BigWind setback debate revived in Ohio

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Wealthy Chagrin Falls, Ohio Senator Matt Dolan has introduced SB 238, a carbon copy of the Hite setback bill which measures setbacks from homes rather than property lines.  In addition, the bill repeals all previous requirements for property line setbacks for any project which received approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board under the old rules.  It appears that Sen. Dolan and a number of his colleagues drank the Kool-Aid that AWEA and lobbyist Terrence O’Donnell have been serving. 

In his press statement, Dolan says “ Local control remains a crucial aspect of this bill as well, by allowing county commissioners to approve construction on a project-by-project basis or declare the entire county an alternative energy zone, which qualifies all projects.”    Laughable!  Dolan can only be speaking of the PILOT program to grant tax abatement to a project. He asserts that vitally important local control is protected,  presumably because county commissioners can deny PILOT.  That is no guarantee whatsoever that a project will not go forward and, in fact, EverPower’s  Dagger has been quoted more than once saying failure to be granted PILOT is not an impediment to development.  The truth is that tax abatement has nothing to do with setbacks…NOTHING.

SB 238 does what its predecessor bill did – grant an uncompensated easement across neighboring properties.   We continue to illustrate this point with legislators, a number of whom have never considered this fact.  When they understand that Dolan’s bill totally disenfranchises a property owner, stripping them of their rights, they begin to wonder about whether it is possible to find common ground.  We believe that common ground lies in giving the electorate in the affected townships the affirmative right to vote on wind turbine setback reductions.  Chairman Balderson indicates hearings on the issue will resume after the first of the year.

While members of the General Assembly are home during the holidays, it is a good time to ask for a meeting and inquire about what kind of documentation they may have that supports a 1,225 foot setback from a home.   We believe this is an arbitrary number designed to accommodate the wind developer/leaseholders rather than protect the public.  One area of science supporting increased setbacks comes from the study of ice throw as well as the throw of other detached objects.

Two papers have come to our attention concerning ice throw.   The first is a  2017 Ice Throw Ph.D. Thesis from Texas State University. This was primarily a survey of ice throw knowledge of people around turbines in Texas. 75% of turbine personnel had witnessed an ice throw incident from a wind turbine. Each person who had witnessed seeing ice thrown, reported on average seeing 15 ice throw incidents. This is a 2017  “peer reviewed” current technical publication that completely debunks the idea that turbines don’t throw ice. It reports a multitude of ice throw incidents actually seen by industry personnel. The study is based on Texas turbines, with Texas being the largest wind energy state in the US. The authors also found that most community members do not witness ice throw and therefore do not have an appreciation of the danger.

 The second paper is a 2016 Peer-Reviewed Research Paper in the journal “Wind Energy” / Wiley Online Library titled “Analysis of throw distances of detached objects from horizontal-axis wind turbines”, Hamid Sarlak and Jens N. Sorensen. Wind Energy, 2016: 19:151-166.  This document can be purchased online by going to http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/we.1828/full.   The paper is protected by copyright and anyone who chooses to purchase it should explore obtaining permission to use it.  The authors of this study estimate throw distances for ice, full blades, and blade fragments for current typical turbine designs, operating at normal and high rotational speeds. Consideration is given to normal operating speeds of a typical 500′ turbine with 100 m/sec tip speed (very similar to a Vestas V112).  A full rotor blade can be thrown 2,000 feet, a partial blade shell 3,300 feet, and typical ice pieces 2,600 feet.   For larger turbines, full blade and blade fragments could possibly be thrown over 6,000 feet.

Perhaps our dear Senators would like to share the research upon which they are relying.  Our guess is they have been given outdated information, if any.  As we understand it, turbines don’t just fall over, the spinning blades can propel ice, debris, or blade fragments for very large distances. The Sarlak and Sorensen Wind Energy paper concludes that throw distances are determined primarily by the tip speed, not height. Tip speeds have been increasing, especially as the industry has moved to variable speed turbines….Wake up Ohioans and speak up now, or you may regret your silence later…

Statehouse News

Dolan Takes Up Effort to Revise Wind Turbine Setback Restrictions

 Sen. Matt Dolan is picking up the effort to loosen wind turbine setback requirements left unfinished after the abrupt resignation of former senator Cliff Hite.

 

Mr. Hite was the legislature’s leading proponent of easing the restrictions and authored a bill to that effect SB 188 that received two legislative hearings this year.  But when Mr. Hite resigned Oct. 17 following sexual harassment allegations, wind groups lost a key ally and the future of the bill fell into question.

 

On Wednesday, Sen. Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) introduced his own bill SB 238, which is identical to Sen. Hite’s, in an attempt to get the effort back on track…

 

Sen. Dolan said he made the bill identical so everyone can start on the same page. That means the bill calls for increasing the setback to 1.2 times the blade’s length – up from the current 1.1 times – while at the same time requiring the minimum distance from the nearest blade to be measured from the nearest residential structure rather than the nearest property line. The net impact of those two changes is a shortening of the required setback distance.

 

In modeling the legislation after the same bill, he said, all prior testimony received on the Hite proposal will still apply to the new bill, thereby speeding up the legislative process. The bill is likely to be assigned to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, which conducted hearings on the Hite bill…

 

The sponsor said he is eying some changes, particularly in making it clearer that county commissioners have the authority to grant approval for a wind farm project.  “I feel there’s a misunderstanding of what the setbacks actually do,” Sen. Dolan said. “It doesn’t interfere with the ability of the county to say yes or no to a project.”

 

The bill has the same cosponsors as the prior iteration – 13 Republicans and one Democrat…

 

 

 

 

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