Republicans in charge of the Ohio Senate do not like wind power. At least, that is the impression they have conveyed. They joined in crafting Senate Bill 310, a two-year freeze on the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, wind suffering along with other alternative and advanced energy sources, the measure sent to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
They also have included in their version of the mid-biennium review a provision that amounts to the death penalty for wind power in Ohio. It would alter dramatically the setback requirements in locating wind turbines, making it all but impossible to land a wind farm large enough to satisfy investors. The state essentially would turn its back on an industry that already has invested more than $1.2 billion here and wants to add substantially more.
Currently, the state has two primary setback requirements. One is from the property line, the setback at 1.1 times the height of the turbine. The second is from an inhabitable, residential structure, at 1,125 feet, plus the length of the turbine blade, roughly 200 feet, or 1,325 feet in all. What the Senate would do is make the second the sole setback requirement, all wind projects at the tougher 1,325 feet.
Wind power advocates point to the harmful impact. A project such as Blue Creek in the north, central part of the state would be foiled, with room for 19 turbines, instead of the actual 152 designed to generate 300 megawatts. Investors in Blue Creek would look to plow their money into more willing states, Ohio forfeiting the opportunity to be part of an industry that complements its manufacturing strengths.
Worse is the way Senate Republican leaders have pushed the provision. The proposal has been added to the sweeping mid-biennium review. It has been done with little regard for the usual legislative process, the hearings and testimony from supporters and opponents. The expertise of regulators and others in the industry has not been sufficiently tapped. This effort has been rushed – for no good reason.
Consider the reversal this provision involves. In 2008, state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the renewable energy and efficiency standards, inviting wind and other alternative energy sources into the state. Just two years ago, lawmakers and the governor reinforced the thinking at an energy summit and in subsequent legislation. Now the state Senate wants to shut down the development of wind power in the state without due deliberation?
This provision should not have a place in the final mid-biennium review bill sent to the governor, the product of the House and Senate resolving differences. The governor should insist that it is struck, and be ready to use his veto, for the shoddy process alone. Yet there is the even better reason.
Wind power hardly is an energy or environmental panacea. It does belong as a factor in the country’s energy profile, a clean, and increasingly competitive, alternative that helps to combat climate change. For Ohio, wind plays to its manufacturing core. This isn’t an opportunity the state can afford to miss.