Invenergy originally had about 62 leases in the county, according to records at the county Recorder's Office, but how many of these may be involved in a transfer is not known. One property owner with an Invenergy lease told the Daily Citizen he has not been informed of a transfer.
Daniel E. Bline, 4820 Allison Road, Mechanicsburg, said his lease agreement is now with EverPower. He said the terms are the same except that Wind Energy is no longer the lease holder for his options or his mother's.
Bline said EverPower seems a progressive company and professional. He would not discuss details of any EverPower letters or legal agreements.
An anonymous lease holder leasing Wayne Township parcels to EverPower for turbine development said she and her husband know little about the wind energy lease option transfer, only that theirs were purchased by EverPower from Invenergy.
The anonymous person shared with the Daily Citizen a letter sent by EverPower on Dec. 20. The notice, welcoming the couple "into our project family," tells of the transfer and asks the couple to attend an information meeting at EverPower's Bellefontaine office on Dec. 29.
Walter Bumgarner, 8743 E. state Route 29, Mechanicsburg, told the Daily Citizen he hasn't received a letter or word of any kind that his lease agreement had been sold to EverPower. Bumgarner said, as far as he knows, his pact to lease a Goshen Township parcel for turbine development is still with Invenergy.
EverPower and Invenergy officials are not commenting on any transfer of leases or communication with lease holders.
"Our goal is to make a very community-friendly wind project, and by that I mean we continue to want to work with the land owners and the community to make sure this wind project is sited properly and is around for a long time" is the only comment Buckeye Wind spokesman Jason Dagger would give for this article.
In 2009, the Ohio Power Siting Board approved 54 wind turbines (Buckeye Wind project) to be built on the east side of Champaign County. The company would need to go before the board again if EverPower were to expand this original project or embark on a second project, according to state regulations.
Noise, safety and setbacks were among topics discussed when attorneys appeared before the Ohio Supreme Court in September to answer questions and state their cases concerning the OPSB's approval of EverPower's Buckeye Wind project.
Union Neighbors United, a citizens group, opposed the project, citing a number of concerns, including noise, health and safety. While not supporting or opposing the project, Champaign County and the townships of Goshen, Union and Salem also appealed the OPSB decision due to concerns about adequate financial coverage for repair of roads and bridges damaged by construction of the project and for the eventual removal of turbines.
Supreme Court personnel reiterated Friday that cases generally are decided four to six months after they are before the court.
Asked about his quote in another publication that a court decision was expected "any day," Dagger said he did not mean he expected a decision shortly, but rather that it could come at any time, sooner or later.
Staff Writers Jim Painter and Craig Shirk contributed to this article.
Wind power company could build more than 50 turbines
EverPower buying rights in Champaign County from Invenergy.
Local residents with lease agreements from Invenergy Wind North America LLC said they received a letter from the company notifying them of an agreement between Invenergy and EverPower Wind Holdings Inc.
Ted Black, who owns a farm in Union Twp., said Invenergy first approached him about a lease agreement about six years ago. But Black said he received a letter from the company in October stating that Invenergy was in the process of selling its leasing rights to Champaign Wind LLC, a subsidiary of EverPower.
Invenergy had more than 30 agreements with local residents, according to a News-Sun review of records in the Champaign County Recorder’s Office.
EverPower is in the process of constructing more than 50 wind turbines in Champaign County as part of the Buckeye Wind Project.
Although the project was approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board last year, opponents filed an appeal, and the case is now being reviewed by the Ohio Supreme Court.
If approved, the project is expected to generate 150 to 200 temporary jobs and 8 to 10 full-time jobs. It would provide as much as $20 million in taxes to the state, county and township governments and to local schools over the life of the project, according to information from the company.
Jason Dagger, a spokesman for Buckeye Wind, said the project cannot move forward without a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, but said a ruling is expected any day.
