Library from Ohio
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.
The truth, never denied but certainly understated, is that power from renewable sources probably will cost more, not less. Still, the environmental and health costs posed by conventional generating fuels could drop as renew- able-energy production rises. ...The bill creates an Ohio Renewable Energy Authority, guaranteed $102.5 million in public money through mid-2018, possibly much more, through a complicated formula. The agency could spend up to 6 percent of its cash for "administrative purposes." That's a lot of paper clips. The measure would also exempt Renewable Energy Authority money from the General Assembly's budgeting power, removing a crucial Columbus check and balance. Husted said he'd be OK with subjecting the authority to General Assembly budgeting. That's a good start - but just that.
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.
Wind-energy companies have set their sights on Ohio's high ground, so Morrow County commissioners are trying to stay ahead of the game by working out regulations for wind farms before a major controversy blows into town. As more townships and counties consider possible wind-energy developments, state legislators might have to take up the matter in the interest of consistent statewide rules. Officials in Logan and Champaign counties proposed wind-farm rules only after developers had proposed deals to local landowners, and would-be sellers and unhappy neighbors had formed opposing camps. The new rules quickly were challenged by a referendum petition in Logan County by opponents who don't think the rules are restrictive enough. The referendum was ruled off Tuesday's ballot because of a procedural error, but the acrimony isn't likely to fade.
Gov. Ted Strickland is willing to set yearly goals for the use of renewable power sources but he wants to give utilities more time to ease into compliance than lawmakers proposed, his office said Friday. The Democratic governor responded to changes Ohio House Republicans want to make to his sweeping energy plan. He agrees with the House's plan to set strict deadlines for utilities on using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. But Strickland wants the benchmarks to begin in 2015, instead of next year as the House plan specifies.
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?”
As wind turbines become a more popular way to generate electricity for homes and businesses, at least one township in Wood County plans to adopt zoning rules that would regulate their use. The Wood County Planning Commission is scheduled to review amendments to the Milton Township Zoning Resolution tomorrow that would limit the turbines' height, color, and location. It would require a home or business owner to get a permit before installing one and submit an engineering report, site drawing, evidence of a clear fall zone, a maintenance schedule, a dismantling plan, and a list of all public and private airports in the area.
An issue that has been drawing controversy - the development of wind energy in Logan County - will not be decided by voters in Tuesday's election. ...Reames said calling them "farms" is deceptive. "We're not farming anything here," she said. "When you're talking about a 400- or 500-foot machine, you're talking industry." Among opponents' concerns, she said, is safety and allowing the community to have input, which she said they do not have. "These are not even a safe distance from home," she said. "Wind turbine accidents happen around the world."
County commissioners voted unanimously to approve zoning-code changes to regulate where wind turbines, a source of renewable energy, can be built. ... The zoning changes were prompted by interest from outside developers who want to build turbines in Congress and North Bloomfield townships, where zoning is controlled by the county. ...Commissioner Olen Jackson said he and his fellow commissioners support renewable-energy development but wanted to make sure they got the zoning issues sorted out properly because of their experience with the proposed construction- and demolition-debris landfill.
Husted and top GOP House leaders were planning to unveil new legislation today that rewrites -- and beefs up -- renewable energy provisions in the governor's comprehensive utility regulation bill, pending since last fall. The new bill will be sponsored by State Rep. Jim McGregor, a Republican from Gahanna, who earlier introduced a bill requiring utilities to generate 22 percent of their power with wind, solar and other renewable technologies by 2020. They would have had to pay heavy fines if they did not meet a strict time table. The measure stalled, but parts of it are now expected to resurface.
The Morrow County commissioners appear ready to approve regulations to control the placement of wind turbines, a source of green energy that has proved controversial elsewhere in the state. At a hearing yesterday, commissioners discussed changes to the county's zoning regulations that would, among other things, establish a permitting procedure for the wind turbines and, to some degree, control where they could go.