200-MW wind farm rejected by Ohio Power Siting Board

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In a rare move, the Ohio Power Siting Board denied an application to build a 200 megawatt wind farm in Seneca and Sandusky counties, finding the proposal would not serve the public interest and could not minimize its environmental impacts.

The Republic Wind project would have put 50 wind turbines in a 24,000-acre area in Adams, Pleasant, Reed, Scipio and Thompson townships in Seneca County and York Township in Sandusky.

“It is very important that we at the power siting board take input from local residents and governments, seriously,” said OPSB chair Jenifer French, in a statement. “The facts in this case, including substantial local government opposition, lead me to believe that, overall, this project is not in the public interest.”

Community activists celebrated the rejection as a win for community voices, while the developer, Apex Clean Energy, cried foul. The Ohio Power Siting Board approves most renewable energy projects that come before it for certification.

Dalton Carr, development manager for Republic Wind, called the rejection arbitrary and said, in a statement, the decision was a “shocking departure from the previous OPSB decisions.”

The project was the target of strong opposition from local residents and a grassroots group called the Seneca Anti-Wind Union. A vast majority of the people who testified at the public hearing for the project were opposed to it, the OPSB opinion order noted.

Deciding factors

The decision came down to underground rock formations. The project would have been built over karst geological formations. 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.

Residents were concerned that sinking the turbine pilings into the ground could damage the karst formations, and therefore, damage or contaminate their private wells fed by the karst aquifer. Many local government officials also voiced opposition to the project.

The OPSB agreed, finding “insufficient evidence to determine that the project could be built without harming the environment and properly serving the public interest.” The application was denied June 24.

Republic Wind has 30 days to appeal the decision. Carr said they would be appealing immediately.

“The project has a tremendous amount of support with more than 200 participating landowners, and the fact that a vocal minority of wind opponents could influence the OPSB in this manner certainly makes us wonder if a backroom political deal has been struck,” Carr said.

Other projects approved

The OPSB approved three other renewable energy projects during its June 24 meeting: Angelina Solar and Alamo Solar, in Preble County, and Emerson Creek Wind, in Erie and Huron counties.

Angelina Solar is a 80-MW project that will sit on about 827 acres in Israel and Dixon townships. Alamo solar is a 70-MW project that will sit on about 919 acres in Gasper and Washington townships.

Emerson Creek is a 297-MW wind farm in Groton and Oxford townships, in Erie County, and Lyme, Norwich, Richmond, Ridgefield and Sherman townships, in Huron County. The board modified the agreement to remove eight turbines that were planned to sit on suspected karst formations. The project, also developed by Apex Clean Energy, will include up to 71 turbines on about 32,000 acres of leased land.

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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