Last week I traveled to Ohio, driving westward across the state from Cleveland to Van Wert county. Outside the car window were open fields, farm houses and shiny silver grain silos. About three hours into the drive, a new landscape appeared: turbines from the Blue Creek Wind Farm dotting the horizon. This single farm makes up half of the total turbine count in the entire state.
That could be changing soon though.
The Ohio Power Siting Board has approved permits for eight wind facilities; another three projects are in the pending or pre-application stage.
Construction of these turbines would add 1,452 megawatts of clean energy capacity to Ohio’s energy mix, enough to power hundreds of thousand of homes. It will also create more local jobs and new orders for Ohio’s nation-leading 62 factories that build wind turbine parts.
There is so much potential in Ohio. However, hurdles must be overcome to move forward.
At the top of the list are Ohio’s unreasonable setback requirements. They are by far the most restrictive in the country and are proving to be a barrier to further wind development. These overly onerous rules were put in place in 2014 without public participation and after only 10 minutes of debate.
What is a setback?
A setback rule sets the minimum distance a wind turbine must be set back from various markers, such as neighboring property lines, roads or buildings. Setback requirements might be prescribed by local ordinance or by a state agency.
In Ohio, setbacks are more than twice as great as neighboring states. This is a statewide setback requirement controlled by the Ohio Public Siting Board.
What is the impact of this setback?
Wind developers lease the land on which they build wind farms. They must compare the cost of leasing the land to the amount of electricity they can generate. If they can only place a small number of turbines on the land, it isn’t a sound investment and they will take their project to another state. For example, if the current setback had applied to the Blue Creek Wind Farm, only about a dozen of its 152 wind turbines could have been built. Each time a project is halted, Ohio loses out on millions of dollars in economic development.
What’s next for setback rules in Ohio?
It appears the Ohio legislature is willing to consider a return to the old setbacks. This will allow for wind energy development to resume in the state, while still safeguarding the interests of property owners. With eight projects approved for construction, the clock is ticking for lawmakers to show they are willing to invest in Ohio’s clean energy future.
To learn how wind has already benefited Ohio, and what sorts of benefits it can continue to bring if it’s allowed to grow, check out this video from Lincolnview school district superintendent Jeff Snyder: