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When plans were approved in 2010 for two major wind farms to begin construction of turbines in Hardin County, they were expected to be operating in 2011, but there are no blades turning in 2012. In fact, there are no bases poured or access roads constructed.
The delay couldn’t be the weather, area residents reasoned. So what is the delay?
Representatives for Invenergy, who proposes to bring more than 200 turbines to the county and Juwi Wind, who proposes another 100 units, say their projects are stalled, but still alive.
There is concern the federal government may not renew the Production Tax Credit that renewable energy developers count on financially, said Nazre Adum, Director of Business Development at Invenergy.
“The whole renewable energy industry is working hard at lobbying for the renewal,” said Adum.
Recent developments have indicated the credit will be approved for a limited amount of time, he continued, but won’t be made permanent. There are other issues which have priority in Washington during an election year, said Adum.
But the stalled renewal isn’t the major hurdle for Juwi Wind, said Aaron Peterson, Director of Communications.
“It doesn’t shut everything down,” he said.
His company is seeking a long-term agreement with a purchaser of the energy to be produced by the turbines, said Peterson. Once a 20-25-year purchase agreement can be reached, Juwi plans to proceed in Hardin County, he said.
“Nothing is on hold. Everything is lined up,” said Peterson. “But I would hate to put a date out there. That would be a little tough.”
Invenergy, too, is negotiating with a buyer for the power it will generate at the wind farm, said Adum. He is confident a long-term agreement will soon be secured.
“By no means should the county think we are not doing anything,” said Adum. “At this point in time, we are not ready for a groundbreaking. That could be later this year or could be next year. We are not going to walk away from this project … We have been in Hardin County since 2007 and have spent millions of dollars in payments to land owners and for studies to be done.”
Tax credit or no tax credit, said Adum, Invenergy plans to proceed with plans to build a wind farm in the county.
His optimism wouldn’t be possible without the work of Ohio Senator Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, and his fight to keep the wind farm development plans alive.
“Senator Hite is a champion of renewable energy and has helped not only in Hardin County, but with renewable energy throughout the state,” said Adum.
Hite said Thursday the Senate has passed an energy bill which is now being considered by the House. The bill separates energy projects into energy effective, such as natural gas development and renewable energy, including wind.
The benefit of the bill, said Hite, is renewable energy will be in a different “sandbox” than companies developing natural gas projects. Without the division into categories, he continued, the wind projects would be “squashed by other entities.”
Ohio, Hite continued, has set a benchmark that says 12.5 percent of its energy will come from a renewable source by 2025. Originally, he continued, a deadline of 2012 was set for those projects to be underway. That has been extended to 2014, but any hope of a further extension of the state subsidies for state projects such as wind beyond that deadline is unlikely, he said.
“I believe that’s when they will end,” said Hite. “I don’t think we will see many wind projects after 2014.”
There are those, said Hite, who argue the energy businesses should not be divided into categories and the state should support the strongest option who emerges from the struggle. Hite disagrees with that premise.
“We don’t know what we will need in energy ten years from now,” he said. “We may need more wind energy projects. If we start picking winners and losers in this, we are making a mistake.”
A third wind farm developer, EverPower, is not intimidated by the tax credit stall. Jason Dagger, of EverPower, said Thursday the company has completed its application to the Ohio Power Siting Board this week for its Buckeye Wind Farm, located between Urbana and West Liberty. Now, said Dagger, the company will focus on its Hardin County project, which includes 60 turbines along the Hardin-Logan county border.
“Hardin County has been on idle while we were moving with the Buckeye farm,” said Dagger. “But we are gearing up for the Hardin project as we speak.”
It would be nice, said Dagger, to have the assurance of the tax credits being available for their plans, but they are not letting the uncertainty stand in the way of the company’s plans.
“There is a lot to do with that project this summer ,” said Dagger of the local development. “We can’t let the tax credits stop us. We are excited about Hardin County … Everyone there is very positive and that’s what we like to see. I can’t speak highly enough of the Hardin County project. It will be a great asset for us.”
Director of Economic Development John Hohn said the Chamber and Business Alliance remains patient and optimistic the county will soon see turbines springing up on its horizon.
“We are hoping for the best,” said Hohn. “When this happens, it will be a good thing for everyone in Hardin County.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer