Industry slams Ohio turbine law

US wind industry leaders slammed Governor John Kasich and state lawmakers after he signed Ohio’s budget bill without vetoing a provision that requires turbines to be at least 1,300 feet (396.2 metres) from the nearest property line, instead of the nearest house.

“Governor Kasich has walked away from his commitment to renewable energy. He and the legislature are creating an unfriendly business environment in Ohio,” Tom Kiernan, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), says in a statement.

He contends that legislators rammed through the new requirement in House Bill 483 “without due process” and public debate.

“This isn’t right, and it isn’t fair to Ohio taxpayers and companies that now stand to lose millions of dollars they have already invested into trying to do business in Ohio,” Kiernan adds.

Developers contend that the rule makes it difficult, if not impossible, to proceed with an estimated $2.5bn worth of projects currently under development, and perhaps as much in the planning stages.

It “appears designed to make the construction of utility-scale wind farms commercially unviable,” wrote Gabriel Alonso, chief executive of EDP Renewables North America, in a letter to Kasich.

He adds the company’s planned $1bn investment in Ohio “would be devastated by this provision.”

Proponents of the bill recognise that the restriction may cause developers to re-think some projects. Still, they defend it as necessary to protect property owners from turbine noise, falling ice, shadow flicker and other potential problems.

“This is an Ohio Job killer, pure and simple,” Apex Clean Energy President Mark Goodwin wrote to Kasich.

With the setback requirement, he adds, Apex “will have no choice but to take its investment and its business elsewhere. Given the need to find new carbon-free sources of electricity in Ohio, we cannot imagine a worse time to send wind energy companies packing.”

Days earlier, Kasich signed a bill into law that imposes a two-year freeze on Ohio’s renewables mandate and energy efficiency programs, the first such move by a US state.

Kasich insists he is a supporter of renewable energy including wind but felt a “pause” was necessary for the state to assess the pros and cons of the mandate.