Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Element Power still intends to construct Black Fork Wind Farm

Element Power still intends to construct Black Fork Wind Farm 
By Matt Echelberry
Inquirer Reporter
BUCYRUS — Craw­ford County Com­mis­sion­ers met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Ele­ment Power on March 26 to dis­cuss Black Fork Wind Farm, a pro­posed project in which 91 wind tur­bines would be installed. 76 would be located through­out east­ern Craw­ford County, the remain­ing tur­bines would be in Rich­land County. If the project is ever started, it would be the largest wind farm in the state, capa­ble of gen­er­at­ing up to 200 megawatts of power.
Ele­ment Power is a global renew­able energy devel­oper that devel­ops, acquires, builds, owns and oper­ates a port­fo­lio of wind and solar power gen­er­a­tion facil­i­ties world­wide. It is a sub­sidiary of Hud­son Clean Energy Part­ners, founded in 2008 and based in London.
Scott Hawkin from Ele­ment said the Fed­eral tax credit for renew­able energy projects has been extended and they are wait­ing on the specifics from the Inter­nal Rev­enue Service.
Com­mis­sioner Doug Weise­nauer said it was his under­stand­ing that to qual­ify for the exten­sion, con­struc­tion needs to start in 2013.
Hawkin replied that they are still wait­ing on the def­i­n­i­tion as to what qual­i­fies as “con­struc­tion,” whether it is phys­i­cal labor being done or finan­cial commitments.
Before con­struc­tion can begin, how­ever, the Ohio Supreme Court will need to rule in Element’s favor in an appeal case involv­ing the per­mit­ting for Black Fork. Ele­ment filed a project appli­ca­tion with the Ohio Power Sit­ing Board on March 10, 2011. The Board issued a cer­tifi­cate on Jan­u­ary 23, 2012. Oppo­nents to the project filed an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court on May 24, 2012.
We hoped that they would have made a deci­sion by this point,” Hawkin stated. He added that he thinks they will be successful.
Dur­ing the meet­ing, the new project devel­oper for Black Fork was intro­duced: John Knight, direc­tor of devel­op­ment for Ele­ment. His office is in Port­land, Ore. He was also hope­ful the project will move for­ward, say­ing it is “very well-positioned.”
Knight reported that Ele­ment con­tin­ues to work with local offi­cials on the road use agree­ment. Due to the heavy trucks and machin­ery needed for the project, in addi­tion to the hun­dreds of tons in con­struc­tion mate­ri­als, nearby road­ways will be dam­aged. The agree­ment would hold Ele­ment finan­cially account­able to repair those roads.
Mike McBeth, Regional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion exec­u­tive direc­tor, also attended the meet­ing. He advised the rep­re­sen­ta­tives to also keep field drainage in mind. He sug­gested that they work with local farm­ers if the project moves for­ward, because there is a lot of drainage tile in the pro­posed project site.
Knight noted that tile repairs will be included in project financing.
Another key issue dis­cussed was oppo­si­tion from neigh­bors. If one dri­ves through that part of the county, signs are dis­played in many yards that read “No wind tur­bines.” Many oppo­si­tion groups point out that the tow­ers are massive—some more than 400 feet high. The mate­ri­als weigh hun­dreds of tons, so sev­eral acres around each tur­bine need to be cleared.
Knight agreed that there is always some oppo­si­tion to energy projects like this. He said there would be a com­mu­nity meet­ing before con­struc­tion begins (which would take 8–10 months). “A key part of our job is edu­cat­ing the com­mu­nity about this project and what to expect.”
Yet another kink in the project that needs to be resolved is a repeal of the Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dard (see box), which is cur­rently going through the State con­gress. Knight said the repeal would be “dis­as­ter­ous” for Black Fork if it passed.
More on the Renew­able Port­fo­lio Standard:
Ohio law requires elec­tric dis­tri­b­u­tion util­i­ties and elec­tric ser­vices com­pa­nies to secure a por­tion of their elec­tric­ity sup­plies from alter­na­tive energy resources. By the year 2025, 25 per­cent of the elec­tric­ity sold by each com­pany within Ohio must be gen­er­ated from alter­na­tive energy sources.
By 2024, at least 12.5 per­cent must be gen­er­ated from renew­able energy resources, includ­ing wind, solar, hydro­elec­tric, geot­her­mal, etc. At least one half of the renew­able energy used must be gen­er­ated at facil­i­ties located in Ohio.
For more infor­ma­tion, visit the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion of Ohio web­site at www.puco.ohio.gov.