Transmission or Ohio
Wind turbines will generate more than electricity in Morrow County if efforts to win the business of alternative energy companies succeed as local officials hope they will.
Responding to interest expressed by companies in erecting wind turbines in northern Morrow County, the county board of commissioners recently added zoning regulations for the machines, which typically sit atop 200-to-300-foot-plus towers, said Pat Davies, the county's director of operations. ...Of primary concern for the commissioners was making sure setback regulations from public roads and occupied dwellings protected the county's residents and infrastructure, he said.
The debate continues on the U.S. side of Lake Erie over what the new energy mix should look like.
In Canada, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's administration has shown a strong preference for hydroelectric power and wind power. ...But Gail Krantzberg, a former Canadian chair of the International Joint Commission who's now director of McMaster University's Center for Engineering and Public Policy, said the McGuinty administration may have to buy dirty energy produced by coal-fired power plants in the Ohio Valley if it can't find enough viable ways to make up the difference.
Wind, by its nature, can only be a supplemental source of power because it takes steady breezes to spin the turbine blades.
On May first, 2008 Governor Strickland signed a new energy and utility bill into law. Among other things, the bill established the long-awaited Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard - legislation requiring that by the year 2025, 12.5 percent of the state's power come from renewable technologies like wind or solar. But the bill's language is murky, and as ideastream's Gretchen Cuda explains, not everyone thinks it's a victory for green energy. ...An amendment to the bill says that if the cost of renewable energy increases overall rates by 3 percent or more, companies are off the hook for meeting the 12.5 percent renewable requirement. Ken Silliman is chief of Chief of Staff to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. He says that could become a major setback.
After nearly eight months of meetings and discussion, the Champaign County Wind Turbine Study Group issued a report Wednesday outlining the results of the group's research and analysis of 14 issues related to the potential for wind power development locally. ..."There's a great deal of information in the report and new information is becoming available every day," she said. "It's very comprehensive."
The study group was able to make recommendations to assist government agencies, but had no authority to tackle topics such as zoning, which is the domain of the townships.
But the scope of wind energy development in Ohio is far from certain, Shanahan said. What developers say and do are sometimes two different things, and a lot of details still need to be hashed out. For one, projects exceeding 50 megawatts will have to be approved by the Ohio Siting Board, which has experience with a single power plant, but not with 70 to 100 turbines spread over a wide geographic area.
Turbines must be well-spaced to ensure, among other things, that they don't steal wind from each other. And the electrical cables from each turbine must be tied into a nearby transmission line. ...There are also local zoning issues.
A group of Jefferson Township residents have filed an appeal against the township zoning appeals board's decision to allow a meteorological tower on the property of Ralph and Rick Amerine.
The board of zoning appeals decided the issue April 30, but cited no clear reason why they believed Mr. Amerine and his representative, Roger Brown, should be allowed to construct the wind measurement towers.
At the conclusion of a somewhat heated 90- minute hearing, the Jefferson Township Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved a variance request by Ralph and Rick Amerine to install a 200-foot tower that collects wind data along Township Road 127. The towers are a preliminary step before siting of wind turbines can occur in the township.
A similar request by State Route 540 property owner Roger Brown was postponed for two weeks so BZA members can talk with the Logan County Prosecutor's Office to decide if they need to notify property owners whose land does not touch the parcel in question but abuts other parcels owned by Mr. Brown. ...Their decision came after several residents cited concerns, specifically that some residents around the two properties had not received notification; the proponents had not adequately demonstrated a need to install towers; applications were incomplete and existing court rulings state approving such variances is beyond a zoning appeals board's authority.
''Ohio definitely has a lot of potential,'' said aycox, ''especially along the lake.''
According to Jaycox, Cuyahoga County is evaluating the possibility of installing turbines in the lake, as California has in the ocean.
''The only issue with the Great Lakes is that they do freeze,'' said Richard Stuebi of the Cleveland Foundation. Stuebi, however, didn't think the obstacle was insurmountable, as he stated, ''We're pretty confident that designs and technology can accommodate the icing.''
The lake, despite the ice, does have some advantages over oceanic sites. When compared to the ocean, Lake Erie has no waves or salinity. Stuebi also pointed out that the lake is considerably shallow compared to an ocean.
Local officials are also excited about the considerable potential of the winds coming inland off the lake.
A report released by the Ohio Department of Health this week does not go far enough in investigating and analyzing the potential health impacts of wind turbines on nearby residents, according to some local residents and an acoustical consultant familiar with the local effort to develop wind turbines. ...Residents who believe more study needs to be done before construction begins on wind turbines cite the research of several people - including Nina Pierpont, a medical doctor who is conducting scientific noise and health studies, and acoustical consultants like Rick James of Okemos, Mich., who have done studies at several existing wind farms and proposed sites.
"The report is merely a report on the readily available information," Monroe Township resident Mary Ann Hartzler said. "The studies reported were not performed by medical doctors. ...Mr. [Richard] James said he sees the report as an attempt to make residents feel better about a foregone conclusion that wind turbines will be better in the state.
"They (state officials) wanted wind farms and they were going to put out documents to support it," he said. "I don't see any real effort on the part of the people to put together an authoritative report."
Gov. Ted Strickland next week is expected to sign a compromise electric energy bill that backers say will protect consumers, create jobs and expand the use of renewable energy sources such as solar power. ...While nobody predicted the legislation would lower electric bills, a key goal is to prevent big price spikes that have occurred in other states that deregulated the electric energy market as Ohio did in 1999. ...The bill also requires that 25 percent of Ohio's electricity be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025 and creates an energy efficiency standard that requires utilities to meet a cumulative 22 percent standard by reducing usage.
