- By Matt Sanctis Staff Writer
The company seeking to build two wind farms in Champaign County will begin construction on another set of turbines further north that will provide energy to Amazon data centers.
Everpower Wind Holdings announced the deal with Amazon Web Services this week for its 189-megawatt wind farm in Hardin County, previously known as the Scioto Ridge Project. It’s expected to be completed by the end of next year and will now be called the Amazon Wind Farm US Central 2.
Everpower is expected to invest $300 million to build the wind project, which would be the biggest investment in the county’s history, Hardin County Commissioner Brice Beaman said.
The 86-turbine wind farm will be Everpower’s first operational wind project in Ohio. The company is also developing the Buckeye Wind Farm in Champaign County, although that project has drawn stiff opposition from many neighbors and remains tied up in a lengthy legal battle.
“We’re very excited about having this offtake with Amazon Web Services and being able to construct this facility,” said Katie Bellezza, chief communication officer for Everpower, based in Pittsburgh.
But Tom Stacy, an opponent of wind energy who tracks projects across the state, argued wind is too unpredictable to provide power to data centers like those being built by Amazon. Because energy produced by the turbines is intermittent, for example, he argued it’s unreliable and harder to store on the grid compared to conventional power.
“It’s just smoke and mirrors to make Amazon feel good,” Stacy said.
Officials from Amazon didn’t return a call seeking comment. A news release from the company notes Everpower would build, own and operate the wind farm.
The Hardin County project would be Amazon’s second power purchase agreement for an Ohio wind farm. The company also has an agreement to purchase energy from its Amazon Wind Farm US Central Project in Paulding County, which will start producing power in May.
“We remain committed to achieving our long-term goal of powering the AWS Cloud with 100 percent renewable energy,” said Peter DeSantis, Amazon vice president of infrastructure in a statement.
The newest project will be Amazon’s fifth renewable energy project in the U.S. Once complete, it will provide energy to the electric grid powering data centers in Ohio and Virginia. The company’s five renewable projects combined will generate enough energy to power about 200,000 U.S. homes.
The Hardin County wind farm will create between 8 and 10 full-time jobs once construction is complete, according to information from Everpower. More than 100 full- and part-time workers will be needed during construction.
Officials from Everpower said the wind farm will contribute about $1.7 million annually to schools and local governments in Hardin County.
Everpower would need to reach a similar power purchase agreement with a corporate customer or a utility before the Buckeye project could move forward, Bellezza said. The Champaign County project isn’t expected to tie into Everpower’s agreement with Amazon, she said.
“We have been talking to potential buyers but nothing that we can share at this stage,” Bellezza said of the Buckeye Wind project.
The Buckeye Project has been tied up in a legal battles for years, and has divided the community. Residents opposed to the project have said it would be too close to homes, create noise and harm property values. The dispute has led to legal battles decided at the Ohio Supreme Court, but justices have ruled in favor of the wind developers each time.
One legal challenge is still pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. State officials approved a request from Everpower to extend a deadline to construct the first phase of the project. But Union Neighbors United, a group of residents opposed to the project, have appealed that decision.
There has been some opposition to the project in Hardin County as well, but the project itself has been approved by state officials since 2014, Beaman said.
“These projects have been in the pipeline for a long time and the only thing holding them back was some place to sell their power,” Beaman said. “They finally have landed this with Amazon and they’re permitted with the Ohio Power Siting Board. They have the right to move forward with their projects, understanding there are people that don’t necessarily appreciate them or want them in their neighborhoods.”
Hardin County is one of several counties in Ohio that has been declared an Alternative Energy Zone under a previous state law. Counties in the zone have approved a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, which reduces the tax burden for qualifying renewable energy projects.