Rob Threlkeld (left), global manager of renewable energy for General Motors, addresses a press conference Monday morning to unveil the new Northwest Ohio Wind Farm in Paulding County. (Judy Wells/Paulding County Progress)
Rob Threlkeld (left), global manager of renewable energy for General Motors, addresses a press conference Monday morning to unveil the new Northwest Ohio Wind Farm in Paulding County. (Judy Wells/Paulding County Progress)

HAVILAND – On Monday, officials from General Motors and Starwood Energy Group and local officials held a press conference to unveil the Northwest Ohio Wind Farm.

This 100-megawatt (MW) development, located in southern Paulding County, will help power all of GM’s Ohio and Indiana manufacturing facilities.

Currently, 37 wind turbines have been completed with another five in the final stages, for a total of 42. The project is expected to be fully operational toward the end of this summer.

Construction costs are “well north of $100 million,” said Alex Daberko, managing director, Starwood Energy Group.

Local officials noted this wind farm is the fourth to be built in Paulding County, with a fifth on the drawing board. It will bring about $900,000 in additional tax revenue to the county, most of which goes to schools and services.

“The Northwest Ohio Wind Farm is an important step toward achieving our sustainability commitments, and we thank Starwood Energy Group and the Paulding County community for helping make this project possible,” said Rob Threlkeld, global manager of renewable energy for GM. “As we realize our vision for a zero-emissions future, renewable energy will help us to efficiently build vehicles while providing a greener grid to power them.”

Threlkeld said this wind farm, plus another one in Illinois, will power all of GM’s manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Indiana. When the projects are completed later this year, renewable energy will be used to power nearly 20 percent of GM’s facilities globally.

“Investing in renewable energy is good for our communities and our environment, and also for our bottom line,” Threlkeld said. “Our renewable energy investments like this one will provide us with clean, affordable energy for years to come. It also will create good jobs in Ohio.”

Daberko noted that Starwood acquired the rights to the wind farm project in 2014, but the project first originated in 2007 as a community wind farm by a group of local landowners.

He said a number of parties deserve thanks and praise for getting this project over the finish line, but mentioned two specifically. The first is GM for being on the cutting edge and for helping spur the next phase of renewable development.

The second was Paulding County, and the local community generally.

“At Starwood Energy, we develop infrastructure projects pretty much across the U.S. and Canada, both conventional and renewable, and Paulding County, I have to say, has been one of the most supportive and well-run localities we’ve ever worked in.”

Daberko continued, “I think when this project is completed, Paulding County will be home to the majority of the utility-scale wind farms in Ohio. It’s the local government, local landowners and local business leaders that deserve the credit for that.”

The wind farm will eventually deliver 100MW of power to the electrical grid, which is enough to power roughly 30,000 homes.

“It’s not only a generator of power; it’s also a generator of jobs and tax revenue,” Daberko said. “By the end of the construction period, we will have created nearly 300 full-time equivalent construction jobs and will add roughly $1 million to the property tax rolls in Paulding County.” He believes the project brings a lot of positive value to add to the community and the to region as a whole.

The five remaining speakers were local leaders and residents: County Commissioner Roy Klopfenstsein; Mikayla Pieper, director of Paulding Chamber of Commerce; Jerry Zielke, director of Paulding County Economic Development; Lisa McClure, a member of the Wayne Trace School Board and also director of the Paulding County Area Foundation; and Terry McClure, landowner and one of those originally involved in the project in 2007.

Klopfenstein, on behalf of the board of commissioners, expressed appreciation to GM and Starwood for choosing to be part of the community.

He further acknowledged all the people and pieces of the puzzle that have come together to make this happen, including investors, legislators, township trustees, landowners, and residents.

“The benefits from this project are many, between the jobs, the PILOT [Payment In Lieu of Tax] payments and income from a renewable form of energy,” Klopfenstein said.

He added that Haviland is “a great community here nestled between two plants, the Fort Wayne truck plant, and the Defiance foundry. Many of our citizens work at those two plants.”

“Wind development means new business relationships,” Pieper commented, citing the number of local businesses and suppliers who have benefitted from construction.

Zielke offered thanks to GM and Starwood. “I have seen tremendous positive impact from the development of renewable energy wind projects in this county.” Four wind farms have been completed with a fifth expected to begin construction next year.

Lisa McClure said wind farm tax revenues provide additional funds for the Wayne Trace school district. “These funds are a tremendous asset to the future of our community, as well as the students of Wayne Trace,” she said. “The generated funds will be used to continue instructional initiatives for student achievement, technology and capital improvements on our three campuses.”

The district currently has 122 turbines in operation. Increased revenue has allowed the district to employ 21 additional staff and educators to assist the student population. “We are beginning to see improved marks on the return of our investment on our district report card,” she said, all without additional cost to taxpayers.

“To say this project had humble beginnings is an understatement,” said Terry McClure. He recalled that 11 years ago, 24 farmers met in a barn to start Ohio Wind Energy. They believed the wind could be harnessed for the benefit of the landowners and the community.

He said this project is located at the intersection of the important features for a viable wind farm: wide open land, adequate wind, available transmission and a supportive government most importantly, an accepting community.

The community owes a great thanks to Starwood Energy and General Motors,” McClure said. “Eleven years later, the thought that a commercial wind farm can be viable and a lasting part of economic development for a community and create immediate commerce and jobs still survives.”