State lawmakers are working to amend 2014 legislation they believe has caused wind energy development to stall in Ohio.
The state’s Mid-Biennium Budget Review, passed in 2014, nearly tripled the distance a turbine in a wind farm application was required to be from an adjacent property line.
“With that law that was put in, in the middle of the night four years ago, we have put ourselves at tremendous economic disadvantage,” state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, said.
According to Dolan’s Senate testimony in January, the minimum wind turbine setback distance to a residence prior to 2014 was 1,125 feet plus blade length, which amounted to 1,300 feet, and the minimum setback requirement to a property line was 1.1 times the height of the wind turbine. The 2014 legislation changed the minimum setback to 1,300 feet from a neighboring property line.
Since that time, no new applications for commercial wind farms have been filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board, Dolan said in his Senate testimony.
Dolan is the sponsor of Senate Bill 238, a standalone bill that would adjust the property line setback requirement for wind turbines to 1.2 times the height of the turbine.
“We shouldn’t be turning our back on the new wave of industry and new wave of technology, and that is what wind farms can do,” Dolan said.
Craig Sundstrom, manager of government and regulatory affairs for Apex Clean Energy, said his company has plans to build six wind farms across the state, none in Medina County, which would generate 1,500 megawatts of energy, enough to power more than 530,000 homes.
“When the Legislature changed the setbacks in 2014, they moved the property line setbacks to a level that essentially shut down any wind development in the state of Ohio,” Sundstrom said.
He said the setback requirements must be adjusted before the company can begin work on what he said are multibillion-dollar projects.
“We estimate around $3 billion of private investment that would flow to Ohio should we be able to get those projects supported and built,” he said.
Apex Clean Energy also provided testimony last week in support of Substitute House Bill 114, which incorporated the proposed property setback changes into a bill that addresses other energy issues, Sundstrom said.
Dolan said he was asked if he would be willing to move his “bill into 114 in order to get both passed.”
“I would also like to have a standalone bill passed through the Senate, through the House, because I think there is going to be some pushback on the other aspects of 114 in the House and I would prefer that the wind setback fix does not get caught up in that,” he said.
Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Montville Township, said House Bill 114 is a more comprehensive approach to energy reform in the state.
“It seems to us that we should have a more consistent approach to energy issues overall instead of passing a bunch of different bills piecemeal,” Obhof said. “I think that there are a lot of different energy issues that we are looking at and the wind setback is certainly one of them.”
Obhof, who said he is in favor of changing the setback requirements, said most members of the Senate are “probably supportive of the concepts in the bill.”
The 2014 law was a result of property rights issues, and trying to determine if previous setback laws put wind turbines too close to private homes, Obhof said.
“When you talk to constituents where there are turbines, there are other issues that have been brought up,” he said. “Things like shadow flicker, ice throw, a number of concerns.”
According to Obhof’s office, there is no timeline to bring the two bills to the floor for a vote.
Medina County Economic Development Corp. Director Bethany Dentler said it is “certainly possible” that the 2014 law change discouraged potential wind energy development in Medina County.
Dentler said there were some inquiries into developing a wind farm in the county several years ago, but nothing ever came of it.
“Whether it was the 2014 setback requirements or the need for local governments to update their own regulations regarding wind farms that discouraged those developments, it’s hard to say, but the 2014 law could have been a factor,” Dentler said in an email.
While there are no wind farms in Medina County, Dentler said there is a wind turbine in Liverpool Township on the property of Three D Metals, 5462 Innovation Drive.
According to the company’s website, the turbine cost $500,000 to build with the company receiving $350,000 in state and federal incentives. The turbine is 121 feet tall and saves Three D Metals an estimated $21,000 a year.
The company produces aluminum and edged copper strip that are used to build transformers used in wind turbines. Company representatives did not return messages seeking comment.