URBANA — Buckeye Wind has notified the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) of “relinquishment and withdrawal” of certificates to construct as many as 50 utility-scale wind turbines in an area that rests primarily north of U.S. Route 36. The company is also withdrawing its application to amend the certificates.
“Buckeye Wind LLC and Champaign Wind LLC have relinquished the Certificates of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need issued for the Buckeye Wind project as construction activities have not commenced as required under the certificates,” according to a statement issued by Viola Baumann of Innogy – the Germany-based parent company of Buckeye Wind.
“The private lease agreements in Champaign County are still in place and were not impacted by this filing. The company is assessing next steps for the proposed project,” Baumann said when asked by the Urbana Daily Citizen about whether lease agreements with local landowners are still in effect.
Buckeye Wind’s reversal of plans follows more than a decade of arduous state certification processes and prolonged litigation with organized opponents involving a pair of combined wind installations that at one time proposed to construct as many as 110 wind turbines. EverPower was the initial company that approached private landowners in townships east of Urbana about agreeing to host towering wind generators and necessary infrastructure to connect with the existing electricity collection grid in Ohio. EverPower has had more than one parent company during this time period, with its holdings most recently being acquired by Innogy in a sales transaction process that began in late 2017 and closed in the second quarter of 2018. In the midst of that transaction process, EverPower settled a lengthy dispute with Union Neighbors United (UNU) in December of 2017. This deal effectively wiped about half of the planned wind turbines off the drawing board, mostly in Union Township south of U.S. Route 36. Terms of this settlement were not disclosed and UNU members are not permitted to discuss its details with the media.
The Champaign County Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for representing local governent interests in such matters as a large wind installation governed by state certification processes. The prosecutor’s office has been part of the certification process, representing local governments such as Champaign County and certain affected townships that have chosen to intervene.
“This would have a big impact on the county and communities in the area if (the project) doesn’t occur,” Assistant Prosecutor Jane Napier told the Daily Citizen on Monday. Napier was still studying what Buckeye Wind’s filing ultimately meant for Champaign County and the townships after the brief paragraph of withdrawal was sent by Buckeye Wind’s attorneys.
Private landowners with leases to host Buckeye Wind turbines or collection infrastructure have been a quiet group during the past decade after leases were signed with EverPower outside of public processes. Because the leases were not presented in open, public settings, their terms remain somewhat of a mystery. Those who signed leases with EverPower have reportedly agreed to remain silent about the terms of the leases – including their length and compensation.
When contacted for comment, state Rep. Nino Vitale stated, “Since it appears they are walking away from both wind projects, lease holders should be given the option to terminate their lease so their land is once again available and not tied up in a project that appears is not moving forward.”
Vitale currently serves as a non-voting legislative appointee to the OPSB due to his position in the Ohio House of Representatives from the 85th District. Vitale is a resident of Union Township in Champaign County. He was elected to his House seat in 2014.
Kathleen Fox contributed to this story.