Ohio wind project faces hurdles after court ruling


URBANA, Ohio (AP) -- A wind project that would build at least 54 wind turbines in a southwest Ohio county faces hurdles despite a recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling in its favor.

The court this month essentially validated regulators' approval of the project in Champaign County after some residents contended that a regulatory board wrongly left details of the project to be decided by staff members.

Now the $20 million Buckeye Wind project has to work through issues including taxes and roads before it can move forward, the Springfield News-Sun reported (http://bit.ly/wi2KOr ).

The county and Everpower Renewables, the company in charge of Buckeye Wind, have not begun talks on remaining issues, but Everpower says some form of tax abatement is needed for the project to continue.

County officials welcome the revenue that could be generated for the county, townships and school districts, but some are concerned about the effect on property values and the county's legal and financial responsibilities if the project should fail. Others also say a road agreement is needed to protect roads from heavy equipment traffic during construction

Buckeye Wind officials have said numerous conditions set by the Ohio Power Siting Board would protect the public, and that failure of the project is unlikely -- partly because of increasing demand for electricity.

Buckeye Wind spokesman Jason Dagger said new coal or nuclear projects are unlikely and that wind and solar energy sources will be necessary.

Some county officials believe the project will generate tax revenue and provide renewable energy, while others say it won't provide enough money to make up for potential damage to the landscape and property values.

Qualifying renewable energy projects could be exempt from paying tangible personal property taxes under legislation passed in 2010. They would be responsible instead for a payment in lieu of taxes to local governments and schools, with local governments and the county's general fund splitting any revenue generated.

"If we don't get that tax treatment, it would be hard for the project to compete with any project in surrounding states," Everpower spokesman Michael Speerschneider said.

A resident opposing the project is concerned that turbines require federal tax breaks, state mandates and local tax incentives to operate.

"I think at the end of the day, it's more an issue that it's not sustainable," resident Julia Johnson said.

Dagger said the earliest construction could begin is late this year.

County officials have asked the county auditor, prosecutor and the County Commissioners' Association of Ohio to research all of the issues surrounding the project.

County Commissioner Bob Corbett said it is important for the county to take its time and make the right decision.

"This is our place, and we want to do as good a job as possible," Corbett said.


Information from: Springfield News-Sun, http://www.springfieldnewssun.com