Ohio Power Siting Board approves construction of Champaign County wind farm (135 MW)

The wind energy facility will include more than 50 wind turbines and related infrastructure generating a combined capacity of up to 135 megawatts.

“Once constructed, the Buckeye Wind Farm will be among the first of its kind in Ohio,” said OPSB Chairman Alan R. Schriber. “The wind power project will generate clean, renewable electricity for Ohio and help the state meet its new alternative energy portfolio standard.”

The OPSB evaluated the company’s proposal, the comments and testimony of the public and interveners, and authorized construction of up to 54 turbines. The Board denied the siting of16 turbines proposed near Champaign County’s airports as they present a potential hazard to aviation according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The OPSB set additional conditions that the company must follow to address the environmental and social impacts of the project. These conditions include:

* Buckeye cannot construct wind turbines number 57 and 70 unless the company modifies their location. As proposed, the two turbine locations do not meet Ohio’s minimum setback requirements.
* Buckeye must establish an informal process to receive project-related complaints from the public, including but not limited to the topics of noise and shadow flicker. The OPSB staff must receive notification of all complaints. Turbines are subject to review, and possible removal, if they exceed 30 hours per year of shadow flicker.
* Buckeye must meet all federal and state requirements for construction of turbines that may affect navigable airspace, radar or communications. If it is determined that an individual turbine negatively impacts radar or communications facilities, Buckeye must mitigate the effects.
* Buckeye must repair damage to agricultural land, including field tile.
* Buckeye must provide local fire and emergency response personnel with turbine layout maps, tower diagrams and safety manuals.
* Buckeye must decommission the facility, or individual turbines, at its own expense.
* Buckeye must promptly repair all impacted roads and bridges following construction and decommissioning. The company must secure a road bond through the Champaign County Engineer’s Office to provide adequate funds to make the repairs.

In April 2009, Buckeye filed an application with the OPSB for a certificate to construct a wind farm in Champaign County. The company’s proposal consisted of 70 wind turbines, an electric substation, electric lines and miles of access roads spread over approximately 9,000 privately leased acres in six townships.

In October 2009, following an investigation of the company’s application, OPSB staff filed a report recommending that the Board authorize construction of the facility subject to certain conditions. Several parties formally intervened in the case, including Union Neighbors United, the Champaign County Commissioners and six township boards of trustees, the city of Urbana, the Piqua Shawnee Tribe, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Champaign Telephone Company and the Urbana Country Club.

At a local public hearing held in North Lewisburg, 46 witnesses provided evenly divided testimony about the project. Hundreds of other citizens contacted the Board by mail. Supporters emphasized the potential economic benefits of the project and the environmental benefits of wind energy. Opponents expressed concerns about potential negative consequences including noise and shadow flicker, obstructions to aviation and impacts to wildlife and aesthetics.

Buckeye plans to begin construction of the wind farm later this year and place the facility in service by the end of 2011. The wind farm will connect to the Urbana-Mechanicsburg-Darby 138 kilovolt electric transmission line that crosses the project area. Depending upon which turbine model the company selects, each turbine will measure approximately 500 feet from the ground to tip of the blade at its highest position.

Under Ohio’s alternative energy portfolio standard, by 2025, 25 percent of electricity sold in Ohio must be generated from alternative energy sources. At least half of this energy must come from renewable energy sources, including wind, and one half of the renewable energy facilities must be located in Ohio

The OPSB reviews applications for construction of large electric and natural gas facilities in Ohio. The 11-member board is comprised of representatives of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the state departments of Development, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Health, the Ohio General Assembly, and the public. The Chairman of the PUCO also chairs the OPSB.