A bill introduced in the Ohio Senate would change the minimum “setbacks,” or distance, a wind turbine farm can be from a residence to encourage development.
Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, introduced the bill and said that a previous amendment that pushed the setback requirements farther back in 2014 went into effect without transparency, hearings, deliberations or notice.
Dolan said the current setbacks have stifled the development of wind farm installation in the state.
“The setbacks were moved to a distance that really made it nearly impossible for wind farms to develop economically,” Dolan said. “So, it has stifled all wind farm installation in Ohio since that bill went in. We had 12 applications before, we have had zero since.”
According to a policy brief by the Nature Conservancy, the setback requirements in Ohio before 2014 were originally 750 feet, but later increased to 1,125 feet from the “nearest, habitable, residential structure.” In 2014, the minimum was changed to be 1,125 feet from a property line, not from the exterior of a residence.
Senate Bill 238 would change the requirements back to the exterior of a residence, while adding 100 feet to the pre-2014 setback. Under the bill, the new minimum setback would be equal to one and two tenths of the total height of the turbine structure, as measured from base to the tip of the highest blade and at least 1,225 feet from the tip of the turbine’s nearest blade to the exterior of the nearest, habitable, residential structure, the bill’s text said.
Dolan said his bill was designed to, in the open, balance the burden of some landowners in the area of windfarms with the benefits wind energy can bring to the state’s economy. He also said the bill would still place setbacks at a respectable distance, but at a distance that gives economic incentive to developers.
Andrew Gohn, director of eastern state policy for the American Wind Energy Association, said SB 238 was a smart setback reform “that would both protect the property rights of individuals and provide a reasonable level of regulatory certainty for the wind industry.”
Gohn also said Ohio’s setback requirements were some of the most burdensome in the U.S.
“Ohio’s wind farm setback regulations are among the most burdensome in the nation, limiting the rights of property owners to develop their land and holding back billions of dollars in economic activity,” Gohn said.
Dolan said he was confident that the bill could spur more development from wind farms and said he already has received calls on the subject.
“Based on the number of companies, individuals, banks and investors who have contacted me, I am very confident that literally billions of dollars will be invested in Ohio,” Dolan said.
An article in the Springfield News-Sun said lawmakers also could look to change Ohio’s clean energy requirements, which were passed in 2008 and require a quarter of Ohio’s energy to come from alternative means by 2025. The story said the law was frozen for two years in order for a panel to study its effectiveness.
Quinn Beeson, economic research analyst at Ohio’s Buckeye Institute, said Ohio should eliminate current mandates on renewable energy in the state.
“Ohio should embrace the growth of all energy sources through free markets, not government mandates,” Beeson said. “Therefore, we should eliminate our current renewable energy mandates, as they hinder rather than help Ohioans. Ohio policymakers, like those in any state, should instead embrace policies that take advantage of the state’s comparative advantage.
“While Ohio should not discriminate against any viable form of energy, neither should it discriminate in favor of one special interest.”
Some groups in Ohio have opposed wind farm projects in their towns and counties. An op-ed in the Urbana Daily Citizen by Terry Rittenhouse, who lives near a project area, said he has joined a new citizens’ group called Champaign County Townships United, in order to intervene in the proposed Buckeye Wind case in Champaign County. Issues Rittenhouse mentions in his column include sound power levels and shadow flicker.
A study in the Canadian Family Physician said people who live or work near industrial wind turbines experience symptoms such as decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance and headaches. Suggested causes for these symptoms include issues such as wind turbine noise, infrasound (sound waves with frequencies below the level in which humans can hear), ground current and shadow flicker (caused when turbine blades occasionally cast shadows through openings such as windows of neighboring properties).
Dolan said the bill has already been through a number of hearings, will have another hearing next week and then hopefully be brought up for a vote. Dolan said he wanted to get the ball rolling in the next three to four weeks and get SB 232 to Gov. John Kasich’s desk.
Dolan additionally said the bill was trying to recognize that local officials would have some control for the siting of the turbines.
“We are not just sitting in Columbus and mandating what is happening. We are trying to balance out really the burdens and the benefits for everyone, but the locals, who also want this will have some say in the wind turbines being placed in their counties.”