A Charlottesville, Va., company that specializes in wind farms is looking at putting a project that will consist of about 40 turbines in south Baldwin County.
But the Foley Wind Project will have to clear some hurdles, starting today when the Baldwin County Planning and Zoning Commission considers a request for a conditional use permit.
APEX Wind Energy needs the permit in order to put a meteorological tower that will be 328 feet tall on property that is south of County Road 12 in Bon Secour.
The tower, which measures wind speed and direction, is one of the first steps taken when studying the feasibility of a wind farm.
The other challenge the project faces is a 180-day moratorium in Baldwin County that prohibits the construction of wind farms and other wind-operated facilities that can produce energy in excess of five kilowatts.
The Baldwin County Commission unanimously passed the moratorium Feb. 19 due to concerns about APEX Wind Energy’s potential project in the county.
At the February meeting, David Conner, county attorney, said there are issues associated with wind farms, such as noise pollution and the size of the turbines.
He also said wind farms also can present a danger to migratory birds.
The Foley Wind Project may consist of turbines that are 520 to 590 feet tall from the tower’s base to the tip of a blade at the 12 o’clock position. The height from the tower’s base to the top of the tower will range from 360 to 393 feet, APEX Wind said in an email.
APEX Wind said the project will generate enough energy to power about 23,000 homes. The company also said the wind farm could have a significant financial impact.
APEX Wind, citing research by the National Renewable Energy Lab, said a standard 150 megawatt wind facility can generate $750,000 to $1.5 million in annual property tax revenue to local governments.
It also can result in $500,000 to $750,000 in annual payments to local landowners who allow turbines on their properties, the company said, citing the research.
Dorsey concerned about wind farm
Dahvi Wilson, an APEX Wind spokeswoman, said the company is gathering information for the project, including evaluating its potential and analyzing wind resources.
“Before we determine whether a project can be built, we study migratory bird species, wetlands and numerous additional features,” she wrote in an email. “We visit with local landowners to learn if they are interested in hosting wind turbines on their property.”
Baldwin County Commission Chairman Tucker Dorsey said Wednesday he has concerns about of the project. He said among them are the size of the turbines and the noise they will generate.
“These wind turbines will significantly infringe upon our landscape and our tourist economy,” he said.
Planning Director Vince Jackson plans to recommend at today’s meeting that the planning board table APEX’s request for the conditional use permit.
“Staff does not believe that the tower proposed under the subject application would be prohibited by the moratorium,” according to a report prepared for the board.
“However, the question has been raised as (to) whether or not a tower… should be approved during the moratorium period. This is a question which is best answered by legal counsel.”
The planning board is scheduled to have a work session at 5 p.m. today, which will be followed by its regular meeting at 6 p.m.
Mobile man supports project
If APEX gets the permit, the meteorological tower will be on property owned by Thomas Damson of Mobile.
Damson, president of Long’s Human Resource Services, said he also has committed to having turbines on his south Baldwin County property.
“I am euthsiactic about it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a great economic development for that community. It’s going to pump millions of dollars into it.”
Damson said he and about five other property owners traveled to Oklahoma in February to see an APEX wind project.
“We got to ask any questions that we wanted to ask and physically look at them and be around them and see how noisy they were,” Damson said.
He said he does not think that noise will be an issue for the Baldwin County project based on what he observed in Oklahoma.
“The only noise you hear is it has some cooling fans… cooling the computers,” he said. “The blades, you don’t hear them.”
The Foley Wind Project is one of three wind farms in the works in Alabama.
Pioneer Green Energy, an Austin, Texas-based company, is planning to build two wind farms – one in Etowah County and another in Cherokee County.
The wind farms will be the first in Alabama. They are expected to be in operation by the first or second quarter of 2014.
The Shinbone Wind Energy Center in Cherokee County will consist of eight wind turbines that will be able to generate a combined 18.4 megawatts of electricity.
The Noccalula Wind Energy Center in Etowah County will have up to 40 turbines that will be able generate a combined 80 megawatts of electricity.
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