Dagger declined to discuss the agreement with Invenergy but said construction on Buckeye Wind could begin as early as the second quarter of 2012.
Environmental permits, road use agreements and other items must first be completed.
“We expect a Supreme Court ruling any day, and we feel that’s going to be very positive for the project,” Dagger said.
Representatives from Invenergy, based in Chicago, declined to comment Thursday.
Black said he has yet to sit down with representatives from either company since receiving the letter.
“It’s just going to kind of simplify the project in this area,” Black said.
Jon Berry, a Champaign County resident who also has a lease agreement with Invenergy, said he received a similar letter informing him of the agreement between Invenergy and EverPower. Berry said the terms of his lease with Invenergy will not change.
Matt Butler, a spokesman for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said if EverPower decides to use the leases to add a second phase to the project, it would have to submit a new application for approval. He said the state would not have to approve the lease agreement, but would have to approve any proposal for new turbines.
In the meantime, the Ohio Supreme Court is still reviewing an appeal filed in the Buckeye Wind Project, which would include 54 turbines throughout the county.
Union Neighbors United, a group opposed to the wind farm, objected to the process in which the Ohio Power Siting Board approved the project.
Chris Walker, an attorney for UNU, said the siting board failed to set a clear standard for how much noise turbines could produce and did not do enough to hold the project accountable to residents before issuing its approval.
“It all boils down to how far away should the turbines be from adjoining neighbors’ properties,” Walker said.
Walker argued the siting board also did not provide enough opportunities for opponents to present evidence on certain aspects of the plan, including which turbine will be used.
Champaign County prosecutors have said they neither oppose nor approve of the Buckeye Wind Project. But they argued that although the OPSB required Buckeye Wind to provide $5,000 per turbine for decommissioning, no evidence was presented to show how the OPSB decided on that amount.
Buckeye Wind is waiting on the court’s decision before selecting the model of turbine that will be used in the project. Dagger said Buckeye is in talks with several vendors and will narrow the list after the court’s ruling.
“Technology continues to change at lightning speed,” Dagger said.
When it was first proposed, Buckeye Wind was the first large-scale wind project in Ohio to begin the approval process with the OPSB. While it has been delayed in the courts, other projects in the state have since become operational.
Dagger said he is not sure why there was more opposition to the Champaign County project.
“We fall under the same siting regulations as those other projects,” he said.
Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0355.
DIXON – Is there a magical number for how far wind turbines should be from homes?
In Whiteside and Lee counties, the required distance is 1,400 feet.
Some counties have shorter setbacks; at least one county’s is greater. A few months ago, Brown County in central Illinois voted in a 2,000-foot setback, which may be the state’s longest.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a statewide 1,800-foot setback.
In most cases, wind energy companies can negotiate with their neighbors to put wind turbines even closer than setback requirements allow. Such waivers usually mean cash for neighbors.
In recent months, the issue came up in the Whiteside County Board’s committees. One proposed a 100-foot increase, while another voted for the status quo. The matter never reached the full board.
For 6 months, the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals has been reviewing its wind regulations. Only 2 weeks ago did the panel get to the controversial issue of setbacks, and that was just 10 minutes before adjournment.
During that short time, the board’s chairman, Ron Conderman, said he was fine with the current setback, while another member, Tom Fassler, suggested a 1 mile barrier.
The other three members didn’t offer a distance.
In October, a scientist suggested to the board that the setback be somewhere between 1 and 2 miles. He said there was “overwhelming evidence” that turbines hurt some people’s health.
Wind farms create noise, vibrations and shadow flicker that cause people to develop sleep, stress and mood disorders, the scientist said.
Issues related to wind farms don’t draw as much interest in communities such as Sterling, Dixon and Rock Falls. That’s because they have such high concentrations of people that there’s little likelihood that industrial turbines will be nearby.
Many in rural areas are becoming increasingly worried about the coming of wind farms. They hear stories about turbines’ effects on their friends near turbines.
