Overruling the legal objections of neighboring residents, the Ohio Supreme Court voted 5-2 today to uphold a state permit to construct a 52-turbine wind farm in Champaign County.
The decision by the Ohio Power Siting Board to approve the electrical-generating facility on 13,500 acres of leased land was not illegal or unreasonable, the court found in its opinion.
Neighbors and county and township officials had argued the wind farm would improperly generate too much noise and that property-line setbacks were insufficient to protect the public if a turbine blade failed and went flying.
In the majority opinion, Justice Judith L. French wrote that the Power Siting Board was in the best position to hear the dispute between Champaign Wind LLC and local government officials and residents. The board considered all arguments, with “ample evidence” supporting the board's approval of the wind farm, she wrote.
In her dissent, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy wrote that the court disregarded evidence of a “blade throw” at a Paulding County wind farm in 2012 in which part of a 6.5-pound chunk of a failed turbine blade flew 764 feet.
Opponents of the wind farm argued that the property-line setback should have been more than tripled to 1,640 feet to protect neighboring residents from blade disintegrations.
The setbacks approved by state regulators are insufficient to protect the public, Kennedy wrote. She said the board also used an unsuitable method to calculate noise from the turbines. Justice Paul E. Pfeifer joined her dissent.
Earlier in 2012, the court upheld approval of a permit for the first phase of the Buckeye Wind Farm in Champaign County. Amid abundant energy supplies, construction of the wind farm has not yet started.
Wind farm operators are favoring counties northwest of Columbus for installation of the 550-foot-tall turbines due to the area’s high elevation and brisk winds.