By DENISE GRANT
ADA — There’s a $4.2 billion economic argument to be made for encouraging wind energy in Ohio, and state Sen. Cliff Hite plans to use it to convince Republicans in the Legislature to ease the rules on wind turbine location.
That’s the amount of potential investment in Ohio if the state’s wind turbine setback rules “were reasonable,” Hite, R-Findlay, said Thursday.
He said current law, either “intentionally or unintentionally,” slowed the expansion of wind farms in the state.
In 2014, Hite said, the Ohio General Assembly nearly tripled the required distance between wind turbines and property lines to about 1,300 feet, or nearly a quarter-mile. He said there was no debate or opportunity for public input.
“This setback functions as a moratorium on wind project development,” Hite said. “It prevents businesses with an interest in gaining access to and investing in wind energy in Ohio from doing so.”
On Thursday, Hite announced he will introduce a bill in the Ohio Senate which would reduce required setbacks from property lines by more than half. Hite said the bill already has good support in the Senate, and growing support in the Ohio House.
The announcement was made at EDP Renewables’ Hog Creek Wind Farm on Washington Township Road 20 in Hardin County. EDP Renewables is headquartered in Indianapolis.
When in full operation, the $112 million Hog Creek Wind Farm will consist of 30 wind turbines and will generate enough energy to power more than 19,000 homes. Construction of the turbines should be complete by the end of the year.
The farm will employ seven permanent workers. The median annual salary of a wind technician is $51,500.
The wind farm will pay an estimated $600,000 in local property taxes each year, and pay participating landowners more than $10 million over 30 years.
Hog Creek Wind Farm is a grandfathered development, plotted before the 2014 state restrictions.
In all, EDP Renewables has invested $319 million in Ohio, with two operating wind farms in Paulding County. It paid $4.5 million in taxes to local governments through 2016. More than $6.2 million has been paid to Ohio landowners through 2016.
Hite’s legislation, Senate Bill 188, would move the property line setback to a distance of 1.2 times the height of the turbine, or about 600 feet. That’s about 50 feet further than the original 2010 law. The new rule would also restore a setback from homes of about 1,400 feet, a provision not included in current law.
Hite said in 2010, there were 12 applications for wind farms in Ohio, but since 2014, there have been none.
He said the bill strikes a “proper balance, protecting the rights of both participating and non-participating landowners and will allow responsible wind development to move forward.”
On Thursday, Hite said his work in the Senate is about ensuring a better future for Ohioans, as he held up a picture of his four granddaughters. He said working to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint is the right thing to do, and is not just an issue of “that other party.”
President Barack Obama built nearly $90 billion worth of incentives for green energy development into his economic stimulus plan during his first term.
Conserving the environment, improving the economy, and generating money for government are all conservative ideas, Hite said.
“I think this is a Republican idea,” he said. “Our energy portfolio should be broad.”
Ryan Brown, executive vice president of EDP Renewables North America, Eastern Region and Canada, said his company is eager to make additional investments in Ohio.
“EDP applauds those who are working to ease Ohio’s onerous siting regulations, which, if amended, would encourage more wind development in the state,” Brown said.