Environment Opinion State OPINION: Despite opposition, renewable energy should come to Ohio By Abbey Knupp Posted on October 6, 2017 9 min read 2 0 817 Wind turbins in Blue Creek Township, Ohio. Photo via Wikimedia Commons. The debate over whether Ohio should see more wind turbines shows no signs of blowing over, but opinion writer Anna DeGarmo says renewable energy is right for the state. A September article from the Columbus Dispatch explored the issues surrounding wind farms in Northeastern Ohio. Reporter Dan Gearino travelled to Payne, Ohio with a videographer, where they visited the EDP Renewables Timber Road II wind farm in Paulding County. Gearino and his videographer filmed their journey to the top of the 300 foot wind turbine. Gearino describes the turbine as “beautiful and sometimes annoying.” The wind turbines are the root of much controversy in the region. Gearino interviewed employees of EDP, and members of the surrounding community. These interviews showed divisive lines within the community. At the same time, many residents opposed wind energy companies and their projects. Locals based their opposition on aesthetic issues and exclusion in decision-making processes. They don’t recognize the tax revenue wind companies bring to the community. This area of ohio has the opportunity to be a part of the first steps towards clean energy. More productive, inclusive conversation would engage community members. If there is still opposition, then it is a consequence of progress. Clean energy is growing in the state of Ohio. Regulations in the Ohio Revised Code requires that renewable energy sources must provide at least 12.5 percent of electricity by 2027. The $1 billion growth seen in the last ten years in the clean energy economy reflects this progressive shift toward renewables. Communities that would not have had businesses drawn to their area now have a new source of tax revenue. Wayne Trace High School is one such beneficiary of EDP taxes. The Dispatch article reports that the school district had over $700,000 that otherwise wouldn’t have existed in the district’s budget. Superintendent of the district, Ben Winans, is a supporter of the wind energy companies. Not everyone in the community shares Winan’s gratuitous feelings about the wind turbines. Frustrated residents have organized local opposition groups like Citizens for Clear Skies. This group says they are subject to constant noise, far reaching red lights from the turbines, and shadows cast by the sun dipping below the blades. Perceived progress of wind energy projects differs between opposing residents and companies. Residents feel effects on local communities are being overlooked. They feel their local governments have too limited a role. There is evidence thorough research has been done by companies. The Blue Creek Wind Farm, in the adjacent county to Paulding, has public records that show comprehensive review(s) were conducted. The multi-year review has over 5,000. The project was then approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board. Land-use leases. Contracts between nearby residents, and compensate residents. These range between $1,000-10,000. Companies also claim to engage in beneficial conversations with those residents. Setbacks in 2014 were a result of House Bill 483. The bill allowed projects already with permits to continue construction. Any new projects would have to have its turbines 1300 feet away from property lines. This rule constricts the number of wind turbines a company is able to erect on a certain amount of land. When this bill was passed in 2014, there was much concern for the “last minute changes.” Supporters of wind energy criticized how the House passed the bill. The process was short, last minute and lacked inclusion of public and industry input. Previous laws determined how far wind turbines had to be from residential structures. House Bill 483 applied those residential structure regulations to property lines. In reaction to the change, wind experts called the bill “devastating and cost- prohibitive.” Current legislative debate concerns the requirements set by this bill. Proposed Senate Bill 188 would cut the current 1300 feet distance rule almost in half, to 600 feet (the distance before 2014). Republican Senator Cliff Hite is the bill’s sponsor. He faces an uphill battle passing it in the House. Majority Leader Bill Seitz is outspoken in his criticism of renewable energy. His concern is for the legality of the bill. Residents of Northeast Ohio are entitled to concerns for the affect wind turbines can have on their property. Groups like Citizens for Clear Skies are a result of residents feeling unheard. The idea that the state and large wind energy companies are making all the decisions can result in residents’ opposition and closed-mindedness. There is a bigger picture to consider. Impending increase in clean energy for Ohio’s electricity sources is an opportunity. To meet the requirements, electricity providers will use already in-place infrastructure. Staying in-state for clean energy resources would benefit Ohio. More turbines can meet the demand for more electricity, which means more tax revenue for places like Paulding County. Wind energy companies are still corporations. They are going to invest where they can make the most money. Laws like Senate Bill 188 can draw business to Ohio, and allow current companies to be more prosperous. There are implications beyond the communities’ direct benefit. Places like Paulding County can be pioneers in engaging in the expansion of clean-energy production in Ohio. Companies like EDP Renewables are going to take their business somewhere, and that place should be Ohio.