MANSFIELD – Construction on the Black Fork Wind Farm project has again been delayed, likely not starting in full until 2018.
The project, planned for parts of northern Richland and Crawford counties west of Shelby, is still in the design stage, according to Bill Behling, business development manager for Capital Power Corporation.
Behling recently told the county commissioners that the company is completing environmental impact studies on wildlife and a redesign of the underground collection system to meet changing technology. The company still needs to complete the permit process with the state, develop road use permits and payment in lieu of taxes agreements with local governments, and decide on the size and number of wind turbines that will be part of the project.
“We’re now looking at building in 2018, starting at the end of 2017 and finishing in 2018,” Behling said. “We’re looking to do some of the work in the winter, depending on how rough the weather is.” This is just the latest in a series of delays since the project was initiated about five years ago.
Behling also admitted that Capital Power is still looking for companies to buy electricity generated by the wind farm and will not be able to finalize any agreements until after it decides the generating capacity of the turbines it will use. He noted that American Electric Power and Dayton Power and Light have committed to buying a total of 550 megawatts of electricity from alternative sources in Ohio and that a number of private companies, including Amazon, also are looking into alternative energy agreements.
One area Behling said he still needs to discuss with commissioners is an agreement for a payment in lieu of taxes. The company has proposed paying $1.8 million per year for 30 years that would be divided between affected local subdivisions and school districts.
The payment agreement, which effectively is a tax abatement, was a major concern of Shelby area resident Gary Biglin, whose farm on Ohio 61 is in the middle of the proposed wind project. In a prepared statement, he pointed out that a wind project like Black Fork already has federal and Ohio tax credits and that a payment in lieu could be one-fourth or one-fifth of what the normal taxing mechanism might generate.
“Even though the normal taxing mode would depreciate over the years, counties should opt for the most taxes up front because the permanent jobs created by these projects can be counted on one hand and promises for 20 years can evaporate over night when the project has LLC (limited liability corporation) behind its name,” Biglin told commissioners. He also pointed out that the value of properties near the 500 foot tall turbines could be affected and that a payment in lieu would do no good if the property values decline or people move away.
Behling said if Richland County does not approve some type of agreement, Capital Power would build the 60 wind turbines planned for Crawford County and not the 30 in Richland County because Crawford has approved an agreement.
Biglin also was concerned that the Ohio Power Siting Board voted last year to extend the deadline for Capitol Power to begin a continuous course of construction of the proposed facility to Jan. 23, 2019 and to allow the company to use old setback requirements despite recent changes by the Ohio General Assembly.
The board voted later in the day Thursday to reject an application by Biglin and six other area residents for a rehearing, saying the extension did not affect construction details of the project itself and that the setbacks did not need to be updates.
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