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Wind energy poised for growth in Ohio, advocates say

Wind energy development in Ohio continued its years-long lull in 2016, a wind-energy trade group says, but development appears poised to accelerate with a project involving Amazon and several others under construction.

So far this year, Ohio has had one small wind farm begin operation, a 1.5-megawatt facility near Harpster in Wyandot County.

“There are some unique challenges that we have now in Ohio that get in the way of deployment,” said Andrew Gohn, eastern region director for state policy at the American Wind Energy Association, the group that issued the report.

Among the challenges are several revisions to state law that passed in 2014. The laws had the support of activists who view wind energy as overpriced and unreliable, and who say turbines are ugly.

As of September, Ohio had 444 megawatts of wind energy, which ranks 25th in the country, according to the latest quarterly update from the association. A megawatt is roughly enough capacity to provide for the needs of 1,000 houses.

Most of Ohio’s wind energy comes from two large projects that went online in 2011 and 2012 near the border with Indiana. Those projects, the Blue Creek and Timber Road II wind farms, have combined capacity of 403 megawatts.

Before those two projects, Ohio was barely in double digits in wind energy capacity, with 11 megawatts in 2010, the association said.

After the surge in 2011 and 2012, only a few small projects have been completed.

There are many reasons for the lull, tied to changes in the electricity market, uncertainty about federal tax incentives, and changes in state policy.

Wind-energy advocates tend to focus on the last issue, pointing toward two bills signed by Gov. John Kasich in 2014. First was a measure that increases the minimum distance required between a wind turbine and nearby structures. Second was a two-year freeze on state standards that require electricity companies to purchase certain amounts of renewable energy.

Tom Stacy, an energy policy consultant who supported those two bills, agrees that the changes are some of the main reasons that wind-energy development has slowed.

“We have zoning that attempts to protect property rights of people who live in the country,” he said.

But wind energy growth in Ohio hasn’t stopped. The association says 207 megawatts are under construction.

Included in this total is a wind farm in Paulding County being developed by Amazon, the online retailer, and EDP Renewables, a wind energy company from Spain. The 100-megawatt project will likely be completed next year.

The project will “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 in a statement issued last year when Amazon announced its role in the project.