SALEM, Ohio — The state siting board has given its approval to construct the second phase of a controversial wind farm in Champaign County.
The Ohio Power Siting Board voted 5-0 May 28 in favor of Champaign Wind’s project known as Buckeye II Wind Farm. It will result in turbines being built at 52 of 56 proposed locations across 13,500 acres of leased land in Goshen, Rush, Salem, Union, Urbana and Wayne townships.
Supporters say it will bring new economic opportunity to the county, including new revenue for lessors and the community at large. The facility is expected to generate up to 140 megawatts of electricity.
Opponents, however, say they are concerned the turbines are too close to residential structures, and that they will alter the quality of life, including increased noise, damage to wildlife and a decrease in property values.
Attorney Jack Van Kley, of Van Kley & Walker, said opponents of the project plan to file a motion for the siting board to reconsider its decision. If unsuccessful, they plan to appeal the matter before the Ohio Supreme Court.
He said property owners are concerned about potential noise from the turbines, the potential for blades to be thrown long distances, as well as shadows and flickering, and potential wildlife damage.
The closest turbine could be less than 1,000 feet from the nearest structure, he said.
“The board did not properly consider the environmental impacts of the turbines before they approved turbines that are going to be installed very close to people’s houses,” he said.
According to the siting board, the wind farm meets eight criteria established by Ohio law for new generating facilities in the state.The board also determined “the wind farm will have a positive impact on Champaign County, the townships, and local communities through the collection of additional tax revenue,” and that the facility “represents the minimum adverse environmental impacts as required by law, with appropriate conditions applied during construction and operation of the facility.
The project is seen as a way of helping meet Ohio’s renewable energy portfolio, which requires 25 percent of electricity sold in state to be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025.
The company is required to implement 72 conditions that will be monitored and enforced by the board. The board denied construction of four proposed turbines that conflict with setback requirements.Jason Dagger, Ohio project manager for EverPower — the parent company of the wind farm — said he was pleased with the board’s decision and expects construction could begin as early as spring of 2014. About 100 turbines will be constructed in about a year’s time.
When finished, Dagger said the project will likely be “the largest taxpayer in Champaign County.”
Jon Berry, a crop and beef farmer from Cable, Ohio, said he expects three turbines to be built on land he leased to the company. He said he sees the lease agreement as a way of helping to preserve his farm.
“We kind of looked at it from a long-term way of preserving our farmland,” he said.
Berry was among several farmers in the area who looked at wind turbines in other states before agreeing to the lease. They wanted to make sure the noise was truly minimal, and that there were no major issues with having a turbine on their land.
“We visited them (turbines) and you’ve got to get right up underneath them to hear them,” he said. “We felt good about it and still feel good about it.”
Ross Yocom, who farms near Berry, said he expects three turbines on his own farm and is not concerned. He has visited operational turbines, as well, and said he doesn’t expect any issues.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s going to bring a lot of revenue into our schools. We’re a very rural area and we just don’t have any industry to bring tax money into our schools.”
Yocom is the fourth generation of family to live on his farm. He said some homeowners say they moved to the area to enjoy the country setting, which they fear will be compromised by the turbines.
But as he sees it, their homes and developments have also changed the scenery for the farmer, who was there first.
“All our fields we used to farm at one time and now we’ve got houses in there,” he said. “I’d rather see a cornfield out there than a bunch of houses.”
The first phase of the project — Buckeye I Wind Farm — was approved by the siting board in 2010. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the decision by a 4-3 vote in March of 2012.
With the addition of the Buckeye II Wind Farm, the board has approved certificates for 10 wind farms across the state totaling 639 turbines and 1,302 megawatts of generation capacity.