Jun. 25—In a rare move, the Ohio Power Siting Board unanimously rejected plans for a large, commercial-scale wind farm in northwest Ohio on Thursday.
Citing well-organized public opposition from Seneca County residents and a long list of their elected officials, the OPSB said it will not allow the proposed Republic Wind Farm project to proceed.
Once touted by its developer as a $92 million investment, Republic Wind was proposed primarily for Seneca County as well as one township in neighboring Sandusky County.
The same board voted unanimously to allow the proposed Firelands Wind Farm in Erie and Huron counties to proceed. There was not as much organized opposition in those counties.
Even Chris Aichholz, one of the leaders of the citizen-led Seneca Anti-Wind Union movement, was stunned that Seneca County residents had prevailed for a second time.
He said he's never seen the siting board deny such a project. As late as Wednesday afternoon, he told The Blade he thought it would be approved, but with multiple conditions to help quell the opposition.
"It's refreshing," Mr. Aichholz said, explaining how residents has raised concerns about the region's porous karst geology, bald eagles, migratory birds, and proximity to airports and school buildings.
First proposed in 2017, the project resulted in "four years of money, strife, and community divisiveness," he said.
"Finally, they just couldn't ignore it," Mr. AIchholz said of the OPSB. "It's a good day for Seneca County and the rest of Ohio can take a deep breath."
Before calling for a vote, siting board chairman Jennifer French noted the well-organized opposition in Seneca County, and said she was impressed citizens had even hired a karst expert to help defend their claims.
"The result, like most things in life, is better because of your participation," Ms. French said to county residents in general during a 20-minute recorded broadcast of the meeting available for viewing on YouTube.
"It is important that we not just hear these comments and concerns, but that we listen to them," she added.
Republic Wind, LLC, scaled back its plan after initially announcing it wanted to erect 66 turbines that could generate up to 450 megawatts of power.
Its ultimate decision to propose up to 47 wind turbines with a total generating capacity of up to 200 megawatts still didn't win the opposition's acceptance.
The array was to be spread across Seneca County's Adams, Pleasant, Reed, Scipio, and Thompson townships and Sandusky County's York Township.
Its developer, Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville, Va., did not return requests for comment about the OPSB decision.
Republic Wind is one of two proposals for major wind farms that Seneca County residents successfully fought off.
Months ago, a proposed 85-turbine Seneca Wind farm that was estimated to cost $275 million to $300 million and generate $56 million in tax revenue for schools and other local governmental bodies was nixed.
Its developer, Utah-based sPower, quietly announced it was its dropping plans.
The OPSB denied the Republic Wind application despite last-minute attempts by state Sen. Sandra Williams (D., Cleveland) and state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D., Parma), both of whom questioned what kind of a precedent the siting board might be setting with its decision.
Mr. Crossman asked the OPSB to table a vote, but got no support.
"This basically sends a take-home message to [wind power] developers that they're not welcome here in Ohio," Mr. Crossman said.
In a joint statement, state Sen. Bill Reineke (R., Tiffin) and state Reps. Riordan McClain (R., Upper Sandusky) and Gary Click (R., Vickery) commended Seneca County residents for having their voices heard and said they "have steadfastly defended their quality of life and their intuitive protection of their community."
"It is gratifying that the OPSB has reached a logical conclusion with regards to this project after an extensive review of the facts and the law and consideration of the overwhelming public concern," the statement read.
The Firelands Wind project, originally called Emerson Creek, was approved by the siting board as a wind farm of up to 71 turbines spread across Erie and Huron counties.
It, too, has Apex Clean Energy as its developer. It was originally going to cross over into part of Seneca County with 87 turbines in all. In both the preliminary and approved versions, nearly 300 megawatts of power are to be generated, according to the OPSB decision.
First Published June 24, 2021, 6:43pm