COLUMBUS – Arguing that Ohio is losing millions in potential business investment, state Sen. Cliff Hite (R., Findlay) introduced a bill Thursday to loosen property setback restrictions imposed three years ago on the siting of new wind farms.
“We’re trying to make this so that those who want wind projects can [move forward],” Mr. Hite said. “Right now they’re handcuffed by the language that exists. I know some people don’t want projects, but this bill is a compromise between where we used to be and where we are now.”
In 2014, lawmakers passed and Gov. John Kasich signed a provision imposing the tighter restrictions. The wind industry and some lawmakers, including some from northwest Ohio which have benefited economically from wind farms, have been trying ever since to ease those restrictions.
Previous law required 1,125 feet between the extended tip of a wind turbine and the nearest home, essentially 1,300 feet from the tower when factoring in the length of the turbine. It also provided for a setback from the nearest property line of 1.1 of the tower’s height, which presumes that if the tower were to fall, it would not cross the property line.
But some neighbors of wind farms have argued that the closer proximity of the wind turbines – with noise, light reflection, and shadow – can amount to a de facto taking of their property even if the turbine itself does not cross their land.
The 2014 restriction changed the rules to 1,225 feet from the property line, not the nearest residence – a move that wind farm developers argue leads to fewer turbines per property, making such operations economically infeasible.
No new wind farm applications have been filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board since. Mr. Hite said some projects already approved before the stricter rules took effect would like to take advantage of new technology developed in recent years, but they fear that changing the projects’ designs now would open them to the tighter restrictions.
After his attempts to address the issue in the recently enacted budget failed, Mr. Hite’s new bill would move closer to the original standard—1.2 of the tower’s height from the property line and 1,225 feet between the tip of the extended blade to the closest dwelling, or about 1,400 feet counting the blade’s length.
He held a press conference with Hardin County business leaders at the construction site of the proposed Hog Creek Wind Farm in rural Dunkirk in hopes of building support. The project was under way before the 2014 restrictions were imposed and is expected to create a peak of 235 construction jobs and seven permanent jobs when completed.
A variation of Mr. Hite’s latest language was included in the Senate’s first pass at a state budget in June, but it was removed in the House and ultimately did not reach Mr. Kasich’s desk.
Mr. Hite said he has 14 co-sponsors in the 33-member chamber this time, two of them in leadership. He also has resolutions passed in Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, and Seneca counties in support of the language.
“It’s high time we fix this issue once and for all, and reopen Ohio’s doors to wind energy companies that are eager to invest in the Buckeye state,” said Trish Demeter, vice president of policy at the Ohio Environmental Council: “Without a fix, Ohio will continue to fall further and further behind in the clean energy era.”