Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You can feel its sting on a raw January day when the snow blows parallel to the ground. On a warm spring day you can feel it ruffle your hair and brush your skin as it passes by.

You can’t see the wind, but you know it is there. With interest and legislative

mandates for renewable energy in Ohio, harnessing that wind for energy will be an important part of the state’s renewable energy portfolio in the future, though it is not without controversy. Land use, property value, birds and wildlife and public safety are a few of the concerns with wind energy, but there are clear benefits to the use of wind energy. Energy users stand to benefit from the additional source of energy and landowners have the chance at a new revenue stream from their property.

“There are a broad range of opinions in the area,” said Fred Cooke, the Farm Bureau president in Richland County, one of the sites being considered for a wind farm. “It depends on what you want to believe, but we need more energy in this country and if we can use the wind, it makes a lot of sense to me.”

Cooke has led groups from the county to tour wind farms in other states and learned a lot from the experience.

“According to homeowners we talked to in Indiana, they forget the turbines are there after a couple of weeks,” Cooke said. “There are legitimate concerns with this, but it creates jobs and additional revenue for communities and gain for the landowners. There is that fact that some people just don’t like to look at them, but I also have neighbors that think it is the greatest thing that could happen in a community.”

For several years, a number of wind companies have been researching Ohio’s wind resources and preparing proposals for wind farms. In this process, the companies lease land that has potential as a wind site and erect anemometers to collect extensive wind data. From there, they move forward with proposals that take into account the wind resources, proximity to transmission lines, environmental factors, and many other considerations. The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) then reviews these proposals. The OPSB Web site currently lists 6 pending cases involving wind farms in Van Wert, Paulding, Richland, Crawford, Hardin, and Champaign counties. This month, OPSB is announcing the parameters for 3 of these proposed wind projects around Ohio.

“OPSB conducts extensive reviews of the proposals and prepares a report naming the conditions of their approval. This month we will likely see the final vote and approval of OSPB on three of the projects,” said Dale Arnold, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of energy policy. “Once they approve the projects, construction can start. The OPSB gives the wind companies the permission to proceed and we could see construction starting this summer or fall for some of these projects.”

The projects range in size from 25 turbines producing 50 megawatts of energy on up to as many as 100 2-megawatt turbines over a 5 to 6 township area — 1 megawatt meets the energy needs of 300 to 400 homes.

Arnold also points out that the wind farms of Ohio will be very different from the vast expanses of turbines out west. The terrain of Ohio, higher population, and environmental factors of Ohio will result in smaller clusters of turbines that tie into the existing power infrastructure.

This first round of wind projects in Ohio will likely lead to more projects that capitalize on the wind energy advantages in the northern and western parts of the state.

“Though our wind resources are lower than other states to the west, the advantage with Ohio is that we are close to transmission lines. In fact, we have two major lines running right through our project,” said Mike Pullins, with Everpower, the wind company behind the Buckeye Wind Project in Champaign County. “And, we have the population close by to use the energy. When you transport electricity, you lose a portion of it. The further you go, the more you lose. Ohio is a crossroads for energy and we can be more efficient in the distribution and use of wind energy than they can further west…This is one more way to utilize the resources we have to create jobs, energy and benefit the economy.”

Even if we can’t see it, we’ve always known the wind was there. It seems like it is about time we make good use of it.

Matt Reese writes for Ohio’s Country Journal and lives in Baltimore, Ohio. For questions or comments, please contact him at

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

With the first signs of spring finally beginning to appear, we have been taking walks down our rural road, though these outings are not as simple as they once were. Just a couple of years ago, my wife and I would simply get up and go for a walk. The dog would follow us.
Now, with a two-year-old daughter and six-month old son, we must put the children in appropriate attire and find the proper means of transportation (wagon, stroller, jogging stroller, front pack carrier, or tricycle) based on the specifics of the situation and the whims of a two-year old. Then, once on the walk, my daughter usually changes her use of the chosen mode of transportation multiple times in ways that include, but are not limited to: pushing, riding, pulling, or being carried. The transportation of our son is adjusted accordingly. The dog still follows.
With children, walks have turned into undertakings requiring careful planning and extensive coordination around naps, meals and other scheduling challenges. Though daunting, a stroll with children is a walk in the park compared to the logistical nightmare of international shipping. What may seem like a simple task of getting something from Point A to Point B is more often a complex process of coordinating modes of transportation and a myriad of other factors.
Fortunately for the economy of Ohio, international shipping is about to get easier and, hopefully, cheaper with the help of the $842 million National Gateway. This multi-state public-private infrastructure initiative seeks to create a highly efficient freight transportation link between the Mid-Atlantic ports and the Midwest. The National Gateway initiative is enhancing three existing rail corridors that run through Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. To further the project, CSX was recently awarded $98 million in federal grant funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program.
When the massive rail project is completed, it will increase capacity for product shipments in and out of the Midwest, reduce truck traffic on already crowded highways, and create thousands of jobs. Along with extensive projects to the east of Ohio, the National Gateway project calls for two new Ohio intermodal terminals — construction of one in Wood County at North Baltimore and expansion of an existing CSX site in Columbus. In essence, the National Gateway will better connect Ohio with the rest of the world – good news for manufacturing and agriculture in Ohio.
The North Baltimore site of the National Gateway is of particular interest to Jim Wellman, the president of Wellman Seeds in Delphos. Since the mid-1990s, Wellman Seeds has been expanding exports of Ohio food grade soybeans to Japan. The soybeans are harvested and delivered to the Wellman Seeds facility where they are cleaned and bagged for shipping to their Asian destinations.
“We use a freight forwarder that lines up shipping. They use a trucking company out of Chicago that claims the containers, brings them out for us to load and takes them back,” Wellman said. “The freight charges are getting to be a pretty big deal because as fuel goes up, it costs more and more to get those products landed in Japan. Well over half of our shipping cost is eaten up in our transport cost from Van Wert to Chicago. From there it goes by rail to the West Coast, usually to Seattle or north to Canada. From there it goes to the Asian ports.”
The new CSX intermodal facility in North Baltimore (scheduled to be completed in 2011) could save Wellman Seeds quite a bit of money in shipping.
“The bottom line won’t be known until the steam ship companies start quoting rates out of the North Baltimore facility,” Wellman said. “We’re hopeful that we can save $500 or $600 per container, but we don’t know yet if that will be realized or not.”
Ultimately, money saved in shipping will benefit Ohio’s soybean industry and overall economy.
“Any soybean that we can ship out of Ohio is something that will not compete with soybeans going into the meal processors in Ohio,” Wellman said. “It also helps with our balance of trade and brings foreign dollars into the U.S. For 47 years agriculture has shown a trade surplus and we hope that continues for many years to come.”
Though still not a walk in the park, the National Gateway and other infrastructure improvement projects will go a long way to improve shipping to the world via Ohio, but I fear it will do little to console a distraught two-year-old who wants to bike/walk/run/wagon-ride on a pleasant springtime stroll.

Matt Reese writes for Ohio’s Country Journal and lives in Baltimore, Ohio. For questions or comments, please contact him at This column was brought to you by Ohio’s agricultural organizations.