On September 15, 2008, the Ohio Power Siting Board (“OPSB”) released for public comment proposed wind power siting rules. These rules will greatly impact the viability of siting wind farms in the State of Ohio. Specifically, the rules require any person seeking to site an “economically significant wind farm” (ESWF)1 operating at a capacity of five megawatts (“MW”) or more to obtain a construction certificate from the OPSB. A copy of the proposed rules can be found at http://www.opsb.ohio.gov/OPSB/cases/case.cfm?id=4284.
Initial comments on the rules are due from interested parties on September 29, 2008. Reply comments on the rules are due October 7, 2008.2
I. Wind Power Siting Rules
From the outset, it is important to note that the proposed wind power siting rules (new Chapter 4906-17 of the Administrative Code) are nearly identical to the existing siting rules for electric generation facilities. (See Sections 4906-13-01 through 4906-13-08 of the Ohio Administrative Code). In fact, the fundamental difference is that the new rules have been “wind”-ified – meaning the OPSB modified certain sections so they are applicable to the wind industry.
II. Key Provisions of the Proposed Wind Power Siting Rules
1. Construction of an ESWF requires the filing, and approval, of an application for a siting certificate.
2 The application must include the following:
- Project summary (OAC 4906-17-02);
- Detailed project description (OAC 4906-17- 03); Green Strategies Client Bulletin No. 01-17 Green Strategies Client Bulletin
- Detailed project schedule (OAC 4906-17-03);
- Site alternatives analysis, including preferred site and alternative site for ESWF (OAC 4906-17-04). See comments below for more details;
- Technical data (OAC 4906-17-05), including:
- Geography, topography, geology, hydrology (OAC 4906-17-05(A)); - Information on layout of the project, such as location of wind turbines and transmission lines (OAC 4906-17- 05(B));
- Detailed description of proposed equipment, including interconnection to regional electric power grids (OAC 4906-17-05(C) and (D));
- Financial data, including capital costs, intangible costs, operation expenses, maintenance expenses (OAC 4906-17-06);
- Environmental data (i.e. air, water, solid waste, necessary licenses and permits) (OAC 4906-17-07); and
- Social and ecological data (OAC 4906-17-08), including:
- Health and safety, such as demographics, noise, ice throw, blade shear, and shadow flicker (OAC 4906-17-08(A));
- Ecological impact (OAC 4906-17- 08(B));
- Economics, land use and community development, including wind turbine setback (OAC 4906-17-08(C));
- Cultural impacts (OAC 4906-17- 08(D));
- Public responsibility (OAC 4906-17- 08(E)); and
- Agricultural district impact (OAC 4906- 17-08(F)).
III. Wind Power Siting Rules: Key Revisions to the Existing Power Siting Rules
As noted above, the proposed rules in new Chapter 4906-17 are nearly identical to the existing siting rules applicable to electric generation facilities. The following information identifies the key “windspecific” modifications in the new rules that are not included in the existing power siting rules for electric generation facilities.
Wildlife Studies – OAC 4906-17-03(B)(1)(B): The proposed completion date for wildlife surveys/ studies now must be included on the detailed project schedule.
Air Transportation Facilities – OAC 4906-17- 04(A)(2)(H): On the geographical and topographical map submitted by the applicant, the location of existing or proposed air transportation facilities must be included.
ESWF Project Layout – OAC 4906-17-04(B)(2): On the map identifying the ESWF’s layout, the applicant must label other wind turbines, transformers, collection lines, and construction laydown areas.
Turbine Manufacturer Safety Standards – OAC 4906-17-04(C): Along with the information relating to safety equipment, the applicant must submit the wind turbine manufacturer’s safety standards.
Noise Levels – OAC 4906-17-08(A): This section of the proposed rules is very wind-specific. The applicant must analyze operational noise levels resulting from the proposed ESWF at day and night using computer modeling software. See OAC 4906-17-08(A) (2)(B). Additionally, the applicant must evaluate and describe the potential impact of ice throw, blade shear, and shadow flicker, as required by the authorizing statute (R.C. 4906.20).
Post-construction Wildlife Monitoring – OAC 4906-17-08(B)(3)(D): As part of the application process, the proposed rules require the applicant to describe post-construction plans for monitoring the ESWF’s impact on wildlife.
Minimum Setbacks – OAC 4906-17-08(C)(1)(C): The proposed rules require the applicant to describe the proposed location of wind turbines. The rules explain that any wind turbine must satisfy the minimum setback requirement as defined in the authorizing statute, R.C. 4906.20(B)(2), and replicated in the proposed rules.
Signal Interference/Road Issues/Decommissioning – OAC 4906-17-08(E)(3)-(6): As part of the siting process, the applicant must describe the impact of the ESWF on the public. Therefore, the applicant must evaluate and describe the: a) potential interference of the ESWF with radio and TV reception; b) potential interference of the ESWF with military radar systems; c) anticipated impact to roads and bridges as a result of construction-related vehicles and equipment; and, d) decommissioning plan for the ESWF.
IV. Wind Power Siting Rules: Filing Fees Not Specified
Among the key omissions from the proposed rules is information regarding the filing fees associated with ESWF applications. Pursuant to the mandate in R.C. 4906.20(B)(1), the Board is required to “prescribe a reasonable schedule of application filing fees structured in the manner of the. . . fees required for major facilities.” This omission is notable because the reference to filing fees for major utility facilities, which are determined under OAC 4906-5-11,3 means that an ESWF application could total as much as $100,000.
V. Wind Power Siting Rules: Site Alternatives
The Board included in proposed rule 4906-17-04 the traditional concept of “site alternatives” found in other Chapters of the Ohio Revised Code and Administrative Code. This concept requires the applicant to analyze a preferred site and an alternative site. But, the concept of a “site alternative” is not mandated (or even mentioned) in House Bill 562, which is to be the exclusive statute pertaining to wind farm certificates. This will likely will be addressed during the comment period.