The villages of Franklin Grove and Ashton in Lee County and Deer Grove in Whiteside County have passed ordinances regulating wind farm development in the 1.5-mile buffer zones around their communities. They have the right to do that.
Given political sentiment, it’s doubtful any of these towns will allow turbines anywhere near.
Earlier this year, Hamilton Township in southwestern Lee County passed a nonbinding comprehensive land-use plan that calls for banning turbines altogether.
Hamilton is where much of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power’s three-county wind farm is planned.
The company said it plans to be a good neighbor.
The setback issue likely will be the major topic at the Lee County Zoning Board’s meeting on Thursday.
The County Board will have the final say.
COMPTON – Gale Barnickel, a Compton farmer, says he’s not against the wind farm being built in his area.
He and his parents decided against having turbines on their farm, but he said they respected the rights of others to have them.
“We have no problems with what the neighbors want,” he said.
Now, he is alleging that wind energy company Goldwind USA has been repeatedly trespassing on his family’s property. And that has resulted in crop damage, he said.
The property is well posted, he said, so trespassers knew what they were doing.
He brought the allegations to last week’s meeting of the county Zoning Board of Appeals, which is recommending changes to the county’s wind energy ordinance.
On Sunday, Goldwind admitted that its contractor mistakenly crossed into Barnickel’s land.
“When they realized this, they contacted Mr. Barnickel to apologize and address the issue,” spokesman Colin Mahoney said in a statement.
Since then, he said, the contractor has taken “concrete steps” to clearly mark Barnickel’s land, so it’s more visible to construction crews.
At last week’s meeting, those attending expressed concern about Barnickel’s situation. Another wind company weighed in, saying such things shouldn’t happen.
Goldwind, a subsidiary of a Chinese company, is putting up 71 turbines in an area of roughly 6 square miles near Compton in eastern Lee County. It hopes to finish the project – known as Shady Oaks – by year’s end.
In September, a farmer reported that the company had built a road through his cornfield that, he said, was unnecessary. He and another farmer pointed out roads and easements that, they contend, the company mistakenly built through faulty planning.
Other paths for transmission lines were curved, when a straight line would have taken out less cropland, they said.
Unlike Barnickel, those farmers allowed wind turbines on their property, which means they’ll get money every year from the company. In the contracts, Goldwind has agreed to compensate farmers for cropland lost in the construction project.
Barnickel has no agreement with Goldwind.
“Something has to be done to control these guys,” he said. “We try to be neighborly, but we’ve caught them mowing down our crops. They’re cutting corners wherever they can.”
Board member Tom Fassler asked Barnickel whether he had called authorities. The farmer said he had filed two reports with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, but that it was a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep calling out the sheriff.
“It’s nerve-wracking being pushed around,” Barnickel said. “Why should I have to put up with that?”
“You shouldn’t,” Fassler responded.
Franklin Grove Village President Bob Logan, who attended the Zoning Board meeting, said that was what happens when wind farms are rushed through.
“You’re seeing the rush in the southern part of the county,” he said.
Logan warned that the county may face class-action lawsuits because “rights aren’t being respected.”
“It’s not a level playing field,” he said. “We are here to level it.”
John Martin of Mainstream Renewable Power, which plans a three-county wind farm, told Barnickel that “it’s just not right. No company should operate like this.”
The next day, Barnickel’s wife, Christina Barnickel, said in an interview that the state should fine companies that trespass.
“We have tried to stop them and showed them where the property line is,” she said. “You put so much hope and investment in the crop, and then someone knocks it over. It rubs you wrong.”
Mahoney said the company would continue to work hard to make sure it is a responsible neighbor throughout the rest of the project. He noted that the project is complex, with more than 100 workers busy building access roads, erecting turbines and delivering components on site.
“Despite this complexity, Goldwind is committed to minimizing the impact on the local community, including both participating landowners and neighboring landowners alike.”