PAULDING — The Ohio Power Sitting Board held a public meeting to discuss the proposed Timber Road Wind Farm IV on Tuesday in Paulding.
The proposed wind farm would be located in Benton, Blue Creek, Crane, Harrison and Paulding townships. The 125-megawatt project would have 31 total turbines that may range from 3-4.2 megawatts, according to Erin Bower, director of project management for EDP Renewables (EDP/EDPR). Bower said a buyer for the project has been secured but is not being announced at this time.
If the Ohio Power Sitting Board approves the project, construction is set to begin in the spring. The board regulates the siting of wind farms with a generating capacity of 5 or more megawatts.
Several residents and officials spoke about the project.
“I support renewable energy 100 percent and 100 percent support EDPR in any project,” said resident Barb Morris. She said when EDPR had its first project in the county she paid close attention. “I observed their safety practices, environmental practices and observed how they conducted their daily practices. In my personal opinion, EDPR has exceeded their commitment to land owners in the region. ... I support the expansion of EDPR in Paulding County now for this project and in any project in the future.”
Jerry Zielke, economic development director for Paulding County, said that the county “has seen tremendous positive impacts by wind farm projects build by EDP over the years.”
He said not only have local businesses greatly benefited, but EDP has given financial support to volunteer fire departments in the county, the fair and other organizations and entities.
Rhonda Smalley, president of the Bargain Bin of Paulding County, said when she first heard about wind farms coming into the county she thought it made sense “to use our God-given winds and lasso them.”
She said besides the job opportunities the wind farms have provided, EDPR is “very giving to the needs we see in our county.”
Smalley pointed out that EDPR donated $10,000 to help with the building of the new Bargain Bin, which in turn helps the Paulding County Hospital’s physical therapy department.
Lisa McClure, executive director of the Paulding County Area Foundation, said that three turbines sit on land the foundation owns. Money from the turbines helps fund scholarships in the county.
“EDP and the Paulding Area Foundation have three similar commitments,” she said. “One is a brighter future for the next generation. The second is to give back to the county through economic growth. The third is to pay it forward.”
Ron Kadesch said he’s heard some concerns about the wind farms, particularly involving bird deaths. In doing research, however, he’s found cats kill more birds — 1.4-3.7 billion — a year, while wind farms are only estimated to kill 140,000-328,000 a year.
“Turbines are an important part of the future,” he said. “It means jobs and better living for all involved.”
Kadesch added he would rather live closer to wind turbines than to a nuclear or coal-burning power plant.
Resident Dan Bacon said he was in the Timber Road III project and has several turbines on his property.
“EDP is good to work with,” he said. “Payments come in as scheduled. I just hope other people can have the same opportunity that we had.”
Wayne Trace Local Schools Superintendent Benjamin Winans said the district as a whole has been very welcoming of wind farms. He said through the payment in lieu of taxes funds the wind farms make to various entities, the district hired 18 new staff members to help students as intervention specialists.
“By increasing staff, we were able to close gaps for students and get higher marks (on the state report card),” he said, adding that was all done without additional income from local taxes. “We are grateful to have the wind revenue in our district and for it to directly affect our students.”
In addition, the district has been able to put more funds toward building improvements without added costs to taxpayers, Winans said.
Rick Turner, superintendent at Vantage Career Center, echoed Winans statements stating that funds from the wind farms have given “immeasurable” help to the center’s students.
Gary Steinman, who owns property in Paulding County, said that EDP had responded very, very quickly with any issues he’s had.
“I feel they are a good neighbor,” he said. Steinman did question additional restrictions on setbacks for projects. “We could produce more (energy) if you go back to the original restrictions.”
Not everyone was fully supportive of the project.
“I was excited when we were first getting a wind farm until I had two turbines in the front, two on the side and two in the back of my home and I got the flickering,” said Debra Ward of Payne. “I didn’t get any residuals either.”
She added in the fall she watched some geese get caught in the wind turbine, while they didn’t die they were discombobulated and confused.
“Wind farms are great because we don’t want nuclear,” she said. “I’m for this, but not for this. A lot of people are affected by this. It’s a nice energy source, but solar is too.”
Gary Mabis of Antwerp said he’s seen the economic value the turbines have brought to the county, but he does have a concern.
“How much more of Paulding County will be dotted with windmills?” he asked. “As I look out of my double bay windows all I see is sequencing red lights. I appreciate everything they’ve done, but at what point do we say enough is enough with our county being dotted with windmills.”