Wind power in Ohio enjoys growth spurt

Source: Mark Williams, The Columbus Dispatch • Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012


More wind turbines are appearing in Ohio. The state led the nation in percentage growth of wind power in 2011.

Ohio is making gains in the “green economy,” according to a new report that says the state is one of the nation’s fastest-growing new markets for wind projects.

The report by the American Wind Energy Association said the state added more electricity from wind power on a percentage basis in 2011 than any other state did, although the growth came from a low starting point.

Ohio also got high marks as a producer of jobs, ranking No. 4 in the nation with as many as 6,000 jobs connected to wind, the association said.

The state benefited from its strong manufacturing history, the report said.

“It’s been a core state for wind manufacturing for a long time,” said Elizabeth Salerno, the association’s director of industry data and analysis.

The report notes that the state has at least 60 manufacturing facilities that supply components for turbines. Ohio trails Iowa, Texas and Illinois in jobs tied to wind.

But the big change more recently is the amount of wind power being produced in Ohio, and the projects under development.

Working off a small base, the state’s wind capacity grew by 929 percent, topping Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan and Idaho as the best in the country, the report said.

Despite the increase, less than 1 percent of the state’s electricity comes from wind, and Ohio is far behind more-traditional powerhouses such as Texas, Iowa and California.

But advocates say that change can come quickly.

“There’s been a lot of progress in the state in the past couple of years,” said Mike Speerschneider, director of government affairs for EverPower Wind Holdings. Last month, the company won an Ohio Supreme Court ruling allowing it to proceed with a $150 million wind farm it wants to build in Champaign County.

Ohio has more than $800 million invested in new projects or those under construction, according to the report. The state added 100 megawatts of power in 2011, and 300 more megawatts are under construction. A typical 2-megawatt wind turbine can power 600 homes.

Salerno said she expects Ohio to follow a path similar to that of Indiana, which generated little energy from wind until a few years ago. It now is No. 13 in the country and one of 14 states with at least 1,000 megawatts of wind power.

She credits wind power’s growth in Ohio to changes in the state’s tax policy, and to a standard that requires utilities to generate power from renewable sources.

The Champaign County project, called Buckeye Wind, will consist of 52 turbines. Construction should start in 2013.

The company also plans an expansion of the Buckeye Wind project that would add 50 more turbines in the area, and it has plans for a project in Hardin County in northwestern Ohio.

“There’s a lot of evidence on the ground on the benefits of wind to Ohio,” Speerschneider said. “ It doesn’t happen overnight.”

The state is a good spot to benefit from wind development, he said. There is good transmission capacity in the state, and newer technology allows turbines to operate more efficiently at lower wind speeds, he said.

The costs of new wind projects also are coming down, he said.