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Honda going ahead with wind turbines at Russells Point

Logan County’s first industrial wind turbines should be up and running this year outside Honda Transmission Manufacturing of America Inc.’s Russells Point plant, making it the first major U.S. automotive manufacturing facility to obtain a substantial amount of its electricity directly from wind turbines located on the same property.

It also will become Honda’s first plant globally to go forward with a wind turbine project of this size, said Honda spokesman Ron Lietzke.

Honda has reached a multi-year agreement with Juhl Wind Inc. of Pipestone, Minn., to develop, install and operate two turbines that will sit atop two 260-foot towers east of the plant.

Each turbine will have blades 160 feet long that will drive generators capable of producing about 10,000-megawatt hours annually.

That is about 10 percent of the plant’s electrical needs. It also will help the plant reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.

“Each Honda plant in Ohio has been developing and implementing ways to reduce CO2 emissions, in keeping with Honda’s global goals,” Mr. Lietzke said, adding the plans can range from mundane lighting improvement projects to advanced air handling systems for painting booths.

But Russells Point is unique in that it is the only Ohio plant to consider wind turbines at this time, Mr. Lietzke said.

Mr. Lietzke reports studies commissioned by Honda Transmission indicate that wind-generated power is a cost-effective source of electricity for the plant and that the project will not adversely impact local wildlife or the environment.  

Yusef Orest, a project developer with Juhl, said, “Both Honda and Juhl have very strict standards about making sure we comply with all regulations and permits at the federal, state and local levels.

“This project is in full compliance with all the applicable regulations and requirements.”

He said Juhl is a publically-traded company with 30 years experience producing everything from large turbine complexes or to installing residential size units.

“We try to fit the needs and uses of the people we are working with,” he said, noting the energy generation source faces a number of regulatory and permitting requirements.

“Putting up one turbine is just as difficult as putting up 100,” he said.

Tom Stacy, a Logan County resident long opposed to wind turbines, said he was disappointed with Honda’s decision to go ahead with the project.

“It’s been on my radar for about a year,” he said today.

He appreciates Honda’s desire to improve its environmental impact, but wind turbines are not the way to go in his opinion.

“It’s basically a big expensive billboard that promotes a myth that wind energy is efficient and economically viable,” Mr. Stacy said.

He contends the tax incentives offered for wind turbines are a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

In his mind, Honda could make a great impact on energy usage and CO2 emissions in other ways such as producing more vehicles that run off compressed natural gas, a field Mr. Stacy works in.

Mr. Lietzke reiterated that wind turbines are part of the automaker’s plans to reduce the impact of its production facilities and that there was nothing in the third-party studies to indicate the wind turbines were a bad idea, economically or environmentally.

Globally, Honda has established voluntary goals to reduce environmental impact of its products and manufacturing operations by 2020.  

This includes a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from Honda products and significant CO2 reductions from the company’s plants and other operations, compared with year 2000 levels.

Under the agreement with Juhl, the Minnesota firm will line up the financing for the project, build the turbines and then operate the facility.

Mr. Orest said electricity generated by the turbines will be funneled into the electrical infrastructure and into the plant under agreements with Logan County Electric Cooperative and Buckeye Power Inc.

Juhl has yet to finalize the financing for the project, he said, and it will consider utilizing any available government subsidies.

Both Mr. Orest and Mr. Lietzke said neighbors in the area were consulted as part of the project.  

“The plant is in the countryside, a somewhat rural area,” Mr. Lietzke said. “But we do have neighbors and we talked with all of them to make sure they knew what we were doing. Tkhey seem satisfied with our plans.”

Construction will begin once all of the components are available, Mr. Lietzke said.

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