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Apex considers expanding wind farm

Given Rush County’s reluctance to participate in the proposed Flat Rock Wind Farm, Apex Clean Energy is looking into the possibility of placing all of the wind turbines involved in Henry County.

Brenna Gunderson, an Apex senior development manager, appeared before the Henry County Commissioners Wednesday and said the company is investigating the idea of erecting 60 to 90 turbines in an expanded area of Henry County.

The company’s original plan was to place 25 to 30 turbines in southeast Henry County, an investment of roughly $100 million, and approximately 65 turbines in Rush County, an investment of more than $200 million. Their focus now is the entire southern part of Henry County, from Wayne to Hancock County, on an east-west line basically from the Greensboro area south.

“We are looking at the option of seeing if there are more interested landowners and possibly putting the whole (project) in Henry County,” Gunderson said. “We’re still a ways from knowing if that’s going to happen. We currently have 30 sites permitted here in Henry, but if we can get enough land from 30 more interested land owners, we can potentially put the whole project up here.”

Apex and the county have come to terms on two of three agreements necessary for the project to move forward: Economic Development and Decommissioning. The first spells out the economic benefits for the county and the second details where the money will come from and how they will be taken down when the time comes.

“We have exchanged drafts of the Road Use Agreement and there are still some issues in the draft with some technical specifications as to how the roads would be reconstructed that we need to work through for that agreement to get approved, but I think you’re in a position where the agreements are otherwise acceptable,” county attorney Joel Harvey said.

Harvey suggested the commissioners approve the Economic Development and Decommissioning agreements subject to coming to terms on the Road Use Agreement. The commissioners followed that recommendation.

“I think we can come to an agreement on road use. We’re not very far away,” Henry County Highway Department Engineer Joe Copeland said when asked for his thoughts.

If Apex decides to place the entire proposed wind farm in Henry County, many of the steps in the process, including various environmental studies and obtaining a host of permits from assorted governmental agencies, would have to be repeated.

“Should it happen, it would be sort of a starting over point, to an extent,” Gunderson said.

Gunderson said Apex already has an interconnection agreement with PJM and Indiana Michigan Power Company, which would allow the company access to existing transmission lines, and that the company also is discussing power purchasing agreements with several interested parties.

A legal appeal regarding a Rush County decision to establish 2,300-foot setbacks from turbine sites is still being appealed, which would likely impact what eventually happens in Henry County.

Gunderson shared data regarding the project with the county leaders. Based on current permits, over 25 years the project would generate $2.9 million dollars in property tax revenue paid by the company. The county would receive $1.1 million in economic development payments. The project would generate $69,000 in building permit fees and Apex would pay participating landowners a total of $3.5 million.

“We welcome your investment in Henry County,” commissioner Ed Yanos said to the Apex representative.

“We take great pride that your company is taking an interest in Henry County,” commissioner Kim Cronk said. “We feel very fortunate. There’s pros and cons to both sides, we understand that, and we want to stay open to both sides, but being progressive is very unique to most communities and we feel some pride in thinking that we’re at least being progressive.”