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Seneca County and Utility-Scale Wind Development

Utility Surveying Area to Develop Wind Farm
Firm Is In Talks with Landowners in Seneca County
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BASCOM, Ohio - Ohio's first utility-scale wind farm could be developed north of this tiny Seneca County village - instead of rural Bowling Green which already is home to large turbines.

While the four utility-scale turbines at the Wood County landfill off U.S. 6 made history as the first to be installed in Ohio, that site isn't really what renewable energy buffs consider to be a wind farm.

Not that anyone in this fledgling industry has a clear definition of what separates a wind farm from a demonstration project, mind you.

One litmus test could be the Ohio Power Siting Board.

Licenses from that state board are required for projects 50 megawatts or greater. Generating that much would require at least 30 turbines.

Each of Bowling Green's four turbines, built with assistance from American Municipal Power-Ohio and now operated by a 10-member AMP-Ohio consortium, generates a little more than 1.7 megawatts of electricity.

Together, they put out 7 megawatts - roughly enough juice for 7,000 homes.

Even Daryl Stockburger, the retired Bowling Green utilities director who masterminded that project, concedes that's not really a wind farm per se.

Enter J.W. Great Lakes Wind LLC of Cleveland. The company, a subsidiary of Juwi International, a German-based energy giant, appears serious about playing a role in the next chapter of Ohio's renewable energy story.

J.W. Great Lakes Wind wants to install at least 50 megawatts in rural Seneca County and is considering the same for the Bowling Green area, although the Seneca project has pulled ahead of the latter.

But J.W. Great Lakes Wind is not the only player in the game.

Dale Arnold, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation energy services director, said he knows of "eight or nine" companies working with communities to scour Ohio for the best sites. Most so far appear to be in the northwest and southwest parts of the state, he said.

Nobody's ready to break ground yet. In most cases, long-term leases are negotiated with property owners, setting off another round of wind and wildlife studies, he said.

Some projects in southwest Ohio appear to be about two years ahead of the Seneca County project, Mr. Arnold said.

In recent weeks, J.W. Great Lakes Wind has signed long-term deals with an unspecified number of farmers and other landowners for leases to their property so it can erect an unspecified number of turbines.

Peter Endes, the company's project manager, said he's being a bit cryptic at the moment because negotiations are pending.

But he said J.W. Great Lakes

Wind likes Seneca County because of its availability of wind and access to the region's electrical grid.

He said the company did "two or three years" of research before entering into negotiations with landowners.

He said it is focused on projects 50 megawatts or greater because they have more viable economies of scale than smaller projects, meaning the cost-per-turbine is less.

And while leasing property doesn't commit his company to actually install turbines, it "wouldn't be at this stage of the game if we didn't have at least some reasonable degree of confidence to go forward with the project," he said.

Mr. Endes said the most popular turbine in the United States for utility-scale wind power generates about 1.5 megawatts of electricity.

At that power level, at least 33 turbines would need to be installed to generate 50 megawatts of power.

Mr. Endes said the project could well exceed 50 megawatts if there's enough interest.

A megawatt is enough electricity to power roughly 1,000 homes - or slightly fewer when demand peaks during the summer.

FirstEnergy Corp.'s coal-fired Bay Shore power plant in Oregon puts out an average 631 megawatts of electricity onto the grid, Ellen Raines, utility spokesman, said.

About 420 wind turbines would be required to produce the electricity of Bay Shore. Coal-fired power plants also produce what's known as baseload power, meaning that it's generating electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Although wind accounts for less than 1 percent of the nation's power, it is the nation's fastest-growing form of energy production. And Ohio is viewed as a hot spot, not only because of its available wind but also because of its manufacturing base and its access to transmission lines.

"We're excited about it," Seneca County Commissioner Mike Bridinger said of the project. "The technology is there. All we have to do is collaborate with our neighbors."

Mr. Endes declined to say how far along J.W. Great Lakes Wind is in terms of getting enough commitments from Seneca County landowners.

He said the company should have a pretty good idea where things stand within six to eight months. Then, it would be looking at another two to three years of preparation before the construction phase, which would take about 6 to 10 months.

Still in the running is the Bowling Green area. While J.W. Great Lakes Wind is developing the Seneca County project by itself, it has entered into an agreement with AMP-Ohio and the city of Bowling Green on another project there.

That one also would entail 50 megawatts or more power. But unlike the Seneca County project, no long-term leases have been signed in the Bowling Green area yet, Mr. Endes said.

For the Seneca County project, J.W. Great Lakes Wind would erect the turbines and serve as an independent power producer. The electricity it generates would be sold to a utility. Details of the Bowling Green project would be made with AMP-Ohio and that city.

AMP-Ohio is the predominant utility in that area, Mr. Bridinger said.