Republic Wind wants another shot at building a wind farm in northern Ohio, arguing that the Ohio Power Siting Board put too much stock in local opposition to the project when it denied the project’s application earlier this summer.
Attorneys for developer Apex Energy filed an application for rehearing July 26 with the Ohio Power Siting Board for the Republic Wind project, which proposes building a 200 megawatt wind farm in Seneca and Sandusky counties.
The Ohio Power Siting Board voted June 24 to deny the application, finding the proposal would not serve the public interest and could not minimize its environmental impacts. It was a rare move for the board that approves most renewable energy projects that come before it for certification.
The decision came down to strong local opposition to the project and underground rock formations called karst.
In the rehearing application, Republic Wind argued that the board put too much emphasis on the local opposition to the project, especially the speculative concerns about the potential impact the turbines could have on the karst.
Karst is made up of soluble rock, like limestone, that can often result in sinkholes and caves. It’s ideal for storing water as an aquifer. According to the National Park Service, about 40% of groundwater used for drinking comes from karst aquifers.
The Republic Wind project is proposed to be built over karst geological formations. Residents were concerned that sinking the turbine pilings into the ground could damage the karst, and therefore, damage or contaminate their private wells fed by the karst aquifer. Many local government officials also voiced opposition to the project.
OPSB chair Jenifer French said, in a statement, that substantial local government opposition played a part in her decision to reject the application.
“[French] admitted that no rules were in place to guide the board as to the level of opposition necessary to deny an application that otherwise complied with all applicable law,” Republic Wind wrote in the rehearing application. “However, she stated that the board was working on rules that would provide more guidance – a likely reference to the rules necessary to implement recently enacted SB 52, which gives local governments more authority over the siting of solar and wind projects.”
Senate Bill 52, which was signed into law July 12, gives local governments the power to approve or deny utility-scale solar and wind projects. Prior to the bill becoming law, only the Ohio Power Siting Board could do that.
A group of local resident intervenors in the case also filed an application for rehearing, but as a way to drive a final nail in the wind project’s coffin. The group asked that the Ohio Power Siting Board add more grounds under which the certificate was denied.
If the board does not decide in Republic Wind’s favor in the rehearing, the developer can then appeal the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.
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