By Paul Dvorak
Ohio is a bit of a paradox to the wind industry. A few wind farms cropped up in the western part of the state and more where slated when a little-debated law out of Columbus lengthened the required distance of a turbine to a property line. That brought the industry to a halt despite support for the industry from rural communities.
Despite the roadblock, the U.S. wind industry has been successful in most other states which prompted the recent American Wind Week. The American Wind Energy Association sponsored the week beginning August 5th by celebrating with events across the nation by highlighting the industry’s accomplishments such as the high growth rate for wind technician positions and the ever-improving technology which translates into wind-generated power having as the lowest-cost electricity in the U.S.
Europe also wanted to get into the act. WindEurope, for example, tweeted that for 2018, Germany has installed 1.6 GW, France 605 MW, and Denmark 202 MW.
More locally, Cleveland, Ohio, celebrated with the American Wind Energy Education Day at the Cuyahoga County Fairground on August 10th. The fairground is home to a 500-kW Vestas’ wind turbine. This unit provides about 70% of the power consumed annually by the fairgrounds. It is also home to an Energy and Sustainability Center that serves to educate local schools and attendees to events on the fairgrounds.
On August 10th during the County Fair, visitors got tours of the center by members of the Cleveland Power of Wind Action Team. The Center includes digital displays for the turbine’s output along with atmospheric conditions such as wind speed and direction. The center also sports a cut-away of a 65-kW Micon drivetrain. So without climbing a 262-ft tower, visitor get to see a smaller layout of how most U.S. land-based turbines generate power.
More importantly, the Cleveland Team invited state senators and representatives to the fair to discuss current efforts in Columbus that will shorten the setback distances and reinvigorate the wind industry in the state. The setback is the distance of a turbine tower to a property line. It was lengthened by a 2014 rule that received little public discussion or input by other elected officials. By halting the wind industry in Ohio, a $4-billion (yes, billion) investment in the state has been kept on the sidelines despite local support for where new turbines are planned.
The Team has been active in this area by visiting state representative to encourage positive votes on impending legislation, in particular Senate Bill 238 that will shorten the setbacks.
Several wind industry allies, State Representatives David Greenspan and Kent Smith and State Senators Matt Dolan and Ken Yuko, stopped by to tour the Sustainability Center and suggest next steps in the effort to shorten the setbacks and bring Ohio into the 21st century.
One effect of the restrictive setback is that while Ohio residents can elect to power their homes with renewable energy, it most likely will come from out of state. Indiana, which has a vigorous and growing wind industry, is building a new wind farm in Randolph County on the border of Ohio. The power the new wind farm generates will go to a Facebook facility near Columbus while the considerable economic benefits of the wind farm will go to Indiana interests.
A vote on Bill 238 may be taken as early as December.