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Wind farm plan blows into county

ASHTABULA – Apex Wind Energy on Monday evening rolled out for public comment its proposed wind farm for Ashtabula Township.

The informational meeting held at Kent State University-Ashtabula marked the beginning of the Ohio Power Siting Board review process, which is expected to take 10 to 11 months, said John Arehart III, development manager for the Charlottesville, Va., company.

Apex wants to erect up to 19 wind turbines on 982 acres of industrial land in Ashtabula Township. The affected properties are land owned by Reserve Environmental Services and the former Elkem Metals property on Lake Road.

Tim Ryan, Apex senior executive vice president, estimated the cost of the project to be $50 million to $100 million. The target operations date is the fourth quarter of 2012.

“It’s a great place for wind energy,” Ryan said, explaining why Ashtabula Township interests Apex. “The wind is strong and close to the lake shore.”

Ryan said the site, much of which would be considered an industrial brownfield, has the necessary infrastructure for a wind farm, including a connection to the grid. The property is zoned industrial, roads are in place and there is access to ports and railroads for delivery of the large turbine systems.

Each turbine would have a generating capacity of 2.1 to 3 megawatts. Their combined generation of up to 50 megawatts would provide enough energy to meet the needs of 20,000 average Ohio households.

The towers would rise more than 30 stories above the landscape and their footprint would be only 16 feet each in diameter, Arehart said. That would leave most of the land open for further development. Apex, which plans to lease the land, would not do any environmental remediation as part of its work at the site.

The construction phase would create 50 to 100 jobs for about six months. Maintenance and operations would require only five to six full-time employees, however.

Ashtabula Township trustees Bambi Paulchel and Steven McClure said the township updated its zoning code earlier this year and should be ready for the project. However, after seeing the size of the project, Paulchel expressed concern that the “small wind-energy system” provisions in the rules and regulations might need to be tweaked to allow the project.

“It’s very interesting, and I think we are all learning together,” Paulchel said. Apex has not made a formal presentation to trustees.

Arehart said wildlife and wetlands studies are about 95 percent complete and no issues have been found. The final phase of those studies will be done this fall.

As for who would purchase the power generated by the wind farm, Ryan said the company is talking with FirstEnergy and FirstEnergy Solutions, as well as the PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization. The Apex spokesmen could not provide an estimate of the market value of the power the wind farm would generate, noting that there are too many variables to set a price on it at this time.