(TB File Photo)
(TB File Photo)
BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin Editor

egebert@timesbulletin.com

Tuesday's announcement that the Van Wert County commissioners have rescinded the county-wide Alternative Energy Zone declaration is bound to have effects on the wind farm currently under development in southern Van Wert County and any expansion of the already-operating Blue Creek Wind Farm. On Thursday, the commissioners met with Roger Brown, the developer of the proposed Prairie Creek Wind Farm for BP Wind, and each side had questions about the future.
The commissioners had questions for Brown about BP's willingness to market the wind energy division of the company. Brown admitted that BP Wind is up for sale and that the Prairie Creek project would be a part of any sale. However, he noted that the project is proceeding with plans to start construction before the end of the year and be operational in 2015.

On the other side of the coin, Brown was curious as to the commissioner's mindset after rescinding the blanket declaration earlier this week. Commissioner Thad Lichtensteiger explained that the county wanted to have more negotiating power in matters of road agreements and the like, as well as being able to include the affected township officials and school district representatives.

The county is still able to enter into deals with wind farm developers, but deals will be either done on an individual project basis involving the Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) option or through a regular abatement process. Lichtensteiger did admit that the commissioners are leaning toward working with the PILOT program, but that they are leaving their options open at this time.

From that point, the discussion moved to the progress of the Prairie Creek project. Brown said that the wind farm will still be a 200 megawatt (MW) project, but it could be split into two separate phases with part of the turbines going up while more field work is done for the rest of the turbine locations.

Brown also noted that the company plans to submit applications with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) later this summer. The complication with this project is that a separate transmission project will need to be approved since the transmission lines in the northern part of the county are already being used to the point where an alternate route to get the power to the electrical grid is needed. Both project will need OPSB approval or else the wind farm will never be a reality.

The transmission project at this point is focusing on taking the power through lines along an old rail right-of-way to Lima.

Brown indicated that the turbine model to be used has not yet been selected. He did reveal that there are two models at the top of the list of considerations - one that produces somewhere around 2.5 MW and the other around 3 MW. With the size of the Prairie Creek project fixed at 200 MW at the maximum, the selection of the turbine model will determine how many turbines would be erected.

A question over shadow flicker from turbines also incited some discussion. Commissioner Stan Owens stated that he understood the concerns and that the OPSB had indicated that any residents with an excessive amount of flicker from the shadow of the rotating blades (more than 30 hours per year) should contact the agency so that corrections can be made.

Owens went on to say that he understands complaints about shadow flicker, but that he also recognizes the right of a landowner to be a part of a project like this. He said that considering the private property rights of all parties is part of the delicate balance of keeping residents happy while promoting economic development in the county.