Will BigWind ‘Light Up’ Ohio’s night skies even MORE? Ask the FAA

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Several weeks ago the Columbus Metropolitan Club hosted a panel on Alternative Energy. Among those on the panel were Chris Shears, Chief Development Officer for EverPower and Steve Caminati, Executive Vice President of Melamed Communications. Prior to joining Melamed, Caminati was the state public policy director for the Nature Conservancy. Steve’s bio says, “One of Steve’s proudest moments was helping build and lead a diverse coalition of Ohio businesses, consumer groups, public health interests and environmental groups in successfully defeating two attempts to gut the state’s clean energy law. This coalition became known through the media as the “improbable coalition” and generated a ground swell of national interest. Steve continues to work with this coalition helping to propel a new energy vision for Ohio.” So it should come as no surprise that the audience was treated to a fairly one-sided presentation. We wouldn’t be surprised if Caminati dreamed up the idea along with his friends at Ohio State. We encourage everyone to watch the panel presentation which has been posted to YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qksBUCc0Hg. The program is about an hour in length. One thing is quite clear – they are continuing to work on repeal of property line setbacks. Shears expressed his pleasure that the Scioto Ridge and Buckeye Wind projects were approved under the old setbacks measured from homes.

In the video, Shears asserts that after projects are built, everyone is happy because EverPower has been so careful to plan their siting and the Ohio Power Siting Board ensures it. We know a family in Pennsylvania who would dispute that! When asked by an audience member about how renewables can power Ohio’s manufacturing economy, the reply given is that there will be growth in manufacturing to meet the needs of the wind industry. Really? Shears even remarks that a Colorado-based wind turbine manufacturer has 47 suppliers based in Ohio. He also points to jobs in data centers that want to run on renewables. No one answered the question of how any manufacturers could power their operations with renewables. Thankfully, the third panelist from Kinder Morgan, the pipeline builder, pointed out that manufacturers look for affordable and reliable energy when considering locations for their operations.

There seems to be a fair amount of activity around the state although not much in the way of construction yet. For those who want to keep ahead of the game, we suggest periodic visits to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Obstruction website at https://oeaaa.faa.gov/oeaaa/external/portal.jsp . Tabs on the left side of the webpage can take you to proposed, interim or decided cases. Each and every turbine or met tower in Ohio must be approved by the FAA. Projects currently under review include Buckeye Wind and Seneca Wind as well as a smaller 14 turbine development in Richland County near Shelby. Each turbine is reviewed individually and the geographic coordinates are provided. Another interesting feature of the FAA site is the Wind Build Out tab. By entering a latitude and longitude, the build out tab will display all wind turbines approved or under review from that point out 48 miles. (By going to Google Earth and picking a location to study, you can obtain that location’s lat-long number.) The FFA data provide the best information on turbine location.

In earlier days, wind developers could submit their projects to FAA to determine the feasibility of a development site. The FAA no longer provides this service and instructs developers that “Due to resource limitations, the FAA can no longer support feasibility studies or filings of a speculative nature for proposed Wind Turbine projects. The FAA must have all Wind Turbine configurations including latitude/longitude, height and layout plan at the time of your filing to accurately evaluate the cumulative effect of the entire project as it pertains to the national airspace system. Your proposal may warrant further detailed study including math modelling. Because of this, basic information on the wind turbine may be required (e.g., base width, base offset, nacelle length/radius).” FAA determinations of “No Hazard” are required for every turbine and the designation is good for 18 months.

Three interesting observations from the FAA’s Frequently Asked Questions are:

17. I’ve received a Determination of No Hazard to Air Navigation for my structure. I’ve learned that the coordinates or height may be different than those noted in my determination. Am I required to file a new 7460-1 with the FAA?

A new study (7460-1) is required for any of the following changes: (a) The site elevation or height above ground level (AGL) increases by 1 foot or more, and/or (b) the latitude and/or longitude changes by exactly 1 second or more. For example: Initial latitude 37-00-50.00 – new study is not required for 37-00-49.01 to 49.99, or 37-00-50.01 to 37-00-50.99; a new study is required for 37-00-49.00 or 37-00-51.00. (c) A new filing is required any time there is a change to the frequencies or use of greater power. (d) A lighting study must be submitted if you would like to use marking/lighting other than what was stated as a condition on your determination letter.

If a new study is required based on a height increase or coordinate changes of 1 second or more, you must submit a New Case (Off Airport) prior to the start of construction so the FAA may evaluate your proposal at the revised height or location. If you do not file for a new study prior to the start of construction as required and you submit the Supplemental Notice (FAA Form 7460-2) instead, the system will recognize the changes and initiate a new study. When the new study is initiated you will be required to certify the new information and submit a new filing so the FAA may evaluate your structure under a new Aeronautical Study Number (ASN). NOTE: It is not a given that the proposal at the revised height or location will result in a favorable determination.

No new study is required for a height decrease only. In response to industry feedback, we changed our automated system to accept a height reduction when the Supplemental Notice (7460-2) is submitted. Any height revision that does not increase the height of the original proposal will be accepted. A corrected determination will be issued reflecting the reduced height. There is no time frame set for issuance of the corrected determination, but the OEG specialist/technician will issue it as soon as possible as workload allows.

(Wind News Note: If such small changes require new FAA studies, why shouldn’t developers be subject to public hearing/comment on amended projects instead approved automatically by the OPSB?)

28. Can I file for wind turbines at or higher than 500 feet?

Yes- there is no restriction on heights for filing notice. File electronically on our website for your wind turbines at the highest height and the FAA will conduct an aeronautical study just like any other structure. Please note that at 500 feet or higher, your proposed structure will be in altitudes available to general aviation aircraft. A public notice may be issued to gather aeronautical information, and this includes a 30-day comment period.

29. Is the FAA working on a new lighting scheme for wind turbines that are 500 feet or higher?

Yes – the FAA is developing a new lighting scheme for wind turbines at or over 500 feet. This is necessary because general aviation altitudes start at 500 feet in the U.S. and it’s important for a pilot to detect wind turbines that exceed this threshold. This new lighting scheme will not be retroactive. However, if you have a determination from the FAA and have not built yet, we may revise the lighting plan.

These questions are interesting. The Seneca County project indicates turbine height of 660’ – that is tall! Buckeye Wind turbines are 492’ while the Shelby turbines are 443’. In earlier days, area landowners objected to the many flashing turbine lights in the night sky and accommodations were often made to only light the perimeter of a project. The new turbine models with increased heights, may require additional lighting….We are certain that the neighbors will LOVE the addition of MORE lights into their night skies….