Wind proponents offer views

PHOTO BY JIMMY FLINT Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas (from left); Tom Yingling, a Huron County farmer; and Bob Rine, an Adams Township farmer, discuss wind turbine projects after a round-table discussion Tuesday afternoon in Green Springs.

A group of people who plan to lease land to wind turbine companies for alternative energy projects in Seneca and surrounding counties met in Green Springs Tuesday to discuss benefits of the projects.

The event took place at Baldosser Farms and was observed by State Rep. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin; Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas; Lyme Township (Huron County) Fiscal Officer Roger Hunker; and APEX Clean Energy officials. APEX is administering several potential projects in the area, including the Republic Wind Project.

Natasha Montague of APEX said the Republic project is slated for construction in early 2019. The Republic project mostly is in Seneca County and covers about 30,000 acres — roughly south of Green Springs, north of Republic and southwest of Bellevue. The 55-58 turbines in the project are to generate about 200 megawatts of electricity annually.

Gary Baldosser said the event was to represent the views of landowners involved in the projects.

“I’m tired of all the misinformation we are getting from the opposition,” he said. “We need to get the facts out.”

Seneca-Anti Wind Union, which opposes wind projects in the county, has convened several events this year discussing the negatives of wind projects. The group’s members also have visited Seneca County commissioners’ meetings to voice concerns.

Baldosser said in 2007, several people in the footprint of turbine projects were invited to an informational meeting.

He said he and others saw the projects as a way to move the economy of Seneca County forward after difficult times.

APEX officials claim the Republic project would bring about $93 million in additional revenue over a 30-year period. Benefactors of this funding would include townships, school districts, the county and landowners via direct lease payments.

Tom Yingling, who farms in Huron County, said the financial benefits of the projects will help everyone.

Baldosser said the six people in the discussion all are farmers, but not all the landowners involved in turbine projects are.

“We are long-term in the community,” Yingling said. “No one is more concerned for the future than our farmers who are going to be here for generations. We want to see strong schools, strong townships with good roads and good community services, but it costs money.

“If you’ve got kids, grandkids, anybody going to school, you will have a direct benefit from the projects going forward.”

Bob Rine, an Adams Township farmer involved with one of the projects, said he would challenge anyone to bring a project to the area that could match the revenue wind projects will provide.

Jim Schumacher, who farms in eastern Seneca County, said people worldwide are using more electricity all the time.

“Wind isn’t the only answer, but we have to go along with solar and other ideas like that (to meet demand),” he said.

Curt Swartzmiller, who farms in Seneca, Huron and Crawford counties, said he believes the projects should be constructed because it is within the landowners’ property rights to lease their land to companies for turbines.

“We all live within the project,” he said. “The turbines that are going to be built, we are going to see them from our homes, too.”

Swartzmiller likened some opposition to turbines as similar to development of cellphone towers.

“(They went up) so everyone could have cellphone coverage,” he said. “I’m sorry they’re tall. I’m sorry they have blinking lights, but most people benefit from a tower today.”

Turbine projects in Ohio are regulated and overseen by the Ohio Power Siting Board.

Baldosser said the group vets projects and ensures developers are following regulations.

“I’m glad we have a power siting board in Ohio to perform that function,” he said. “There isn’t anybody at the local level who has that kind of expertise to review those projects and hold developers accountable.”

Those in the discussion said they have met resistance from project opponents.

Swartzmiller said it is difficult for farmers and landowners to organize and debate with the anti-wind union.

“We’ve got businesses to run and time constraints,” he said. “Farmers are too independent (to organize).”

Swartzmiller and the others also took issue with the tone and sometimes disrespectful nature of turbine project opponents.

“I believe in spirited debate,” he said. “What I have a problem with is bullying to get what you want. I’ve seen more than enough bullying and threats to our public officials, it was over the top.”

Each member in the group said they initially hesitated to speak publicly on the issue out of fear of backlash in the form of attacks on property or vandalism. They said they came forward so their perspectives were heard.

Baldosser said he believes wind projects are the best opportunity rural areas of Seneca County have had in the past 50 years to improve the economy and invest in the future.

“This is our opportunity to have some economic growth and help sustain our whole community,” he said.

Barb Baldosser, Gary’s mother, said she also sees the projects as an investment. She said she read a quote recently that reminded her of the issue.

“A man plants a tree, but he will never play under it as a child. A man builds a school that he will never attend. A man builds a church that he will never have service in,” she said. “If we plant a turbine, it’s our children and our grandchildren that will benefit. It will mean clean energy for them, for the future, it’s all about looking to the future.”

Reineke said he came to the meeting as an observer and has attended an anti-wind union group meeting this month.

“I see that it is my job to collect information and make the best decision I can make for the 120,000 people I represent,” he said. “The thing that’s confusing to people, I don’t press a yes or no button. You want me to act in the best interest for everybody on legislation, but right now, we don’t know what that legislation is.”

Reineke said he still is researching the issue.

“I’m trying to get some kind of a handle on what would be the best way to (represent the community),” he said. “I don’t like to see this community split. I’m trying to make sure we’re staying on top of accurate information.”