Wind farm approval recommended

Opponents vow to challenge plans in court.

Opponents of a $55 million wind turbine project in Champaign County declared they would challenge the plans in court, mere hours after a state report recommended approving the 56 turbines.

The Ohio Power Siting Board staff report calls for the siting board to approve the Buckeye II Wind Farm proposed for 13,500 acres between Urbana and Mechanicsburg with three adjustments — relocate or re-size two turbines, install ice safety equipment on all of them, and come up with a system to turn off the rotors quickly if a medical helicopter needs to fly into the area.

The staff report also found that, if built, the wind farm would create 598 jobs during construction, 38 jobs in the long term and increase local taxes between $840,000 and $1.26 million annually.

The Champaign County landowners who challenged the first phase of the Buckeye Wind Farm in the Ohio Supreme Court promised Thursday another legal battle over the second phase.

Said Union Neighbors United lawyer Jack Van Kley: “I think you can count on it.”

Steve Irwin of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the siting board’s parent agency, said the three adjustments requested aren’t major.

“There’s definitely mitigation for certain effects,” he said.

Nor did Jason Dagger of developer Champaign Wind LLC see any major obstacles in the recommendations.

“There are some things we have questions about,” he said, “but I don’t think there’s anything that’s prohibitive.”

Van Kley said his clients see major problems.

Because the territories of the two wind farms overlap, “all the dangers and harms from these wind turbines are going to be magnified,” he said.

“The same people are going to hear the noise from both wind projects; the same people are going to be afflicted with the sight of those towering turbines over their homes, shadow flicker, etc.,” he said.

“I’m a little shocked that the board’s staff would acquiesce in that scheme,” Van Kley said.

Champaign County residents can have their say about the proposal at a 6 p.m. Oct. 25 hearing at Triad High School. The scene then will shift to PUCO offices in Columbus on Nov. 8, for an adjudicatory hearing. Following that hearing, an administrative judge will make a recommendation to the PUCO board, which will approve or reject the application.

The local wind projects are backed by Everpower, a New York-based wind power company. Its first Buckeye Wind Farm narrowly cleared a final hurdle this spring when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the siting board had met its responsibility to protect the public and properly locate the facility.

On the Buckeye Wind Farm II project, the staff report recommended the siting board require the developer to:

• Resize or relocate turbines 87 and 91 to increase their setbacks from natural gas pipelines.

• Include automatic shut off devices or other systems to keep falling ice from creating a safety hazard.

• Submit within 30 days after construction a plan to “assure immediate shut downs of any portion of the facility necessary to allow direct routes for emergency life flight services.”

• Limit to 30 hours a year the amount of time residents who are gaining no financial benefit from the project are exposed to the moving shadows of the blades.

The state report found that the Buckeye Wind Farm II project would:

• Pay local residents about $975,000 annually in lease payments.

• Create 38 new full-time jobs in the long run, adding $1.8 million annually in wages and salaries.

• Create 598 full-time jobs during a year of construction, generating $4.9 million in wages and salaries.

• Increase local taxes between $840,000 and $1.26 million annually. The company’s latest analysis says nearly 26 percent of the revenue would go to Champaign County; about 10 percent to affected townships and nearly 64 percent to local schools.

• Produce 235,000 to 429,000 megawatts of electricity a year for transmission over Dayton Power & Light lines.

• Use up to six different models of turbines from 476 feet to 492 feet tall.

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