Wind Farm Company, Residents Spar At Town Hall Meeting

April 17, 2014: Middle Point, OH - For more than two hours, representatives of Iberdrola Renewables met at Lincolnview High School with locals concerning the proposed Dog Creek Wind Farm planned for northeastern Van Wert County.

The stated goal of the evening was for Iberdrola Renewables to present an educational session with an opportunity for questions and answers. If constructed, the proposed project would include around 60 wind turbines in an area bordered on the north by U.S. 224, on the east by Bockey Rd., on the south by Lincoln Hwy., and on the west by the Blue Creek Wind Farm.

The project is far from certain to be built. The Van Wert County Commissioners still need to decide if an agreement like one reached to build the Blue Creek Wind Farm will be accepted. That agreement called for the energy company to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) rather than paying property tax as a public utility. For the Blue Creek project, that agreement meant that an annual payment of over $2 million comes to the county to be split among school districts, townships, and certain charitable entities in affected areas of the county. The first of 20 such payments was made in January 2014.

There was plenty of information shared. Iberdrola Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs Eric Thumma spoke about power plant economics, the effect of wind on energy prices, and energy subsidies. Project Developer Dan Litchfield followed with a presentation about local tax payments to the approximately 80 people on hand. Along the way a group in the audience, many stating their addresses as Delphos, objected to many points. With a barrage of questions and comments on complicated issues, a few left the meeting before it concluded.

Toward the end of the evening, Lincolnview Superintendent Jeffery Snyder to talk about the proposed project’s potential effect on the school district’s finances. Lincolnview already receives around $410,000 each year in PILOT funding from the Blue Creek Wind Farm.

“We’ve been flat-lined since 1996, so we watch every penny and spend our money wisely, but the average increase over the years is like 75 percent. Expenditures increase per year. We received zero percent last year from the State of Ohio, and we’ll receive zero percent this year.” Snyder explained. “As we had our first opportunity to receive $400,000, it’s been a godsend. It’s huge for us in this district!”

The money from the PILOT program goes to school districts which have wind turbines located within their borders. If plans continue for Dog Creek, Lincolnview could receive $600,000 in payments, which would bring the wind farm income for the district to over $1 million per year.

“That would be like asking our community for 10 mills in tax,” stated Snyder. He went on to talk about the district where he formerly worked and the problems and sacrifices that had to be made because of reduced funding.

“We were a bare minimum picture, and it was not a pleasant district to be in everyday for kids and teachers to develop synergy to do great things,” he continued. “I am so ecstatic to see what this [money] will create for us.”

Lincolnview Board President Eric German followed Snyder to note that the wind farm windfall can help to make up for the loss of state funding to the district.

It was noted that there are no current plans to erect wind turbines within the borders of the Delphos City Schools district, so if the funds from the PILOT are distributed using the same format as the Blue Creek plan, it would be expected that Lincolnview would be the only district to collect and Delphos City Schools would not receive any money. Snyder shared that he knew that the cash-strapped Delphos district could really be helped by having such an income.

The discussion will certainly continue, although the main participants will be Iberdrola and the Van Wert County Commissioners, each of whom were in attendance at the Wednesday night town hall meeting. The Blue Creek project was built under an alternative energy zone declaration, which the commissioners have vowed not to use again.

Another Iberdrola possibility is to delay or cancel the Dog Creek project and instead build the wind farm it is developing near Leipsic. The power company and the commissioners will be continuing discussions over the next few weeks.

Story by Ed Gebert, Times Bulletin