The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said June 16 that $2.5bn of wind energy projects now face “cancellation” due to a modification in Ohio’s wind turbine setback standard allowed to become law by Gov. John Kasich (R).
Kasich on June 16 signed the state’s budget, House Bill 483, without vetoing a last-minute insertion that requires wind turbines to be at least 1,300 feet from the nearest property line instead of the nearest house.
Just days earlier, Ohio became the first state to slow down its clean energy progress with Kasich’s signing of Senate Bill 310, which freezes the state’s renewable electricity standard for two years, AWEA said.
“Gov. Kasich has walked away from his commitment to renewable energy. He and the Legislature are creating an unfriendly business environment in Ohio,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan.
The AWEA chief said that restrictions on the wind industry in Ohio are being passed “without due process” and renewable developers might soon be looking elsewhere.
Ohio ranks first in the nation for the number of wind energy manufacturing facilities with more than 60 in the state. Yet there was no opportunity for the regulators at the Ohio Power Siting Board, nor a single wind company operating or developing in Ohio, to comment or provide testimony on this matter during its short one-week consideration in the General Assembly, AWEA said.
Ohio had already required that wind turbines be located at least 1,300 feet from the nearest inhabited residence, among the most restrictive policies in America. The change to the nearest property line was added to the state budget bill only after all public debate had already ended.
This new requirement “appears designed to make the construction of utility-scale wind farms commercially unviable,” Gabriel Alonso, CEO of EDP Renewables North America, wrote in a June 4 letter to Gov. Kasich. He said his company’s Timber Road project represents a $200m investment in Paulding County.
The expanded setback requirement, however, drew praise from a group called the WindAction Group, which is a frequent critic of utility-scale wind power development.
In an editorial posted on its website June 16, WindAction said that until now Ohio’s setback requirements did not adequately protect neighboring property owners in rural areas.
“Measuring setbacks from neighboring residences results in the uncompensated taking of property, because neighbors’ land is not protected from the intrusion of wind turbine project hazards such as ice throw, thrown blade fragments, noise and vibrations, and flickering shadows,” the group said.
“Today Ohio Governor Kasich has restored the balance of power to rural citizens and communities by requiring setbacks to be measured from property lines, not nearby residences. If a wind developer wants to locate turbines closer than the new setback allows, the developer must negotiate easements and compensate rural landowners for the intrusion of wind turbine project impacts,” WindAction said.