The staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), in its April 4 staff report of investigation filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), recommended that the OPSB find that Paulding Wind Farm III LLC has demonstrated the basis of need for the Timber Road III 138-kV transmission line project in Paulding County, Ohio, provided that any certificate issued by the OPSB include certain conditions.
As noted in the report, the project is associated with the Timber Road I and III wind farm projects and is needed to deliver energy produced by those wind farms to the electric grid through the Timber Road III point of interconnect (POI) switchyard. The OPSB last month approved that switchyard through its automatic approval process, staff added.
The proposed project would install a new 138-kV overhead transmission line between the Timber Road collection station and the Timber Road III POI switchyard. A 150-foot right of way (ROW) would be required for the new line, which would incorporate steel poles for support. Paulding Wind Farm III has indicated that the line will likely enter the POI switchyard from the north at the eastern fence-line, based on engineering considerations, staff added.
For purposes of consistency with OPSB rules and previous staff report, staff noted that it refers in its report to Paulding Wind Farm III’s “primary” route as the “preferred” route.
As proposed, the preferred route would be about 8.5 miles long, and Paulding Wind Farm III estimates that that route would require about 90 steel pole support structures, ranging in height from 80 feet to 120 feet.
The route would exit the Timber Road I and III collection substation as a single circuit transmission line in a north to south general direction, just west of Township Road 33, staff added. The route would continue in a southerly direction past State Route 613 for about 3.9 miles, where the “alternate” route, which would be about 11.6 miles long, would join to form the “common” route. The common route would continue just west of Township Road 33, across State Route 500, Flatrock Creek, and Township Road 60 for about 1.5 miles.
Staff added that the preferred route would continue east across Township Road 33, then south again to a point just north of State Route 114 for about 2.1 miles. At that point, the preferred route would travel one mile west before crossing State Route 114 to the south and into the POI switchyard. The preferred route, staff added, would generally parallel property lines and roadways and would be, at its nearest point to a wind turbine, about 542 feet from turbine site number 15 of the Timber Road II Wind Farm.
Further discussing the purpose of the proposed facility, staff noted that the line is to deliver energy from the Timber Road I and III collection substation to the electric grid through the POI switchyard. The proposed 138-kV line would interconnect through the POI switchyard to American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) Lincoln–Sterling 138-kV circuit, allowing the generation output of the Timber Road I and III wind farms to reach the local and regional electric grid. The Timber Road I and III wind farms would share the same POI on the Lincoln–Sterling 138-kV transmission line adjacent to the existing Timber Road II POI.
The proposed line would not be built to relieve congestion or improve the electric grid, staff said, adding that the project is an integral part of the Timber Road I and III wind farms, and, without it, energy generated by the wind farms would be unable to reach the power grid.
Discussing the probable environmental impact of the project, staff noted that there are 22 residences within 1,000 feet and no residences within 100 feet of the preferred route. No structures would need to be altered or removed for construction or operation of the transmission line along either the preferred or alternate routes, staff said, adding that residents would experience temporary ambient noise increases during facility construction. Also, no negative impacts to commercial, industrial or institutional land uses are anticipated as a result of the project.
Paulding Wind Farm III last December conducted a cultural resources literature review of the proposed line that revealed that no properties previously determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places were recorded within 1,000 feet of the project.
Noting that Paulding Wind Farm III has not performed Phase I cultural resources field work studies for either route to date, staff added that it recommends continued coordination to ensure minimal effects from the project on cultural resources.
On ecological impacts, staff said that project construction and operation activities for the preferred and alternate routes would not require the crossing of streams by equipment or any in-water work. The preferred route ROW contains one Category 2 wetland and three Category 1 wetlands, with 3.63 acres of wetland within the construction corridor. Paulding Wind Farm III would take care to avoid or minimize wetland filling and sedimentation that may occur as a result of construction activities, staff added.
Also, with the exception of the Indiana bat and the Northern long-eared bat, neither Paulding Wind Farm III nor staff expect the proposed project to negatively impact certain species, including the four-toed salamander.
The Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat have a historical range that includes the project area, staff said, noting that limiting tree removal, particularly in the areas identified as potential Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat habitat, would help reduce potential impacts to those species. In order to reduce potential negative impacts to those species, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and staff recommend that Paulding Wind Farm III be required to adhere to seasonal cutting dates – Oct. 1 through March 31 – for the clearing of trees that exhibit suitable Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat summer habitat.
Among other things, staff also said that while both the preferred and alternate routes are viable, it concluded that, when compared to the preferred route, potential impacts are greater along the alternate route, which would require 58 more acres of ROW, cross 17 more parcels of land, and require an additional 3.1 miles of transmission line infrastructure compared to the preferred route. The preferred route would cost less to build because it is a more direct route from the collection substation to the POI switchyard and includes fewer turn structures, staff said.
Among the conditions that staff recommends become part of any certificate issued for the proposed facility, staff said that the facility is to be installed at Paulding Wind Farm III’s preferred route, and that Paulding Wind Farm III conduct a preconstruction conference before the start of any construction activities.
Also, the certificate is to become invalid if Paulding Wind Farm III has not started a continuous course of construction of the proposed facility within five years of the date of journalization of the certificate.
In addition, general construction activities are to be limited to the hours of 7 a.m., to 7 p.m., or until dusk when sunset occurs after 7 p.m., staff added. Another condition called for Paulding Wind Farm III to comply with any drinking water source protection plan for any part of the facility that is located within drinking water source protection areas of the local villages and cities.
Paulding Wind Farm III is a subsidiary of EDP Renewables North America, LLC.