PlanB for BigWind in Ohio? Convince our Governor to veto setback law

A quick follow up to the good news of Ohio SB 310, we wanted to share Everpower’s communication concerning House Bill 483 to extend the property line setbacks. Everpower is encouraging leaseholders to contact the Governor to line item veto the setback.

Below are excerpts from a copy of their suggested talking points. We have put rebuttal’s in BOLD. If you have time this weekend, call the Governor’s Office or email him to encourage adoption of property line setbacks. 614-466-3555 or http://www.governor.ohio.gov/Contact/ContacttheGovernor.aspx …

 

The Senate added a provision to HB 483 (MBR) that will make utility-scale wind farm construction in Ohio virtually impossible.

Current Law: Current law contains a mandatory minimum wind farm setback from a property line and a separate, longer setback from a “habitable, residential structure.” The property line setback is “one and one-tenth” times the height of the turbine. The setback from a house is a minimum of 1,125 feet plus the length of a blade (175-200) for a total of 1300+ feet.. This was just changed in last year’s budget bill, making Ohio’s setback one of the toughest in the nation.

This is not correct. Many jurisdictions with local zoning measure setbacks from property lines.

HB 483: The proposal in HB 483 would make the long setback for houses also apply to property lines, dramatically limiting the number of parcels eligible to host a wind turbine. As example, if the proposed property line setbacks existed prior to construction of Ohio’s largest wind farm known as Blue Creek, the 152 turbine project would only be able to accommodate 19 turbines.

This may be theoretically accurate but it is not true that Blue Creek could not be built. It simply means the developer would have to negotiate easements with neighboring property owners.

Proposal is a Functional Ban on Wind Farms: As a practical matter, because the wind developer above would still need to lease the same amount of acreage, the elimination of 133 turbines and the electricity they produce make the entire project commercially unviable. Simulations of this proposal on other wind projects yield similar results, with projects sustaining 50% to 90% losses. In other words, this setback amendment is a back door path to the elimination of Ohio wind farm construction. The language is no different from saying “no wind farms shall be built in Ohio.”

This is a false statement. Nothing hinders the developer from pursuing a viable project. Property line setbacks would simply require the developer to negotiate easements for the encroachment of project effects like noise and shadow flicker and the safety buffer zone. The easements would provide compensation for the use of the neighbor’s property. An Ohio wind warrior has calculated that the additional cost to the developer of compensation for the neighboring property would be equal to 4.6% of subsidies and only about 3% of total revenue.

Legislative Process: The state’s Power Siting Board has developed a wealth of knowledge and expertise as they have been permitting projects and regulating the development process. Ohio’s wind industry and their regulators also have volumes of data based on Ohio projects and other projects from around the country to share regarding appropriate setbacks from houses and property lines that strike a proper balance. Unfortunately, since this amendment was included in the MBR omnibus amendment, these parties and others have had no opportunity or forum to engage policymakers on this subject. An issue with such devastating impact to an entire industry deserves the opportunity to be deliberated fairly and transparently.

The OPSB may have access to a wealth of information but it is not being used to protect Ohioans. One example is the health impacts from low-frequency noise. This is sound you cannot hear but the vibrations are felt in your body and your home. There is quite a bit of research that has been done on the subject especially at the Cochlear Fluids Lab at Washington University. Wind developers deny it exists but there is plenty of documentation to prove that it does. The State of Ohio does not require measurement of LFN and it does not have standards for setbacks to protect from LFN. Absent that, the best way to protect residents is to have an adequate setback.

Everpower’s sound expert was one of four acoustical consultants who investigated issues of LFN at the Shirley Wind Project in Wisconsin. Their report of findings is attached. The key takeaway in the report is”

The critical questions are what physical effects do these low frequencies have on residents and what LFN limits, if any, should be imposed on wind turbine projects. The reported response at residence R2 by the wife and their child was extremely adverse while the husband suffered no ill effects whatsoever, illustrating the complexity of the issue. The family moved far away for a solution. A most interesting study in 1986 by the Navy reveals that physical vibration of pilots in flight simulators induced motion sickness when the vibration frequency was in the range of 0.05 to 0.9Hz with the maximum (worst) effect being at about 0.2 Hz, not too far from the blade passing frequency of future large wind turbines. If one makes the leap from physical vibration of the body to physical vibration of the media the body is in, it suggests adverse response to wind turbines is an acceleration or vibration problem in the very low frequency region.

The four investigating firms are of the opinion that enough evidence and hypotheses have been given herein to classify LFN and infrasound as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the industry. It should be addressed beyond the present practice of showing that wind turbine levels are magnitudes below the threshold of hearing at low frequencies.

The industry has ideas about allowing for more local input on setbacks in the siting process, but we were never given the opportunity to engage in that type of discussion.

The industry has had repeated opportunities to talk about setbacks during the course of numerous wind development applications filed with the OPSB. Every application that was challenged by citizens on the basis of unsafe setbacks was rebuffed by the industry. In each case, the industry fought against the use of manufacturer’s recommendations – at one point calling the Nordex micrositing suggestions as “meaningless”. Everpower successfully fought to keep the Shirley Wind LFN findings out of the record. The OPSB also refused to make all information available concerning the Timber Creek II blade throw.

Recommendation: The wind industry recommends the General Assembly remove this amendment from HB 483 so it can be thoroughly vetted. Perhaps it could be a topic of review for the SB 310 study committee to consider along with the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Recommendation: The Governor should sign HB 483 establishing wind turbine setbacks from property lines.

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