Wind talker: Village organizes meeting on wind farm proposal

BUCKLAND — A possible wind farm project, which would generate nearly five times the electricity used by the city of Wapakoneta, should be less intrusive than people might believe, a representative of an international renewable power company says.

While the project may not create a lot of jobs, he says it could create some windfall for townships and schools.

Nearly 80 people attended a public meeting at the Buckland Community Center to hear information concerning the possible wind farm project being pursued for land north of Wapakoneta and in the Buckland area.

Chris White, a land acquisition representative from U.S. Mainstream Renewable Power Inc., with its American headquarters in Chicago, spoke on the project and addressed questions during nearly two hour presentation.

White fielded several concerns from the audience, the first concerning noise generated by the wind turbines. One resident argued that turbines in a comparable project in Van Wert County caused noise 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

White disagreed with his assessment.

“The new turbines have engineering that is quite remarkable,” White said. “They are very quiet.”

He told those in attendance that there has been no evidence of decrease in home values caused by the windmills, answering a question of another resident in attendance.

He said that a farmer would lose approximately  1 to 1 1/2 acres of farmland per turbine, based on the size of each unit and access roads needed to get to each turbine. Homeowners must sign a long-term lease and will likely receive approximately $7,000 to $10,000 per year for each turbine.

Residents also expressed a concern of road maintenance due to increased travel on rural roads. White explained the company would have responsibility for helping maintain the roads.

One resident said a similar project had been proposed two or three years ago and that it had been determined that there wasn’t enough wind velocity to make a wind farm in the county feasible.

“I am not aware of their study and what was found,” White said, “but the design has changed quite a bit since then.”

Mainstream, headquartered in Chicago, staff recently completed preliminary studies for the project, which has targeted parts of Duchouquet, Logan and Moulton townships.

White said that the project is still in its infancy and there is a three- to four-year process before it would even get to the point where building started.

He said the company has a target of acquiring approximately 8,000 to 10,000 acres from interested owners and has acquired to date approximately 5,000 acres from interested property owners.

To put in perspective how much electricity would be created, White said the entire city of Wapakoneta uses approximately 30 megawatts of power. The project would generate approximately five times that (150 megawatts).

White said that several public meetings would be held in the future to field concerns from residents. The project would not create a large number of jobs, as it will field a staff of a 10-15 maintenance crew and a small monitoring staff.

However, the wind farm could create what could equate to approximately $900,000 in property tax revenues to be dispersed to area townships, municipalities and school districts.

Mainstream officials expect to conduct further and more in-depth analysis through 2012. The company will look at determining wind speeds and the overall feasibility for the development of a wind generation project in the area.

The U.S. company is managed internationally by Mainstream, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. They have established wind and solar energy plants in eight countries on four continents.

One resident expressed concern with a foreign company reaping the benefits of the wind farm.

White referred all questions from the Wapakoneta Daily News to Dan Schumann, senior development project manager for the company.

Schumann could not be reached for comment prior to press time today.

Buckland Mayor Dan Lambert said he decided to hold the meeting so area residents could learn some of the facts in the preliminary phase of the possible construction before other public meetings were scheduled later.

“They will have public meetings later but I wanted to have one earlier than when they started,” Lambert said. “I didn’t want anyone to get blindsided by this.”

Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council Executive Director Greg Myers also spoke briefly on some of the financial aspects of the project.