When the “wind” blows in the Firelands “it really blows.”
This catchy phrase unfortunately seems to be the long-term forecast for the Firelands as “big wind” companies continue their attempts to have property owners in Erie, Huron, Sandusky and Seneca counties sign leases for 600-foot-plus Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs), to be sited in the Firelands region. So what kind of impact will this have on our region? If we look to other states and countries that have invested heavily in IWT’s, the electric rates skyrocketed. Some states like California experienced rolling blackouts during the summer heat. As it turns out, the fossil fuel plants functioning to backup all their IWTs couldn’t keep up with demand this summer when the wind didn’t blow in California.
But, what about property values? Will there be an adverse impact? It turns out that home values decline anywhere from 8 to 50 percent depending on the proximity to the IWTs. An excellent example is there will be 800 homes anywhere from one quarter to one half mile from IWTs within the Republic Wind LLC, being proposed at the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). A similar amount of homes will be impacted within the proposed Seneca Wind LLC. Many more projects are planned but, yet to be proposed for the densely populated rural areas of our four-county region. One can easily see how our property tax base will change when many thousands of homes lose their value? The sad reality is this, as the IWTs depreciate and home values have documented loss in value, all the property tax rates in the area will likely go up to offset the real loss of value in our area. Our neighbors, Van Wert County to the west, already have seen a real loss in home values within the footprint of the Blue Creek Wind LLC with 476-foot IWTs. The IWTs in Van Wert County are only 7 years old.
Speaking of our neighbors to the west, how are things going for them? Well, Paulding County industrial wind farm already has had a broken blade throw, Van Wert county in the past few weeks reported a blade throw more than 800 feet. Add to these two incidents, this past spring one of the 376-foot turbines at the Hog Creek Wind Farm (Ada, Ohio) also had a blade throw. Depending on the size of the turbine and the wind speeds these IWTs can throw broken blades, ice or other debris well over 2,000 feet. So, just how close can these massive 600-foot-plus turbines be placed near schools and homes? Current Ohio law requires a setback of only 1,125 feet from a property line. “Big Wind” companies want Ohioans to place them even closer than that. There are lobbyist who are working hard at our Statehouse to return to the old setbacks established in Ohio when turbines were on average only 150 to 200 feet high. In fact, one candidate for governor, Richard Cordray, apparently thinks it is acceptable to do just that. Cordray would work hard to make sure a 600-foot turbine with a blade span of two football fields and blade tip speeds up to 170 mph could be placed just 720 feet from any property including schools, parks, nature preserves and homes. Maybe Cordray could sign up to have one of these next to his home?
Some say this will bring additional income to farmers. Many of these “farmers” getting turbines have large operations or are absentee landowners. A few benefiting at a cost to the many. There are numerous wind leases that have been sold to small property owners which allow the wind company to place turbines closer to homes and property lines. These leases often negate the “Wind Farm” from any liability related to its operation and prevent the property owner from complaining to anyone but the wind company about the effects of the IWTs. Effects such as noise, shadow flicker, infrasound, vibration, debris throws, groundwater contamination, etc. These leases are ironically called “Good Neighbor Agreements” (GNA). A typical GNA-lease will pay $500 up front then after the IWTs are in operation another $500 per year. So, what is the cost of these GNA-leases to the homeowner and the community at large? Some mortgage underwriters will not allow a lease to be placed on a property since it effects their lien position, the possible value and the salability of the property. Many of our neighbors have signed these leases without first checking with the underwriters of their mortgage. Why would they not want to be “a good neighbor” to the wind company? Many local schools, civic groups, hospitals and even trusted elected officials have publicly supported these wind projects to our community. For example, if a township has 20 homes signed into GNA-leases, even though the wind project hasn’t been built, those 20 homes potentially have already lost value and salability simply because they are in a lease!
Local communities and farmers may face higher costs in pesticide control as bats are systematically destroyed by the turbines. Aerial application to fields has gone up 50 percent in other states and sometimes aren’t even available when turbines of this size and number are sited. This will impact both a farmer that has turbines and surrounding farmers who don’t have turbines. Some townships have felt the need to purchase insurance to fix the roads, in case the wind companies don’t, after the heavy loaders have been through an area. Sadly, a good number of rural residents will leave rather than live near the turbines. This could have a devastating effect on the enrollment at rural schools.
