It's Prime Time for Ohio to Embrace Better Wind Energy Policies

Timber Road II Wind Farm image by David Grant via Flickr

If your state is really good at something, wouldn't it make sense to do everything in your power to capitalize on that success? Despite being a national leader in creating wind-related manufacturing products like turbines and blades, Ohio created a law that essentially makes putting these products to use on a commercial scale unfeasible in the state.

In 2014, Ohio passed a law that nearly tripled wind turbine property setback requirements, essentially grinding to a halt the development of new commercial windfarms in the state. This is a tremendous misstep for Ohio especially as an increasing number of global tech companies like Amazon and Google commit to powering their energy intensive data centers with renewable energy. Because these facilities are estimated to use as much power as a small city, the financial and environmental benefits of using renewable energy as their main source of power is tremendous.

Thanks to a grandfather provision, Amazon was able to sidestep the policy and announced it would build a 100-megawatt wind farm in Paulding County. This local windfarm will generate energy to power the company's energy intensive data centers -- a great step forward in helping us reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

Amazon was able to work around the law this time, but what does this mean for everyone else? As for new projects for Amazon or any other business seeking the same benefit - they are out of loopholes and out of luck. Ohio Representative Tony Burkley confirms this by saying, "If they had to go by the current setbacks, that wind farm would not be constructed."

While the law does nothing to prohibit companies from using clean energy, it does make it extremely difficult for them to get it, forcing them to ship wind power in from other states like North Carolina. Representative Burkley and others are witnessing how this flawed wind turbine regulation is hampering the development of jobs and sending billions of dollars of wind energy investment elsewhere.

Locally, these lost dollars could provide big benefits to local taxpayers, schools and businesses, while also attracting new companies to the state. For example, Lincolnview School District in Van Wert County received $400,000 from previous wind projects and another new proposed project would have contributed an additional $600,000. But because of the setback law, the dollars disappeared when the project was scrapped. On a larger global scale, the misguided law also does nothing to reduce dangerous carbon pollution associated with climate change, which is fueling extreme weather and endangering public health. Our future generations are depending on us to clean up this mess - we can and we must do better.

As more multinational businesses like Amazon and Google recognize the benefits of using wind and solar for their energy needs, the list of companies making commitments to renewable energy continues to grow. Ohio is in a prime position to capitalize on this demand but with each bad policy that passes into law, these opportunities will become sparse.

Any legislative roadblock that makes it harder for business to operate in the state will have harmful long-term effects for Ohio's economy and environment. Until Ohio fixes this flawed law, the state will have to sit on the sidelines while others it by.

About the Authors

Henry Henderson

Director, Midwest program

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