NORWALK, Ohio – Plans for the massive Emerson Creek Wind project – in the works since 2009 – were unveiled to the public Thursday during an open house at the Bronson Conservation League building just outside here.
And while the event had a decidedly more pro-industry tone than some of the recent gatherings in nearby Seneca County, it still drew a lot of interest because of its size. About 200 to 300 people attended and asked questions of the Apex Clean Energy team, most of whom are based at the company’s Charlottesville, Va., headquarters.
Apex is the developer of the Emerson Creek project and the Republic Wind project being developed mostly in Seneca County and in Sandusky County’s York Township. It also is the developer behind a project scheduled to be unveiled a year from now, the Honey Creek wind farm that’ll be proposed mostly for Crawford County and a small part of Seneca.
Seneca also is home to the Seneca Wind project proposed over five of that county’s townships by Utah-based sPower.
Each of the projects consists of about 65 to 85 turbines. Republic Wind and Seneca Wind are both expected to have the capacity to produce 200 megawatts of power. About 1,000 homes can be powered for every megawatt of electricity, depending of course on the size of homes and the time of year. And just because a wind farm has a capability of generating 200 mw doesn’t mean it always will.
The Emerson Creek project has drawn a lot of interest from members of the Seneca Anti-Wind Union, fierce opponents of the Republic Wind and Seneca Wind projects because it is rated as a potential 300-mw project.
That doesn’t make it Ohio’s largest, but it puts it near the top of the list with others, such as the Blue Creek Wind Farm in Paulding and Van Wert counties, which has a rated capacity of 304 mw, and one in Hardin County that has a rated capacity of 300 mw. A cluster of four on Timber Road in Paulding County have a combined rating of nearly 425 mw generated by 182 turbines.
Locals see Emerson Creek as another sign of the wind industry’s development near the Indiana state line coming to their part of northwest Ohio. Many welcome that and many don’t.
Kevin Erf, a resident of Huron County’s Lime Township who farms 600 acres, including about 650 head of cattle, said he is all for Emerson Creek coming in because it would help supplement his facility’s cash flow and provide more insurance against profit losses because of President Trump’s trade wars with China.
He said he is expecting $18,000 to $20,000 in annual lease payments. In all, Apex expects to make $50 million in payments to farmers and $55 million to schools throughout the lifetime of those leases, which are expected to run 30 to 40 years.
“We saw an opportunity to create another revenue stream for our farm. If we can create another revenue stream while trade wars are happening, that will help make up some of the losses,” Mr. Erf said. “I’m not going to get rich, but it’ll help us pay some bills.”
John Arehart III, Apex senior development manager, knows the upbeat tone some residents express at open houses doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of opposition.
Last December, his company’s Republic Wind project was generally well-received at an open house in Seneca County.
By the following spring, after sPower announced plans for the second project in that county, Seneca Wind, the Seneca Anti-Wind Union formed and mobilized a strong opposition movement, with 500 or more landowners at a time confronting officials during at least three meetings.
About three-quarters of the Emerson Creek project falls within Huron County, and most of the rest is planned for Erie County.
Only three of an expected 84 turbines associated with that project are expected to be in Seneca County, Mr. Arehart said.
Four designs are under consideration, ranging from 591 to 655 feet at the top of the blades.
Natasha Montague, Apex spokesman, and Dylan Fraser, Apex civil engineer, said the project’s being assigned according to existing setback rules, which wind industry lobbyists are trying to soften. The rules are being challenged in Paulding County Common Pleas Court by a lawsuit filed this week by farmers and the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition.
“I’ve worked in many states and this is one of the most onerous,” John Foster, an Apex siting official, said of Ohio’s setback rules.
In general, they require a distance equal to at least the blade length and 1,120 feet from property lines and adjacent buildings, he said.
Pros and cons
Gary Schnee, who owns an acre of land in rural Huron County near Bellevue, said he has concerns about more wind turbines coming to the area.
“It’s really going to change the landscape. I don’t really know if they’re safe or not,” he said, adding he also worries about shadow flicker, noise, and vibrations.
Eric Jennings, a Minneapolis resident who said he owns a lot of Huron County land, is eager to host turbines because he said they help combat climate change.
“We need more energy and this is one of the best and cleanest ways of getting there,” he said. “This is a good start toward reducing carbon.”
Jennie Geiger, Apex environmental permitting manager, said the company is making efforts to protect birds and bats. It has agreed not to erect turbines within 1.8 miles of eagle nests and within 2.5 miles of endangered Indiana bat habitat. If it does put any turbines within that range of bats, it will shut them off during migrations, she said.
Apex wants to begin erecting Emerson Creek turbines in early 2020 and have them operational by the fall of that year, then have its Honey Creek project operational by the end of 2021, Mr. Arehart said.
A revised version of the Republic Wind project will be released at an open house in December, Ms. Montague said.
Matt Butler, Ohio Power Siting Board spokesman, said an administrative judge is setting dates for the Seneca Wind hearings, which are expected to be in January. Emerson Creek’s formal application must be made to the siting board within three months now that Apex has had an open house.
Once the applications are in hand, the power siting board typically gives projects six to nine months of review before commencing hearings, he said.
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