August 21, 2014

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Ohio's first wind farm dedicated near Payne (full story)

 

By MELINDA KRICK

Progress Editor

PAYNE – A perfect autumn afternoon, with dozens of huge wind turbines lazily turning in the breeze, seemed like an unlikely setting for a revolution. But the hundred or so people gathered near Payne last week were witnessing one: the initiation of Ohio’s first industrial-scale wind farm.

EDP Renewables North America, formerly Horizon Wind Energy, hosted a ribbon cutting dedication for Timber Road II Wind Farm last Wednesday at Pleasant Valley Golf Course in Benton Township.

The wind farm consists of 55 wind turbines that can produce 99 megawatts, enough to power about 27,000 average homes.

The project represents a $175 million investment in Paulding County.

Also, Timber Road II is expected to generate millions of dollars in landowner royalties and property tax payments of the life of the project.

This is the first of four phases of this wind farm that EDP plans to construct in northwest Ohio.

EDP has entered into a long-term Power Purchase Agreement with AEP Ohio to purchase the clean electricity from Timber Road II. Through a 20-year agreement, AEP will purchase all of the output from the facility.

At the peak of construction, Timber Road II had as many as 200 people working onsite. From start to finish, more than 800 Ohioans worked on construction.

The ribbon cutting dedication drew a wide variety of dignitaries as well as participating property owners. A catered luncheon was provided prior to the ceremony, held in a tent with a panoramic view of the wind farm. As added entertainment, the Wayne Trace Marching Band performed during the meal.

The program was emceed by project manager Erin Bowser. Also speaking were Mike Brady, a Timber Road II landowner; county Commissioner Tony Zartman; State Senator Cliff Hite; Christian Venderby, chief operating officer of turbine manufacturer Vestas Americas; Denise Bode, CEO of American Wind Energy Association; Theresa Flora, director of communications for AEP Ohio; Christiane Schmenk, director of Ohio Department of Development; and Gabriel Alonso, CEO of EDP Renewables North America.

Brady thanked project managers for watching over the progress and said the company has been good land stewards. He added that “no one in here could be any more pleased with the way it turned out.”

In introducing Zartman, Bowser noted that the county commissioners were leaders in the state in getting wind energy to Paulding County.

Zartman joked that two years ago, the commissioners “caught wind” of possible renewable energy projects in the county and believed it would be a true benefit for everyone involved. Five days after a new state law went into effect, the commissioners passed a resolution declaring Paulding County an alternative energy zone (AEZ) – the first in the state.

Zartman said the wind farm will produce close to $900,000 in new revenue for the taxing district as well as benefit land owners.

He added that EDP showed real integrity and real commitment to the community during construction, and he expects that they will remain good corporate citizens.

Sen. Hite (R-Findlay), a former educator who now represents this area, recently supported a three-year extension of Senate Bill 232, which reduces the tax burden of certain advanced energy projects.

Hite noted that he was proud of “our Vantage friends and our Northwest State friends” for helping train students for the future. EDP has partnered with Vantage Career Center in Van Wert to assist them in launching their Advanced Energy Academy which will educate and train students for careers in the renewable energy industry.

Venderby congratulated the construction crews on an impressive safety record during the project, despite the challenges of working in harsh winter conditions. There wasn’t a single lost time injury.

Venderby also recognized Ohio companies that supplied components: Parker Hannifin Corp. of Wadsworth, Horsburgh & Scott Co. of Cleveland, Murrplastik Systems Inc. of Milford, VEGA Americas in Cincinnati and Pepperl & Fuchs of Twinsburg.

Bode likened the wind turbines to “new cash crops” that are always welcome in farm country. She had attended the first utility-size wind farms in other states and said it was “a joy to see this happening in Ohio.”

She praised the state for its leadership in renewable energy, which is helping Ohio lead the nation.

“We’re seeing dramatic growth in the wind energy industry,” Bode said. It’s the fastest-growing manufacturing sector in the U.S., while most manufacturing is now being outsourced. Thirty-five percent of new energy generation is from wind power.

“This is the first major wind facility in Ohio, and we’re here to see it,” Bode said, calling it a “historic moment.”

She added, “This is just the beginning.” More wind farms are planned, with millions of dollars in capital investment, plus jobs and new local tax revenues.

Flora noted the “wow factor” of the landscape while driving to Payne. She said AEP is diversifying its energy sources, bringing wind and solar into Ohio.

Schmenk discussed the importance of wind and renewable energy in Ohio. She said her department’s goal is job creation, and Timber Road II has done that.

The project has employed Ohio-based subcontractors such as Irving Concrete, Van Wert; Baker-Shindler Ready Mix, Paulding; Miller Brothers Construction, Toledo; New River Electrical Corp., Westerville; and Osting Drainage Tile and Repair, Van Wert.

The state recently had an energy summit and looked at what types of energy it wants to have moving forward, and renewables are very, very critical to the state. Ohio needs a combination of energy sources to be successful, Schmenk said.

The final speaker, Alonso, said the Timber Road project was a $175 million investment, and EDP is looking to develop another 500 megawatts in Ohio.

A gift bag given to all in attendance contained a puzzle depicting the local landscape with wind turbines. Alonso said developing a project takes more than 200 pieces.

“Three to four years ago, there was no picture,” he said. “It was our duty to create a vision.”

The project would be nothing without state policy and the 20-year AEP contract.

Alonso said his commitment to the community is to be a silent, humble partner in the community. He thanked property owners for trusting their land to the company.

He noted that in Columbus and in Washington, D.C., there are claims that wind power doesn’t work. Alonso said that not only is wind a new source of revenue, it isn’t burning or destroying anything.

“Wind works!” he exclaimed.