NEW WASHINGTON – The wind was not cooperating.
As representatives from Apex Clean Energy, Inc., tried to set up displays and a video screen in preparation for a public meeting about the Honey Creek Wind Farm projecton Wednesday evening in the picnic shelter behind the New Washington American Legion Hall, the wind kept blowing everything over.
Their problem was met with more laughter than frustration.
“Don’t you hate it when it’s too windy to talk about wind?” asked Ben Yazman, development manager, laughing.
The breeze had died down by the time 14 members of the public, county commissioners Tim Ley and Mike Schmid,t and one police officer gathered to listen to Yazman’s presentation on the project.
North-central Ohio has strong wind resources to pair with the necessary electrical transmission capacity, he explained. North-central Crawford County and southern Seneca County have a lot of open agricultural land, making the region a good location for the utility-scale generating project.
“In our case, site design doesn’t happen until you lease the majority of your land and have completed almost all of your studies, so that’s where we’re at now,” he said.
Planning expected to be completed this year
Developers have been working on lease agreements and doing site studies for the project for several years. Apex purchased the project from Reserve Energy in 2018 as a body of leases, and has continued leasing additional property since then, he said. Honey Creek has an office in Bellevue.
The actual height, number and location of wind turbines has not been determined, but Yazman said it’s anticipated the project will use about 75 turbines, each 600 to 650 feet tall (measured to the tip of the blade).
“Now, the project’s progressing. We’re hoping to complete leasing this year, allowing us to finish our studies, finish the site design and then take our design as an application to the State of Ohio,” Yazman said. The Ohio Power Siting Board in in charge of granting construction certificates for such projects.
No more than 90 days before the application is submitted, the company is required to have an open house to share its project’s designs. The goal is to begin construction in 2023 and be operational by the end of that year or in 2024, he said. The plant will have a 25- to 30-year operating life.
“The state will require us to post a decommissioning bond, so that there’s always money and a plan in place to take them down,” he said.
PILOT fees would be $3.42 million a year
Because the Crawford County Board of Commissioners voted in June 2011 to make the county an Alternative Energy Zone, Honey Creek will not follow the state’s tax formula for alternative energy. Instead, it will pay PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) fees of $9,000 per megawatt, nameplate capacity, for the life of the project.
That would mean the planned 360-megawatt plant would pay $3.24 million a year, Yazman said.
“And that money is broken out just as your taxes are – about half of it to the school, village and townships get a portion,” he said. But because PILOT fees are not tax revenue, they’re not counted against other state funding for schools.
The project gives participating farmers a “drought-proof” source of income from relative small parcels of lands, he said, and will create hundreds of temporary construction jobs and about a dozen long-term, full-time jobs.
Other points Yazman highlighted:
• Current state law requires a setback of roughly a quarter-mile from the boundary line of any non-participating property.
• Developers are required to limit the shadow-flicker, caused when a blade passes between a viewer and the sun, experienced at surrounding homes. The state also sets standards for sound.
‘It’s not just farmland here’
After the presentation, Yazman, joined by Drew Christensen, public engagement manager for Apex, answered questions and listened to comments.
“Thing is, it’s not just farmland here. It’s our homes; this is where we live,” said one man, who later declined to give his name. “This isn’t some kind of a plant factory. This is where we live, and these stick up out of the ground everywhere, and they ruin the whole landscape.”
Several people questioned the effect on property values for surrounding homes, particularly those on properties adjacent to a turbine. Yazman cited a 2013 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study that found no statistical impact.
“Would you want to live next to one?” several people asked.
Christensen said there’s a wind turbine about a half-mile away from his family farm in Minnesota.
Charles Groth, whose property in southern Seneca County could be affected by multiple wind farm projects, challenged Yazman’s statement, reading a passage from the study and arguing it indicated property values will depreciate more for homes within a mile of a turbine.
His wife, Kimberly Groth, pointed out the PILOT fee amounts were established in 2011, and have not been adjusted since – and would remain in effect for the entire life of the project, with no change for inflation.
“I can understand why you want them,” she said. “I think that’s a good deal for you guys.”
The Apex representatives later pointed out the PILOT fees provide a stable, dependable income for school districts, pointing to pipeline projects that have sought to have their tax rates reduced. PILOT fees cannot be appealed, they said.
Another Apex meeting is planned next week
Yazman acknowledged the project has opponents, including a group of Seneca County residents.
The Seneca Anti-Wind Union, which describes itself as a group of neighbors in both counties “concerned about the impact that improperly sited wind turbines could have on our rural, residential and agricultural communities,” was scheduled to have an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, also at the New Washington American Legion shelter house.
“Which is fine,” Yazman said. “We’re happy for them to get their voice and and we’re happy to be here and answer questions – that’s what we want to do.”
Apex has one more meeting scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lykens Township Fire Department, 2016 New Washington Road, Bloomville.
For details, visit honeycreekwindpower.com, call 419-495-5256 or email email@example.com.
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