Although the political climate in Ohio is not now conducive to new wind energy projects, the new owners of the Long Prairie Wind Farm project are hoping the winds of change will blow away Ohio’s restrictive new setback rules for wind turbines.
Representatives of Apex Clean Energy, the Virginia-based company that recently purchased the rights and property contracts for the project from BP Wind, met Thursday with the Van Wert County Board of Commissioners and several trustees of townships that would be affected by the project.
John Arehart, development manager for Apex, talked about the company’s plans for the project, noting that Ohio’s setback rules would have to change before this project – and any other wind project in Ohio – could take place. The project currently holds lease options with approximately 275 landowners in the southern portion of the county.
Arehart noted that Apex will continue preliminary efforts on the project, adding more lease options and doing environmental studies and taking other action to prepare the project to move forward if wind turbine setbacks are lowered again.
The state’s new setback requirements state that wind turbines must be placed at least 1,300 feet from the nearest property line. The new setback regulations significantly decrease the number of turbines that can be located in a wind farm.
In a recent meeting with the commissioners, Dan Litchfield of Iberdrola Renewables, owner of the Blue Creek Wind Farm, said the company’s Dog Creek wind farm project cannot move forward under the current setback regulations, because not enough wind turbines can now be built to make the project economically feasible.
Arehart conceded that a change in the new setback regulations would likely take at least a year to accomplish, but said he hoped more reasonable setback regulations would be in place by next summer so Apex could file for a permit with the Ohio Power Siting Board.
“Obviously, if (the law) is not changed, we will not be able to move forward,” Arehart said.
Township trustees were noncommittal in speaking with the Apex representatives, but several urged Apex to be as transparent and above-board as possible in their dealings with local residents, noting that they would like to avoid any squabbles over road maintenance and other issues related to wind farm development.
Apex representatives and the commissioners also talked about possible tax abatement and other issues related to the wind farms.
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