Wind turbines are controversial issues in Logan and Champaign counties and some Union County officials have adopted planning and zoning language on the alternative energy source.

Wind turbines are controversial issues in Logan and Champaign counties and some Union County officials have adopted planning and zoning language on the alternative energy source.

"We kind of think of it as a property rights issue," said Jenny Snapp, director of the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission (LUC). "A lot of our farmers, who have been there for generations, are in areas to contract for some of these turbines. I think if you look at the population and notice the regulations that have gone to referendum, you will see that there is more support for the turbines than there aren't."

Snapp said it is not up to LUC to have an opinion on wind turbines, but the regional planning commission must follow the letter of the law in regulating them.

The law changed in April 2008, she said.

Previously, the law regulated wind turbines with 50 megawatts or more. With the changes, Snapp said, any wind turbines that are 5 megawatts or more are regulated.

"Whether we like it or not," Snapp said, "our office has become somewhat of an expert on this issue."

LUC now has small wind turbine model language and it is available on its Web site.

"Darby Township has adopted language similar to what our model language is," she said to a collection of township trustees in February. "They made some tweaks to it, and that's what we are suggesting you do when you get it."

Snapp said the trustees might have value judgments as a township which they want to reflect in the language.

The current administration, she said of the state and national political officials, is promoting alternative energy and attempting to create green jobs in the state.

A green energy and green collar jobs meeting was held at Columbus State Community College on March 28. Solar and wind issues were discussed.

Small turbines, under 5 megawatts in size, can be regulated through zoning, according to Snapp, but the Ohio Power Siting Board holds jurisdiction over those that are 5 megawatts or larger, which are what the state considers economically significant.

Prior to the change in law, she said, townships attempted to regulate the turbines with zoning language alone. Several zoning issues went through the township and one went to referendum.

"In our area, none of the turbines file with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO)," said Snapp.

Buckeye Wind Farms, in Champaign County, has 100 wind turbines.

Snapp said the LUC has heard a lot of interest in erecting one wind turbine to run a farm or house.

"That is why we encourage zoning language for the smaller turbines," she said.

The state offers grants for people interested in smaller wind turbines as alternative energy sources and for reducing electric bills.

"Agriculture is exempt in Ohio," said Snapp. "You can't put zoning regulations on agriculture."

Wind turbines that are operated for residential and business purposes, she said, are regulated.

"We have had inquiries across the three counties for residential use," Snapp said.

In the case of the small ones, the owner is typically responsible for maintenance. If they stop working, she said, the owner is given a zoning violation.

"They have to make sure they are up kept and in good working order," she said.

Contracts with landowners are being entered into for the wind turbines proposed for Logan and Champaign counties, Snapp said.

LUC has been told that in the cases of the larger wind turbines in Logan and Champaign counties, the developer will be responsible for the maintenance similar to arrangements with gas companies.

Some people, she said, make the claim that wind turbines allow for farm preservation because farmers can take equipment up to the base and lose little land.

During a presentation in Columbus, it was reported that a wind turbine sold for $15,000, Snapp said. She has heard varying prices.