Officials back wind turbine bill

COLUMBUS – Local officials, school representatives and State Rep. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, discussed pending legislation to loosen regulations on wind turbines in the state Wednesday.

According to a release, Reineke and others at the event in Columbus urged the support of Senate Bill 238, sponsored by State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls. The bill has 13 co-sponsors.

The legislation would reform wind turbine setbacks passed in 2014, which the release states slowed wind energy production in Ohio.

Reineke cited a study from A Renewable America that states Ohio could gain more than $4 billion in investment from wind farm construction, but only if the state changes its “restrictive” wind turbine setback law.

The report focuses on two projects, including one in Seneca and Sandusky counties, that could bring $400 million of capital investment.

APEX Clean Energy’s Republic Wind Project could bring 55-58 turbines, mostly in Seneca County. The proposed project area in Seneca and Sandusky counties covers about 30,000 acres — roughly south of Green Springs, north of Republic and southwest of Bellevue. The turbines are to generate about 200 megawatts of electricity and APEX officials claim the 30-year deal would bring about $29 million to landowners, $36 million to schools and $18 million to the county and townships over the life of the contract.

“This wind farm and others like it hold the promise of tremendous economic benefit for Ohio’s rural communities,” Reineke stated in the release. “I am hopeful the General Assembly will act soon to at least give our local community the opportunity to move forward with this project because current law is acting as a significant statewide barrier.”

Seneca County Commissioner Holly Stacy and Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp. President and CEO David Zak attended the press conference. Seneca County commissioners have submitted a memorandum supporting the Republic Wind Project.

“We want the ability for landowners, our schools, our communities and our county to benefit from the construction of this wind farm, as has happened in Paulding County,” Stacy said in the release. “The community wants this wind farm and its economic benefits and we should have the option of seeing it constructed.”

Although some see the wind projects as a positive, there are some groups that oppose the projects.

More than 100 people attended a Seneca Anti-Wind Union informational meeting last week to learn about the projects and to discuss why they oppose projects such as the Republic Wind Project. Almost all of those in attendance opposed the project.

Seneca Anti-Wind Union is headed by Chris Zeman, a resident who lives near the project area. He said turbines could negatively impact the quality of life and the property values of people who are not being paid to participate in the project.

Commissioner Mike Kerschner said the situation is difficult because no matter the outcome, a group of people will be upset. He said the county has no direct say in the setback regulation discussion but will react to what the state decides.

“We are not in a situation where we (county commissioners) can make a decision yea or nay, it’s up to the state,” he said following the meeting April 5.

Anti-wind leaders are considering placing a referendum on the ballot to allow voters to decide the fate of the project.

“The best solution for anything like this is to let the people speak and give them what they want,” Kerschner said. “There is a significant grassroots groundswell who have concerns and you’ve got to consider that.”

Commissioner Shayne Thomas said his support for the Republic Wind Project has not been swayed.

“I don’t see any other course of action other than to stay the course,” he said Thursday.

Thomas said the project is an issue between a private company and private landowners who choose to participate in it.

He said other communities have gained significant resources from similar projects.

“In Van Wert, the wind farm is the single largest taxpayer,” Thomas said. “For schools, libraries and townships, that’s a lot of resources for a lot of good causes.”

Senate Bill 238 is being considered by the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.