Some say this will bring hundreds of jobs to the area. The truth is those will be mostly out-of-state workers, here temporarily to construct the IWTs. There will only be a handful of jobs left behind to maintain the IWTs. Compare this to the 700 or more jobs at the Davis Besse nuclear generating plant. Davis Besse is more than 100 feet shorter than the turbines being proposed for the Firelands Region. Even if the northwest corner of Ohio was blanketed with these massive turbines they still would not produce the same reliable and clean energy that Davis Besse produces.
Some say these IWTs are environmentally friendly. The truth is countries investing heavily in wind energy, such as Germany, had to build more coal burning plants to back up their intermittent and diluted wind energy. Germany has seen a rise in their CO2 emissions compared to states that have not invested heavily in wind energy. It is interesting that Germany has had to send its old turbines to landfills in Africa to dispose of the bio-hazardous waste (rare earth elements) found in these structures. There should be bonds in place to decommission these turbines in the future. It takes about $120,000 now to de-commission a turbine approximately 350 feet high. How much will it take 30 years from now to decommission a 600-foot turbine? Will a $5,000 bond per turbine be enough? If not, who will the cost fall back on? Will it be the leaseholder, the township, the county, the state? No doubt, all the county taxpayers and local utility ratepayers will be on the hook for this as well, since the wind company will likely be long gone and the shell Wind Farm LLC will have little to no assets to negotiate. Just ask the Ada School District how it worked out for them when it was time to decommission their turbine. Last I heard it would cost them two teaching positions.
Then there’s the wind in Ohio. Wind energy companies call northwest Ohio the “wind corridor.” The truth is, there are many other places across the country where the wind blows harder and more consistently. Unfortunately, wind energy companies have worn out their welcome in those areas. As Canada and surrounding states have placed greater restrictions on the development of wind energy, Ohio has created “Alternative Energy Zones” (AEZ). There are 11 out of the 88 counties in Ohio that are in an AEZ contract with the state. These AEZ contracts attract wind energy development to a county with steep tax cuts. These tax cuts, extending over the 30-year life of the project are called a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). Counties in an AEZ will collect minimal taxes from the wind company, although the wind company will extract significant value from our communities. The truth is without the massive federal subsidies given to wind energy and the steep tax abatement (PILOT) from the county these wind projects would likely not be built.
Seneca County has two pro-wind commissioners (Holly Stacy and Shayne Thomas) running the show. They are determined to shoe-horn 143 of these massive turbines into Seneca County. At the same time, they are determined to give the wind energy companies a PILOT. Even though four out of five townships in the Republic Wind LLC have passed resolutions to legally oppose it at the OPSB, these two commissioners have blocked them from using their own Seneca County prosecutor as legal counsel. At the same time these two commissioners have hired an expensive attorney to legally intervene for the wind projects in Seneca County. Ironically the same lawyer that the wind energy companies have used.
If built, these IWTs will no doubt have a lasting impact on our area for generations to come. The questions are, who will pay the price tag and who do our elected officials represent? Why are wind energy companies so interested in our area? The billionaire investor, Warren Buffett said it best, “on wind energy we get a tax credit if we build lots of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” The former governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating, has said concerning wind energy, “it is corporate welfare of the worst kind”. You can watch his statement here: https://vimeo.com/214526676
I suggest you start contacting your county commissioners. Find out if your county is in an AEZ-extending a PILOT to wind companies. If so tell them to get out now. Your county can then negotiate a better deal with “Big Wind” if they knock on the door. Hardin and Van Wert counties have rescinded their AEZ contracts for just this reason. Contact your elected representatives. Tell them you want safer guidelines for development of IWTs in Ohio. Get involved, not only for yourself but for the next generation that will pay for Ohio’s mistake.
For email alerts send your name, county and township to: firstname.lastname@example.org or find information on Facebook at Seneca Anti-Wind Union.
Deb Hay, Resident of the Firelands region and at ground zero for the Republic Wind LLC
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