Fury, frustration, even tears from proposed Seneca Wind project in Ohio

Wind farms can be immensely beneficial as a renewable energy source. But local turnouts like those at this week’s continuing debate in Tiffin, Ohio show that they are sometimes viewed as an imposition to residents.

Around 500 residents were reported to have shown up in protest to the Seneca Wind project proposed for the rural area of Seneca County…300 more heads than there were seats to accommodate them at a local gymnasium.

Residents voiced a staunch opposition to the wind farm for over an hour and a half. While opposition to large-scale turbine arrays is often wrought from sensory inconvenience (noise, visual distaste, and animal endangerment), the situation in Tiffin has become extra contentious due mainly to political disagreements. Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas “infuriated critics by testifying before an Ohio Senate committee to roll back setback rules in June, 2017, a move made in support of the wind energy industry before many residents knew about the projects,” the Toledo Blade’s Tom Henry reported Wednesday. Thomas also declined to sign off on a motion allowing the local county prosecutor to represent the affected townships at upcoming Ohio Power and Siting Board hearings.

Seneca Wind is a proposed 200 MW wind farm that would be located across the townships of Scipio, Reed, Venice, Eden and Bloom in Seneca County, Ohio. The project would be built on approximately 25,000 acres of privately-leased land and utilize up to 85 turbines. On the supporting side, there is hearty belief in the project to the point of bringing an Ohio farmer almost to tears (4:09) when discussed.

A different project for Seneca and a small part of Sandusky County, Republic Wind, was filed earlier but its developer, Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville, Va., is looking at modifying it. Meanwhile, the Seneca Anti-Wind Union has been created by Greg Smith to spearhead the opposition.

The turbines will be a mixture of General Electric 2.3 Megawatt turbines and 2.5 MW turbines. Land leases with private landowners will provide a consistent revenue stream for local farmers and residents for the life of the project, in excess of typical farm income. The project has been doing environmental studies for several years and will comply with all Ohio State regulations including those pertaining to wildlife, wetlands, noise, flicker and setbacks.

sPower, the Utah-based developer of the project, confirmed its application had gained approval in a press release October 25. Earlier this fall, the company also touted certification by the State of Ohio dubbing Seneca Wind a “Qualified Energy Project”, which it said will result in $56 million dollars of revenue that will be divided among schools, townships and Seneca County. Those numbers assume a 30-year lifespan for the 212-MW project.

“The project will provide a significant economic stimulus to the area during construction by providing jobs and local contracts for goods and services, and significant long-term economic benefits through lease revenue to local landowners and PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) revenues to the community. Additionally, revenue generated from the project will benefit the state of Ohio,” sPower contends.

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