BELLEVUE – Sandusky County Commissioners rescinded the county’s alternative energy zone designation Thursday, a move applauded by dozens of Seneca Anti-Wind Union members present at the commission’s meeting in Bellevue City Council chambers.
The commissioners’ decision came the same day as Ohio Power Siting Board staff recommended that the board authorize construction of the proposed Republic Wind Farm, which would put up to 47 new wind turbines in Seneca and Sandusky counties.
The Sandusky County commissioners’ decision means the county also will remain neutral on how landowners use their property and whether they permit wind turbines on their land, said commissioner Russ Zimmerman.
“I do think there’s a place for alternative energy,” Zimmerman said. “But that being said, I don’t think it’s in the place they’re trying to place them.”
The Ohio Legislature passed SB 232 in 2010 and established alternative energy zones that allow counties to reduce tax rates on alternative energy companies.
Sandusky County’s alternative energy zone had been set up in 2012 to enable renewable energy projects to get state tax breaks throughout the county.
There are federal and state tax incentives for companies to build wind farms. Companies that begin construction on wind facilities by Dec. 31, 2019 can qualify for federal renewable electricity production credits.
In 2017, that credit came to $0.019 per kilowatt hour for wind production, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The credit lasts for 10 years after the facility is placed in service.
With the resolution approved by the commission Thursday, any wind project linked to Sandusky County’s 2012 alternative energy zone must resubmit an application with the state siting board.
Commissioners met in Bellevue Thursday as part of their quarterly efforts to hold meetings in different parts of Sandusky County, said commissioner Scott Miller.
About 60 people attended the meeting, with a sizable majority of visitors wearing yellow shirts bearing the Seneca Anti-Wind Union citizen group insignia.
Sandusky County resident Deb Didion spoke on behalf of the group.
She presented commissioners with Ohio Department of Natural Resouces maps of karst deposits throughout the region, where the proposed Republic wind farm would be constructed.
The presence of karst would pose major ground stability concerns for the proposed turbines, which could reach almost 600 feet in height.
The OPSB staff report released Thursday contained a section pertaining to karst limestone in the region and noted that Apex Clean Energy had identified some of its proposed turbines as being in areas with karst features.
“Where the applicant conducts future geotechnical studies that identify karst features, those area would be avoided for siting wind turbines,” the report stated.
Didion said after the meeting she thought the siting board had tunnel vision about wind energy development and were not taking into consideration the potential damage and loss of property values the turbines could bring.
While she commended the Sandusky County commissioners for their alternative energy zone vote, calling it a “good first move,” Didion and other residents said they thought local elected officials needed to be more vocal with the state about the proposed wind farms.
“We have to have a voice. This is ridiculous. This is our land,” Didion said.
The Ohio Power Siting Board regulates major utilities facilities and economically significant wind farms, those greater than 5 megawatts.
In its report released Thursday, the siting board staff recommended that the board authorize construction of the proposed Apex Clean Energy Republic wind farm in Sandusky and Seneca counties, subject to 57 conditions.
The staff report does not constitute a final decision, but is a recommendation to the members of the board.
The board members’ decision will not be made until after the siting board schedules and conducts a local public hearing in the project area and an evidentiary hearing in Columbus.
The dates for these hearings have not been determined, according to the siting board.
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