Champaign County citizens had the opportunity on Thursday, Feb. 7 to ask questions and hear updates about the Buckeye Wind project.
Jason Dagger of Innogy spoke about Ohio wind energy projects as part of the Champaign County Agricultural Association’s Winter Speaker Series. The event was held at the Champaign County Community Center. During the event, Dagger discussed the amended Buckeye Wind project, which now includes 30 to 50 wind turbines in Champaign County, most of them north of U.S. Route 36.
“This project is very unique. It’s unique because it’s the first (wind project) sited in the state,” said Dagger, Innogy project manager. “It’s unique because it probably has the highest wind performance in the state, arguably because we sit on a glaciated ridge. We have available transmission — that’s unique.”
Innogy, a large German utility, acquired EverPower in June 2018 from parent company Terra Firma. The company has about 1,900 employees and is acquiring several wind energy projects throughout Ohio.
Dagger noted that the United Kingdom is 20 to 25 years ahead of the United States in terms of wind energy.
A citizen at the meeting asked Dagger about the political challenges regarding the Buckeye Wind project, saying “Is this going to happen or not?”
Construction of the Buckeye Wind farm, a $300 million project, will begin later this spring, according to Dagger, and full construction will commence in 2020.
However, political and public resistance among Champaign County citizens have caused delays for the Buckeye Wind project since it was first introduced at the state level nearly 10 years ago. Construction was meant to begin much sooner, but has been delayed due to opposition from various affected parties as well as a local citizens group. These delays have included appeals. The first was filed by a local citizens group known as Union Neighbors United and the other was filed by Champaign County, Goshen Township, Salem Township and Union Township. The case later moved to the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld the approval provided by Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB).
“Litigation is certainly challenging,” said Dagger. “We, as a company, this is an asset to us … (but) we certainly understand the downside of it.”
Phase I of the project received approval from the OPSB in March of 2010. Phase II with 56 turbines was approved in 2013. In late December 2017, EverPower filed with the OPSB for an amended certificate that combines the two project phases – Buckeye Wind I and II – previously approved by the OPSB, but reduces by more than half the number of wind turbines that could be constructed. The amendment includes updates to collection lines, access roads and newer turbine models, which Dagger said are quieter.
“We’re at the Ohio Power Siting Board’s mercy,” said Dagger. The amendment also caps the total wattage to 100 megwatts for the Champaign County project.
“We have not made any definitive decisions on PILOT versus non-PILOT with the Buckeye project,” said Dagger. PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, is a payment made to compensate a government for some or all of the property tax revenue lost due to tax exempt ownership or use of real property. A PILOT application would be filed with the Champaign County Commissioners because it covers local taxation.
Dagger said Innogy does not yet know which model of turbines will be used.
“In 2006 there were only four wind turbines in Ohio,” said Dagger, adding they were located in Bowling Green. Currently Ohio has 729 megawatts on operating wind farms. Dagger said that during the next 24 months, Ohio will see about 500 more megawatts come online. During the last yearly quarter of 2018, 47 new wind projects were implemented in Ohio, and 5,944 throughout 17 states.
“The other challenge is that the legislature has put in setback requirements that basically have stopped any future wind development,” said Dagger. “There’s not a lot of projects that can come on and can meet the demands that are out there in the marketplace. That’s why (the Buckeye Wind Farm project) has life left in it.” Setbacks define how close turbines can be sited next to adjacent inhabited structures and neighboring property lines.
A citizen at the meeting was concerned about the length of the turbine blades and how close they reach toward the ground. Dagger assured the citizen that the blade tips’ ends will be 160-200 feet above the ground.
Innogy is operating under a power purchase agreement (PPA), or electricity power agreement. A PPA is a contract between two parties, one which generates electricity and one which is looking to purchase electricity. No specifics are yet available about the purchasing party involved in the Buckeye Wind project.
Solar vs wind
One meeting attendee asked Dagger if solar or wind is more economical. Dagger said that wind is still more economical, but solar is catching up.
“You’re going to see a lot of growth with solar energy in the next three to five years,” said Dagger.
Dagger said there’s a limiting factor for solar, but “there’s not an answer whether it makes more sense to use solar,” answering the citizens’ question directly if it would make more sense to use solar instead of wind energy.
“Today it’s still wind. Five years ago it was clearly wind,” said Dagger, adding that new solar technologies are being developed. Eight acres of flat land are needed for one solar megawatt, while half an acre is needed for one wind megawatt.
“There’s a couple things with solar that limit us a lot. We’re still in the northern hemisphere and the farther north you go, the less sun you get in the year. The answer’s not there completely today, to say which is going to be better. I can tell you technology has gotten better with solar, as has wind” said Dagger.
Other wind farms in Ohio, besides Buckeye Project
Regarding Scioto Ridge Wind Farm in Hardin and Logan counties, which will include 76 wind turbines, Dagger said that Innogy started “pushing dirt” on that project in December 2018 and will start full construction in the fall of 2020.
Scioto Ridge will include about 250 wind turbines. Construction is set to begin this year. Hardin County approved PILOT for turbines sited in that county. In Logan County, turbine construction will begin without PILOT after commissioners there rejected it.
There are also two privately-operating wind turbines at Honda Transmission Plant in Logan County.
This event was part of the Champaign County Agricultural Association’s winter speaker series, which has several other events planned in early 2019.
Agriculturists and community members are invited to the Champaign County Community Center at 11 a.m. for another event, March 7 with details to be determined.
For more information about the speaker series or other educational events, please contact OSU’s agriculture and natural resource extension educator, Amanda Douridas, at Douridas.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 937-484-1526.