Just a few weeks after rolling back renewable energy standards, Ohio lawmakers have approved a bill increasing required setbacks for wind turbines.
New commercial wind farms will now have to meet a setback of 1,125 feet from the tip of a turbine’s blades to the nearest property line, Midwest Energy News reported. Previously, the Ohio Power siting Board had measured the setback to the outer wall of the nearest occupied house. Otherwise, the property line setbacks were about 550 feet, the report said.
The change isn’t sitting well with wind farm developers.
Eric Thumma, director of policy and regulatory affairs for Iberdrola Renewables, the U.S. arm of the Spanish energy conglomerate, said the law would probably scuttle two projects that have not yet received permits. One of them, he said, would see a drop in the number of turbines from 50 to seven; and the other from 75 to three.
Iberdrola has roughly 10 projects under permit but not yet constructed. Those will be allowed to proceed, providing no permit amendments are required, Midwest Energy News said.
In effect, Thumma said, the legislation “basically zones new wind projects out of Ohio.”
Little public debate
Dayna Baird Payne, a lobbyist representing both the American Wind Energy Association and Iberdrola, said, legislators didn’t discuss the new setback requirements with either the wind industry or the Ohio Power Siting Board.
The Ohio Senate, the report adds, spent about 10 minutes discussing the changes before approving the bill at the end of May.
State Senator Mike Skindell pointed out that oil or gas wells needed only a 100- or 200-foot setback from nearby houses. “I’m dumfounded,” he said.
But State Sen. Bill Seitz said turbines are noisy, and that Ohio was still “very friendly” to wind farms despite the tighter rules.
In a press release, Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan said the governor had “walked away from his commitment to renewable energy,” and had succeeded in creating an unfriendly business environment in the state. He said the move would force clean energy developers to move to neighboring states.
According to the Wind Energy Association, Ohio currently has 432 MW of installed wind capacity, ranking it 26th in the country. There are 32 wind projects online with a total of 246 turbines. Less than 1% of the state’s electricity is generated by wind.