BUCYRUS – News from the Ohio Power Siting Board forced Kimberly Groth of Crawford-Seneca Anti-Wind to update her presentation on Thursday evening at Aumiller Park. She didn’t seem to mind.
Hours after the board voted to deny certification for the planned Republic Wind Farm, which would have included 50 wind turbines in Seneca and Sandusky counties, Groth spoke to a crowd of about three dozen people as part of a series of meetings planned by opponents of Honey Creek Wind, proposed for northern Crawford County and southern Seneca.
“This project … just a few hours ago had their certificate denied,” she said of the Republic Wind Farm plan as she began her presentation. “That is the first time that’s happened in the state of Ohio.”
Crowd cheers announcement
The crowd in the park’s shelter house burst into applause.
Like the Republic Wind Farm, Honey Creek is a project of Apex Clean Energy, which also has been offering informational meetings – on Thursday, Apex announced sessions at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Liberty Township Fire Department Building and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Holmes Township Fire Department Building.
Groth, a Buckeye Central graduate, now lives in southern Seneca County, in an area that would have been part of the Seneca Wind Project, which has been put on hold by its developer. But her home is also in the footprint of the Honey Creek Wind Farm.
The actual height, number and location of wind turbines has not been determined, but an Apex official has said it’s anticipated Honey Creek will use about 75 turbines, each 600 to 650 feet tall (measured to the tip of the blade).
That’s roughly four times the height of the wind turbines on the Wynford school campus, Groth said.
Because the Crawford County Board of Commissioners voted in June 2011 to make the county an Alternative Energy Zone (AEZ), 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.
“That is significantly larger than any of the other projects in this area,” Groth said. “I just did a simple Google search: What’s the largest capacity wind project in Ohio? Based on what I saw, if this is build at 360, this would be the largest-capacity wind project in Ohio.”
Apex is leasing land for the project all across the northern portion of Crawford County, from the Lincoln Highway up, she said.
Turbines have flashing red lights
Many of those properties are near residences, she said: “We have a much higher population density than those other areas.” And at night, the turbines – many of which will be visible across a wide swath of the county – have flashing red lights.
Paula Iler attended the meeting with her husband, Steve, both sporting bright yellow Seneca Anti-Wind Union T-shirts.
The lifelong Bucyrus resident said no turbines are planned near her home – she’s just looking out for her neighbors and friends across the county.
“I think it’s a bad fit for Bucyrus and the county, so that’s why I’m here,” she said, adding the county’s agricultural land should remain just that – agricultural.
Groth outlines issues with wind farm plan
Other issues Groth sited:
• Setbacks required under Ohio law – 1,125 feet from the property line of non-participating properties – aren’t enough to allow residents to comply with safety recommendations from a turbine manufacturer, which recommended that in the event of a fire people remain at least 1,640 feet away – or in a thunderstorm, 3,290 feet, she said.
• Good Neighbor agreements, which developers sometimes ask residents of neighboring properties to sign, waive that setback in exchange for an annual payment, Groth explained. Among other things, people who sign also waive the right to sue for any damages or to complain about the project publicly. Leases and Good Neighbor agreements continue even if the property is sold.
• Shadow flicker is caused when the rotating blades pass between the viewer and the sun. Ohio law requires developers to limit shadow flicker at a non-participating residence to 30 hours per year – “but if they’re going to go beyond that, they just have to show that they’re going to take some step to mitigate the impact,” Groth said. Typically, that means planting trees or installing blinds.
• The wind turbines create noise. “The developer’s going to tell you that it’s no louder than your dishwasher or maybe your air-conditioner; most folks don’t have those running right next to your bed at night,” she said. Guidance issued by the World Health Organization in 2018 indicated turbine noise should stay below 45 decibels, “as noise above that level is associated with adverse health effects.”
Several academic and business websites pertaining to acoustics compare 45 decibels with a library, bird calls or the lowest limit of urban ambient sound.
A Honey Creek Good Neighbor agreement would allow noise levels “in excess of 55 decibels at any or all times of the day or night,” Groth said.
They also generate infrasound, which humans can’t hear, but feel, she said.
Many wind turbines would be close to homes
• A property value study frequently cited by the developer involved much smaller turbines, and the average property was 4.96 miles from the nearest turbine.
“In the projects in this area, many non-participating property owners will have many turbines within a quarter- to half-mile of their home,” she said.
• The turbines could interfere with flights by emergency medical helicopters, she said.
• Turbines sometimes catch fire, and on a windy day, embers could be blown into a dry field. Blades can break – and they’re not recycled, Groth said. They can interfere with weather radar and communication signals.
• They’re dangerous to birds – particularly large birds, such as eagles, hawks and owls. “Those type of birds, they’re more limited in number to begin with, and they have longer reproduction cycles,” she said. “So it’s much harder for that population … to recover.”
• The wind turbines supplement – not replace – traditional, “dirty” power plants, she said. While Honey Creek will have a 360 megawatt nameplate capacity, that’s how much it would produce under ideal conditions.
“Capacity factor is what you can actually expect to get out of that project,” she said. Data from PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that serves this region, indicates wind in an open or flat terrain has a capacity factor of 17.6% – “I think that’s kind of pathetic, frankly,” she said.
• While Crawford County has better wind than most other areas in the PJM grid, “the strongest wind here in Ohio is equal to about the worst wind areas in a state like Iowa,” she said.
Commissioner: Board may revisit AEZ issue
• Crawford County’s PILOT fees are less than the developer would pay in taxes, even when looked at over the life of the project, she said – “I would encourage you to ask your commissioners to rescind that AEZ.”
Crawford County Commissioner Larry Schmidt, who was in attendance, said after the meeting that “it’s probably time to revisit the AEZ; it’s been 10 years, and we have discussed revisiting it.”
The AEZ was approved long before he or fellow commissioner Tim Ley took office, he observed.
Groth also outlined how the Ohio Power Siting Board certification process works, and suggested ways people who oppose the project can get involved. Another meeting is planned at 6:30 p.m. July 1 at Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department, 4628 Liberty St., Sulphur Springs.
“I would encourage you to get involved on a political level; talk to your local politicians … state level is a key thing here,” she said.
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