’t stop giant online retailer Amazon from partnering with the state to build data centers in central Ohio. The company, which wants to power its entire operations with renewable energy, has wind farms in Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina.
It has committed to buying power from EDP Renewables, which is expected to begin construction soon on a 101-megawatt wind farm, the next phase of the Timber Road project, in Paulding, 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,” said John Stephenson, Amazon’s manager of US Public Policy.
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