After months of talk, hours of committee testimony, more than 20 rewrites and untold thousands of dollars spent on a truckload of lobbyists, the House voted 93-1 for Senate Bill 221. The Senate is expected to concur today.
"This bill gives the maximum amount of protection to make sure that energy prices moving forward will remain stable," said House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering.
Strickland said it would be unrealistic to assume that prices won't increase in "very moderate ways." ...The bill also contains key green-energy provisions, requiring that at least 25 percent of electricity generation in Ohio come from renewable or advanced energy sources by 2025
What began with an attempt to work out a compromise electricity regulation bill with Gov. Ted Strickland instead ended with Democrats walking out of House Public Utilities Committee in protest during the wee hours of the morning.
The action drew a sharp contrast to the bipartisanship that has permeated the Statehouse for more than a year. ...Environmental advocates said they were pleased with the bill, which includes benchmarks to ensure that utilities produce at least 25 percent of their power from renewable and advanced energy sources by 2025.
However, advocates were disappointed by an amendment that lets the PUCO reduce energy efficiency benchmarks if they can't be achieved for regulator, economic or technological reasons.
"We're hoping this is an insurance policy that will never be executed," said Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council.
In recent weeks, J.W. Great Lakes Wind has signed long-term deals with an unspecified number of farmers and other landowners for leases to their property so it can erect an unspecified number of turbines.
Peter Endes, the company's project manager, said he's being a bit cryptic at the moment because negotiations are pending.
But he said J.W. Great Lakes Wind likes Seneca County because of its availability of wind and access to the region's electrical grid.
He said the company did "two or three years" of research before entering into negotiations with landowners.
He said it is focused on projects 50 megawatts or greater because they have more viable economies of scale than smaller projects, meaning the cost-per-turbine is less.
And while leasing property doesn't commit his company to actually install turbines, it "wouldn't be at this stage of the game if we didn't have at least some reasonable degree of confidence to go forward with the project," he said.
"We want to brief community leaders and interested citizens on what opportunities are there and how to work effectively with wind turbine developers," Arnold said.
JW Great Lakes Wind of Cleveland, the same company planning a wind farm in Wood County, has been in contact with landowners about lease agreements, he said.
"There's also another development company working with farmers just across the Huron County line," he said.
Union Neighbors United wants to influence local politicians to focus on zoning regulations for alternative energy sources.
Julie Johnson, a member of the group, stressed that they are in favor of alternative energy in general. Members even attended the recent seminar hosted by individuals from C.A.R.E., she said.
Johnson said the group simply want local officials to be careful when creating zoning regulations for alternative energy sources. Zoning has been the focus of the group, she said. Organizers in Union Neighbors United were able to place a referendum on November's ballot challenging the townships's zoning regulations.
C.A.R.E. and Union Neighbors United plan to continue focusing attention on their issues as similar proposals move forward in the county.
Building turbines in some of the best places to harvest wind in Ohio could put millions of birds and bats -- some protected by state and federal law -- at risk.
That's why the state is asking companies to sign voluntary agreements to study the risk before and after wind farms are built. And if the companies follow the rules, neither Ohio nor the feds will shut down turbines, even if thousands of animals are killed.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently sent agreements to 10 developers, and hired a wildlife biologist last week to draft rules that the companies would have to follow to limit harm. ...The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said it expects to join in the state's voluntary agreement as well.
"We would agree to work cooperatively with (companies) and not necessarily pursue court action if wildlife species are taken," said Megan Seymour, a wildlife biologist at the agency's Ohio field office.
A wildlife biologist whose area of expertise is bat and bird activity, has joined the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to study the effects of wind turbines on native and migrating wildlife, especially in the Lake Erie Basin.
Keith DeWitt Lott will study the impact that the rotating blades of wind turbines have on the 300 species of birds and nine species of bats found in the state.
"As Ohio moves into the realm of wind-based energy, it's important that we do so in a socially and environmentally responsible way," said ODNR Director Sean D. Logan in a news release.
So maybe, some local officials say, before the towering turbines consume Ohio's landscape, guidelines will be established to help decide where they should go.
"It feels like we've been down this road before," said Morrow County Commissioner Richard Miller.
His board recently approved zoning guidelines for wind turbines, which can be up to 400 feet tall. He said Morrow County planners researched regulations in other states to come up with a blueprint.
Miller likened the growing debate over placement of the turbines to the cellular-tower issues in the late 1980s and early '90s. Then, local officials across Ohio found themselves in the middle of disputes between property owners and wondering what they could do to control where the cell towers could go, he said. Some disputes ended up in court.
Miller said windmills should be handled differently.
Can wind power and wildlife co-exist in northwest Ohio?
That debate won't be settled in this or in any other part of the country soon.
But starting Tuesday night, a series of five public outreach meetings begins that should at least give residents of Erie, Lorain, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Lucas counties a chance to speak up and learn more about the issue.
Right now, wind power is kind of like an unexpected gift: nice, but not something you can count on all the time.
Wind, like other forms of renewable energy, is not a baseload source of energy. Baseload sources are those, such as coal-fired or nuclear power, that can be relied upon 24 hours a day.
High winds and ice Tuesday are partially to blame for knocking an approximately 20-foot section from the top of a 160-foot Monroe Township meteorological tower, raising concerns among area residents about what could happen to a wind turbine in the event of a more serious ice storm.
“Wind Truth Alliance questions why a wind company would erect a structure that cannot withstand Ohio weather,” Linda Hughes of the organization wrote in a prepared statement. “If wind turbines are to be built in Logan County, what will protect residents from the impact of the recent ice storm and more severe ice storms, such as the one in 2005?”