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The 304 MW Blue Creek Wind Farm, owned and operated by Iberdrola Renewables, is the largest wind farm in Ohio. Operational since 2012, the project is powered by 152 Gamesa G90 2 MW wind turbines. In fact, the project represents the largest single installation in Iberdrola’s North American wind portfolio.

More impressive, however, is the economic impact the wind farm had on Ohio’s Van Wert and Paulding counties. Taxes generated by the wind farm helped to fund school budgets, restore local roads and revitalize the local economy.

For example, the wind farm is the largest taxable entity in Van Wert County, generating more than $2 million annually. The wind farm has also been a boon to the county’s Crestview Local School District, which receives approximately $850,000 annually for the life of the wind farm. Neighboring Paulding County, home to 37 wind turbines, receives an additional $660,000 annually.

“The economic benefits created by the wind farm are impressive,” explains Bill Dowler, a Union Township trustee and wind farm lease holder, adding that the town received an added bonus when Iberdrola made good on a promise to upgrade local roads prior to construction.

“The roads held up after construction, so we got better and stronger roads out of the deal, too,” quips Dowler.

Such a turnaround in civic fortunes was only made possible by the passage of S.B.221, which ushered in Ohio’s 25% by 2025 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). Per the law, at least 12.5% of Ohio utilities’ electricity must come from renewable energy resources, including 0.05% from solar energy.

The AEPS was the principle reason why Iberdrola Renewables chose Ohio to build, explains Dan Litchfield, senior project developer at Iberdrola Renewables.

At the time, Iberdrola’s development team was performing studies in several Midwest states, Litchfield recalls. “I can remember doing pre-construction estimates in Michigan, but when the law passed in 2008, the company prioritized Ohio,” he says.

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At first, he admits, the idea of a large U.S. wind developer, such as Iberdrola, descending on a state with zero installed capacity took some time to comprehend. At a time when other wind-friendly states, such as California, Texas and Iowa, were cranking out wind farms, wind development in Ohio was just getting started.

Furthermore, even though it seemed like an unorthodox choice five years ago, Iberdrola was one of the first U.S. developers to make workable a site location not blessed with an abundant resource. Because the atmosphere above the site has a considerable shear profile, Iberdrola theorized it could maximize site energy capture by using a longer rotor diameter (90 meters) on a 100-meter tower.

Slowly, the project began to take shape. In August 2010, after a nine-month review, the developer received its Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Necessity from the Ohio Siting Board, which allowed wind farm construction to begin.

In the beginning, Iberdrola worked through some vexing drainage issues at the site caused by the proximity to Lake Erie. The site was a swamp about 150 years ago, Litchfield says, and the region’s heavy clay soil and flat expanses make the area prone to flooding.

Some team members began to question the site selection. “Early on, we were like, ‘What are we doing in Ohio?’”

Compounding matters was the presence of drainage tiles every 30 feet, which invariably needed replacement or repair after the collector system was installed. Also, some tiles were crushed after heavy construction equipment repeatedly rolled over the site, necessitating a second round of tile repair. Litchfield insists the issue was a minor one and credits Delphos, Ohio-based All Purpose Contracting for tile repair assistance.

In October 2010, construction began, and by May 2011, Gamesa turbines began to arrive. By spring 2012, commercial operation commenced.

The project has three off-take agreements: American Municipal Power (52 MW), First Energy Solutions (100 MW) and Ohio State University (50 MW) are each purchasing a combination of energy and renewable energy certificates.

Iberdrola says Blue Creek is performing to expectations, and the wind farm has been something of a conversation piece among local businesses. Shortly after energization, two local businesses followed suit and began taking advantage of a net metering program with the installation of Goldwind’s 1.5 MW direct-drive permanent-magnet wind turbines. As further evidence that Ohio’s renewable energy mandate is working, EDP Renewables built the 99 MW Timber Road II wind farm on adjacent property.

However, at press time, anti-renewable energy forces are working to strike down Ohio’s AEPS. (For more on Ohio’s AEPS, be sure to check out “Battleground Ohio: State Confronts RPS Freeze”.) A successful outcome by the opposition, Litchfield explains, would seriously jeopardize Iberdrola’s plans to build more wind farms in the state.

“We invested in Ohio because of S.B.221 in 2008,” stresses Litchfield, who recently provided testimony at the state capitol to keep the AEPS intact. “To change it now is not a good sign for us.” w

Project Profile: Blue Creek Wind Farm

Wind Farm Exemplifies Why Ohio Policy Matters

By Mark Del Franco

Although Ohio’s renewable energy mandate has come under fire, several communities are reaping the economic benefits created by the Blue Creek Wind Farm.

 

 

 

 

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