Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

More farming for wind

Mercer County landowners pen agreements with energy companies

By Shelley Grieshop

Acres of farmland in southern Mercer County are under contract to wind companies. . .

Several property owners in southern Mercer County already have signed legal agreements with wind energy companies.
According to the Mercer County Recorder's office, at least 18 tracts of rural land are under contract with wind energy companies, some dating back to August 2008. The companies include Invenergy, Clipper and NextEra.
NextEra has publicly expressed interest in developing a wind farm in southern Mercer County with up to 100 wind turbines. The company already has four wind speed test towers operating on land it is leasing from property owners in the St. Henry, Maria Stein and Fort Recovery areas.
"We believe there's potential for a wind project in Mercer County ... but it's all speculation at this point," said Steve Stengel, a spokesman for NextEra. "It's still fairly early in the development cycle."
The frenzy over wind energy is rampant as wind companies rush to meet deadlines for government subsidies. Ohio utility companies also are getting anxious; by 2025 they must purchase 25 percent of their electricity from alternative energy sources.
Not everyone is pleased with the idea of lofty turbines sprouting up amid cornfields. A local group called "Citizens Against Turbines" has been distributing letters and flyers about the negative aspects of wind energy. When contacted by The Daily Standard, they refused to speak publicly. They have created a website - windworrier.webstarts.com.
A letter recently drafted by the group and provided to the newspaper states "these monstrous turbines will destroy the friendly and peaceful way of life we have become accustomed to in Mercer County, causing our property values to decline, land-locking for potential growth and division of our close-knit community."
NextEra officials held a private meeting last week with some of the members of Citizens Against Turbines to address their concerns. Stengel said a lot of misconceptions exist about wind energy and the public deserves the facts.
"People have a right to be curious, to ask questions," he said.
Tom Stacy of Zanesville, an energy policy researcher and member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers National Energy Policy Committee, said he bases his opinion on wind energy from scientific facts.
And what's his opinion? Wind will never replace traditional sources such as coal and natural gas, he said.
"For every unit of energy on the grid, you have to have 2 to 21/2 units of another source, such as natural gas, to work," Stacy explained. "It's not really getting us away from fossil fuels."
Nuclear and coal-fired power are still the cheapest sources of energy, he said.
Wind energy will be expensive for consumers, although the cost increase won't immediately appear on electric bills, Stacy said. Thanks to Ohio legislation, utility companies tapping into wind energy cannot raise their prices more than 2 percent per year, he said.
Stacy believes communities will eventually feel the financial impact as tax dollars are spent on subsidies for wind companies instead of going to cities and towns for street repair and other improvements.
"That means less dollars for our schools, less services, the raising of taxes ... if more money is funneled toward wind energy," he said.
Stacy calls wind energy a "murky and complicated" matter and believes supporters keep it that way to blind-side the public from the negatives.
William and Cathy Dowler of Convoy in Van Wert County did their own research and soon will have two wind turbines spinning on their property. The structures are two of about 120 wind turbines being built next year in the county.
William Dowler, a Union Township trustee, visited an out-of-state wind farm before committing his land for the project.
"I leaned my arm up against the pedestal of one and it sounded like a computer humming," he said. "If I closed my eyes, I could hear a quiet swish but when I walked a few yards away, I could hear nothing."
He admitted the proposed wind farm north of Van Wert city has generated plenty of controversy.
"I can name neighbors who are upset about 'em," Dowler said. "But I think they're good for the community. And I guarantee land values will go up, not down, like some people think."
He and his wife will receive $5,000 to $7,000 per year, per turbine, depending on the amount of electricity generated, as well as $40 per acre each year, he said. The wind company also promised to compensate the family for crop losses and damages, he added.
"They're paying us pretty well for that," Dowler said.
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