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Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Big wind coming?

Community development director courting largest wind turbine supplier in America

By Shelley Grieshop
The largest wind turbine supplier in the U.S. is sizing up Mercer County as a location for the first major wind farm in Ohio.
Mercer County Community Development Director Larry Stelzer recently met with company officials who are seeking a location to build what would be the largest wind farm in the state. Although Stelzer refused to release the name of the company at their request, it appears the wind giant is FPL Energy, according to data supplied by the U.S. Energy Department.
FPL is billed by wind energy experts as the second largest wind turbine supplier in the world. Stelzer is obviously excited about its interest in the local area.
"I think it would be phenomenal, in my opinion," he said of the prospect. "This could really put us on the map."
The company, which currently has 58 wind farms in 16 states and Canada, is interested in building a wind farm producing 200 megawatts. It would take approximately 100 turbines to produce that much energy, Stelzer said.
Stelzer would not say where the company is looking to build but said it would not be near Grand Lake.
The only multiple turbine site currently in Ohio is the four turbines located in the Bowling Green are and owned by numerous entities in the area. Together those turbines produce about 7.2 megawatts.
Several regions within Ohio - including Mercer County - have been pinpointed by experts to have sufficient wind speed for the operation of turbines. Also, the local area is close to a large electric grid, which would be used to "pipe" the power across the state and possibly other regions of the country.
Stelzer said the revenue coming into the county with the creation of a wind farm could be a huge boost to the local economy.
"It would bring about 200 people to the area just to build it...think about it, that's a lot of people coming here to work, stay in our hotels and eat here," he said.
Stelzer admitted job creation would be minimal after the wind farm is constructed because turbine maintenance is minimal. But the upfront money and the annual dividend landowners would receive for their property would be extra money in their pockets, he said.
Stelzer said another "spin-off" of a wind farm would be the lure of other manufacturing plants to the county and the possibility of new contracts for local companies. There are at least five Mercer County companies currently interested in supplying components for turbines, which could create more jobs, he said.
"The state has a Retooling for Ohio energy grant program right now for companies supplying components for turbines," he added.
Stelzer said he plans to accompany company officials to one of their wind farms in Iowa to check out the business and obtain more information for landowners here.
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