Real estate developer R. Scott Dobson is dreaming big — whether or not he can
make his dream come true depends on if any investors will believe in his plan.
The 1967 Eastwood graduate, educated at Bowling Green State University and Ohio State University, now makes his permanent home in Maine. Dobson is trying to piece together a $100 million project that would include up to 25 windmill turbines to provide green energy to the Midwest electrical grid.
These windmills would be bigger and more efficient than the windmills currently located off U.S. Route 6 near Bowling Green, he says. The BG turbines are partly where his idea sprang from.
“I think they are great. I’m in love with them,” Dobson said. “I guess you can call me Don Quixote. I read the book Don Quixote when I was in high school and I always thought tilting at windmills has always been neat.
“I saw the wind turbines in Germany, and that’s where I first got the clue and I said, ‘If I put one of those on my farm, I make money when I’m not planting and growing crops, in January.’ Then, they did the ones in Bowling Green and I said, ‘Wow, that’s my inspiration.’
First he would start with 25 turbines, which he estimates would cost about $4 million each, including manufacturing, location, paying government fees, engineering costs, and so forth. That would be Phase I, and if things went well, he would add another 25 in a second phase.
Sixth District State Representative Randy Gardner said Dobson has been communicating with government officials about how to go about his plan.
“We provided him some information from the state in dealing with this stuff,” Gardner said, adding that Dobson has been actively e-mailing with state officials.
“We’ve got to get off the foreign oil,” Dobson said. “A windy day, I’d be getting free fuel all day long. I’m convinced wind is the only reliable form of energy. You’ll get more wind than you are going to get solar days. Your solar units are not going to produce much on a cloudy day, and they take up so much space. You won’t be able to farm the ground if you put a solar project in.
“Down near our place in Naples, Florida they were proposing last winter this massive solar field. Once you put a massive solar field in, you don’t build a house there, you don’t do anything else there. You put a wind turbine up so you can farm it and do everything else around it.
”This is what I saw in Germany. All these massive fields were being farmed, and here popped out was just a little turbine. Bowling Green could be planting corn right around those wind turbines if they wanted to, in principal (except a waste management field is located there).”
Dobson was raised on State Route 105, where his family once owned a lawnmower dealership. His family still owns property off Devils Hole Road in Webster Township, which is where he would begin with the first turbines.
All of the turbines would not be put in one field, he explains. They could be dispersed over a wide range, which would provide lease payments to local property owners.
“The big thing that I like about this whole area — you look at the farms out there, and my farm over on Devils Hole is just like any of those. You put this turbine and you have a circle that doesn’t fit more than 20 feet,” Dobson said.
“I had one farmer say to me, ‘Well what about one for my house and all that?’ Well, the power coming off those (residential) wind turbines is not the same power you’re going to get for your house. It’s got to be reduced down and everything else. We’re putting major power into the grid and then it comes back.
“All you need is a roadway to get to it. So a lot of farms are like our farm — we have a lane that goes back through the property. You set an agreement with the two neighbors and put it on the line, and they each get a payment on the lease payment. You use the lane they’ve already got, they got the fields to farm, you improve the lanes for heavy equipment and that’s it.
“They are better taking the lease payments that we are going to give them for putting the turbine on their property and buy electricity from the power company because they are going to have enough extra money coming in.”
“We’re looking for farmers in the area who want to get involved with us. We want to put enough of a cluster in the area because we also have to build a transformer station that loads the power into the system, and we also need a small building for computerized equipment.
“Everything is computerized, so there are going to be a couple people who are probably monitoring computers and making sure production is happening. You want to know that turbine over there is making power, and if it’s not then you have a maintenance guy that is going on it. So there’s going to be maybe 10 jobs, I’m guessing.”
Dobson has 30 years experience as a commercial developer — but this is different. His experience tells him this could be a long process.
Dobson says he is talking to three manufacturing companies — a European, Middle Eastern, and a U.S. company. He’ll have to get approval from numerous local and state agencies, including the state’s Public Utilities Commission.
“I used to do one development that might be 37-unit house lots, and $100,000, $150,000 house lots, and I’ve done all that stuff,” Dobson said. “The process of approving developments is a long one and you have to be very patient to build a development, and be a developer. You’ve got to deal with local people, sometimes residents, and you’ve got all kinds of issues. You’re investing all the money up front, and that’s always risk capital.”
He is aware of the fight he may have to take on with activists for certain causes. But he feels the fight from local homeowners would be the biggest issue.
“We pay dearly for a kilowatt in Maine, probably. The greenies tore the nuke plant down in Maine so we don’t have one. There’s one in Seacoast. We have hydro, but a lot of the environmentalists are having the hydro dams knocked out because they are worried about the fish. We have the wind potential but we don’t have the wind projects up. There is, because of local review, a fight against them.
“The bird (kill) issue is not the biggest issue. The issue is, up there, you put a wind turbine up on a mountain and some guy can see it from a lake. Okay, then he’s going to be the one complaining that he can see the wind turbine from his house on the lake. That becomes a whole issue up there.”