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Published: Friday, 2/9/2007

Northwest Ohio gaining speed in race to develop wind power

BY TOM HENRY AND JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Three more signs of northwest Ohio's budding interest in wind power emerged yesterday.

They were:

•Bowling Green's utilities director saying that his city is contemplating more commercial-sized wind turbines.

•Fulton County commissioners saying that they might want to explore their county's potential as a host site.

•Gov. Ted Strickland saying that he was following through with an incentive program for wind power production and manufacturing.

The program stems from a bill passed by the General Assembly in late 2006 and signed into law by former Gov. Bob Taft during the waning hours of his administration.

Mr. Strickland initially will fund the program at $5 million, with money coming from a temporary surcharge on electricity rates.

Would-be recipients have until the law's April 16 effective date to submit letters of intent.

All of yesterday's activity came as the region is waiting to hear whether East Toledo will be selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to be America's first laboratory for testing offshore wind turbine blades.

A site proposed by a contingent of northern Ohio academic, business, and government officials is one of six nationally in the running for the $11.5 million project, which is expected to create dozens of spinoff jobs by attracting manufacturers and parts suppliers.

Keith Dailey, Mr. Strickland's spokesman, said the governor's enactment of the incentive-laden program should provide "added confidence" about East Toledo's bid, although he did not tie it directly to that project.

He said the governor wants "to indicate to a wide audience there's a renewed seriousness in Ohio around investing in alternative energy as a job-creation tool."

Bowling Green made Ohio history in the fall of 2003 when its first pair of commercial-sized wind turbines at the Wood County landfill went online. The site, southwest of the city along U.S. 6, was the state's first to have such devices.

Today, there are four. Each produces about 1.8 megawatts of power. Collectively, that's enough for a small village.

The city is part of a consortium of 10 northwest Ohio municipalities that have a stake in that project with AMP-Ohio.

AMP-Ohio recently learned from the U.S. Department of Energy that it is eligible for a $3.6 million interest-free loan to install wind turbines within Bowling Green itself, at Green and West Poe roads. That's where wind monitoring for the landfill project was done, Kevin Maynard, the city's utilities director, said.

Because of space limitations, there are no plans to put more turbines at the landfill.

Bowling Green and others working with AMP-Ohio also have made no firm decisions about building elsewhere yet, he said.

But he sees the potential for turbines at that site inside the Bowling Green city limits once there is enough money for two or more.

A $3.6 million loan was enough to buy Bowling Green's first two turbines. But costs have nearly doubled because of demand, Mr. Maynard said.

"We probably will try to make it part of a bigger project," he said.

"I think we've got the basis for a project here that would involve more than one unit."

The loan offer remains in effect until the end of 2008, he said.

In nearby Fulton County, commissioners heard a presentation from Daryl Stockburger, Bowling Green's former utilities director and the one credited for bringing wind turbines to Ohio.

Now chief project consultant for North Coast Wind & Power LLC, of Port Clinton, Mr. Stockburger has been encouraging use of renewables to a wider audience.

The Fulton commissioners said they would consider establishing a committee to look into the possibility of wind turbines, said Dean Genter, board president.

Northern parts of Fulton - especially near Fayette and Metamora - appear to have the best winds for generating power. They are comparable to winds that power the turbines at the Wood County landfill, Mr. Stockburger said.

Jim Provance of The Blade's Columbus bureau contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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