COLUMBUS — The Ohio Power Siting Board now must decide whether the local 300-megawatt Scioto Ridge Wind Farm will move forward after a Wednesday hearing.
The board, which is an arm of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, conducted an evidentiary hearing in Columbus regarding Everpower’s application to install up to 176 wind turbines in Richland and Rushcreek townships in northern Logan County and McDonald, Taylor Creek and Roundhead townships in southern Hardin County.
While the hearing was open to the public, only Everpower’s legal representatives and those who had filed as interveners, which included Belle Center area resident Joseph Grant and the Ohio Farm Bureau, were allowed to present evidence at the hearing.
The testimony presented by residents and other interested parties at the public hearing conducted in Kenton two weeks ago was submitted as part of the record for Wednesday’s legal hearing. Those comments will be considered when the siting board makes its final decision, which will likely come sometime this spring.
Several local residents, including Grant and Michael Shepherd, attended and considered the hearing a formality.
“It went about like we expected it to; it was an exercise in futility,” Shepherd said Wednesday evening. “We knew what we had to say they wouldn’t take seriously.”
The residents, however, used Grant’s position as an intervener to raise concerns ranging from noise, aviation issues, blade shear, ice throw and the right to peacefully enjoy one’s own property.
“I asked a bunch of questions,” Grant said. “I’m not too sure how much difference it will make with the power siting board, but we’ll see.”
Jason Dagger, Everpower’s project development manager, said the hearing allowed the company to address concerns raised throughout the public input phase.
“Basically, a lot of procedural matters were dealt with; Everpower, the Farm Bureau and the one remaining intervener presented testimony to support the record in the case and ask any questions,” Dagger said. “Hopefully we provided the answers to the questions they had.”
While a decision from the siting board to allow the project to move forward could come as early as this spring, Dagger said construction is still a long way off.
“We will continue to define the project and work on some of the more finite engineering details before we begin construction, which won’t be any time in the immediate future,” he said.
“Realistically, we’re looking at construction beginning in 2015 or later. Typical construction of a project this size is 12 months to 18 months, but it all depends on the turbine model we select, when it can be shipped and a host of other factors.”
While many details remain to be finalized, Dagger said he believes the project and its planners were thorough in the analysis of the proposal.
“We take a lot of pride in the fact that we’ve provided a lot of on-the-ground study data over the four-year study period,” he said.
In taking their crusade a step further, Shepherd and Zanesfield area wind opponent Tom Stacy also attended and testified at a hearing of the Senate’s committee on public utilities, which is considering a bill to repeal the law that requires energy suppliers to buy a certain percentage of the energy they sell to consumers from renewable energy sources.
That particular requirement is a major motivating factor behind wind developers’ plans to build turbines in Ohio, Stacy and Shepherd said.
“Looking at it from the standpoint that we’re obviously not going to get anywhere with the Public Utilities Commission, we started looking at local and state government,” Shepherd said.
“If the law is the thing tying the hands of the Public Utilities Commission, let’s look at the law. If that (law) is drawing wind projects all over the state, let’s look at repealing it and starting over with some real solutions that make real sense.”
In his testimony before the Senate committee, Shepherd said he focused on the “collateral damage” caused by projects like the Scioto Ridge proposal.
“The very cut here is the human impact – the unintended consequences the Legislature didn’t take into account when they put this law into effect,” he said.
The Senate has scheduled further hearings on the legislation, which demonstrates the body’s intent to seriously consider repealing the renewable energy requirement, Stacy noted.
Shepherd, on the other hand, said he was disappointed that Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, whose district includes all of Hardin County and the affected portion of Logan County, left after about 45 minutes into the two-hour hearing.
“It was just eye-opening to see how the system works,” Shepherd said.
By REUBEN MEES
Examiner Staff Writer