The Ohio Senate is taking action to reform what the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) calls an onerous wind turbine setback rule that has hindered the state’s wind industry for the last three years.
An omnibus amendment has now been included in the state’s proposed budget bill, H.B.49, to address Ohio’s setback policy, which AWEA says is among the most restrictive in the U.S.; in fact, it has effectively stopped new wind power development in the state since it was passed in 2014, the association says.
In June 2014, Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, signed the state’s budget bill without vetoing a provision that established the harsh setback rule, which mandated that wind turbines be situated at least 1,300 feet from the nearest property line.
With the regulations currently in place, Ohio has lost billions of dollars in wind power investment to its neighbors, AWEA points out. In fact, restoring Ohio’s setback standard would result in over $4.2 billion in local economic benefits, according to a study published in May by AWEA and the Wind Energy Foundation’s “A Renewable America” campaign.
According to Cleveland.com, the amendment, submitted by Republican State Sen. Cliff Hite, proposes that a wind turbine’s setback requirement would based on the height and length of the tower and blades, respectively.
In response, several major wind developers across the U.S. are applauding the amendment.
Mark Goodwin, president and CEO of Apex Clean Energy, calls the proposal a “thoughtful compromise” that “balances smart wind development with individual property owner protections.”
“Invenergy applauds the Ohio Senate leadership for their decision to include setback reform in their budget amendments, effectively ending this three-year moratorium on new wind projects,” comments Katie McClain, the company’s vice president of public affairs. “This reform will remove barriers to wind development in the state and help bolster the economy with millions in tax dollars annually and hundreds of new construction and operations jobs.”
Gabriel Alonso, CEO of EDP Renewables North America, says the amendment is a “common-sense fix” to the setback rule.
“Since 2011, EDP Renewables has constructed two wind farms in Paulding County, Ohio, and invested approximately $400 million,” he says. “The Senate’s proposal to fix wind turbine siting rules will allow wind energy developers to make billions of dollars of investment in Ohio’s rural communities.”
Within Ohio’s business community, there is strong and growing support for less restrictive setback rules, adds AWEA. Last week, for example, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s nearly 8,000 members sent a letter to Sen. Cliff Hite in support of “a more reasonable wind setback policy than Ohio law currently allows.”
“As you and your colleagues in the Senate consider proposals on this subject, the Ohio Chamber urges you to adopt a common-sense approach that will adequately protect the interests of property owners, enable wind developers to invest in our state, and bolster manufacturing opportunities up and down the wind energy supply chain,” the letter said.
AWEA points out that Fortune 500 businesses such as Amazon Web Services have also called for setback reform. Last year, Amazon Web Services, which is building a 189 MW wind farm in Hardin County, Ohio, spoke out in support of changes to the setback laws in order to “encourage more investment in new renewable wind power projects.”
Apex’s Goodwin adds that he encourages “conference committee negotiators, House leadership and Gov. Kasich … to include the setback language in the final budget. Ohio’s economic growth depends on it.”