The Van Wert County Board of Commissioners heard an update on the Long Prairie wind farm project from Apex Clean Energy representatives and also talked to officials from county villages about economic development.
Scott Hawken and Sarah Moser from Apex Clean Energy provided an update on the project to the commissioners and representatives from the nine county townships that could potentially be included in one of the two planned phases of the Long Prairie wind turbine project. Representatives from the three school districts involved (Van Wert, Crestview, and Lincolnview) were also present, as was County Engineer Kyle Wendel and Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Susan Munroe.
Hawken, Apex development manager, said the Ohio General Assembly was the biggest hurdle the project had to clear to become a reality.
“The major roadblocks slowing us down in development are the current setbacks the state has in legislation,” Hawken said, noting that industry groups are currently working to educate legislators on the impact the setbacks have had on Ohio wind energy projects.
Current setback requirements mandate that wind turbines be a minimum of 1,125 feet from a neighbor’s property line, which decreases the number of wind turbines that can be placed in an area. Hawken said current requirements make wind farms in Ohio “not economically feasible.”
That said, Hawken noted he feels Apex and other companies have a positive future in Ohio if the legislative climate changes to allow more reasonable setback requirements.
“There is a demand for clean, renewable energy her in Ohio,” Hawken said. “Customers, corporations, are looking for that; that’s why we are here.”
Hawken said Apex, which purchased the rights to develop the Long Prairie area from BP Wind, currently has contracts with the owners of approximately 35,000 acres in the southern half of the county, but those contracts include less restrictive setbacks than Ohio currently requires, in hopes the General Assembly adopts House Bill 190, which would allow individual counties to make their own rules on setbacks and other requirements.
Apex currently has six wind projects operating in the U.S., including one it operates for Ikea.
Hawken said Apex, an American company based in Charlottesville, Virginia, has already done wind studies in the area, as well as avian and bat studies.
“We have been measuring the wind resource here for three years,” he said. “We know it’s a good windy location.”
Hawken also noted that Apex is looking at installing either 1.5- or 3-megawatt turbines, with the current focus on the 3-MW turbines. Phase 1 of the two-phase project would center on Jennings, Ridge, Washington, and York townships, and possibly a portion of Pleasant Township, with most of the land east of U.S. 127. Phase 2 would include land west of U.S. 127 and extend up into Tully Township. The first phase would generate approximately 250 MW of electricity, while Phase 2 would generate approximately 200 MW.
If the project is completed, it would include $900 million of capital investment, $42 million in landowner payments, and $81 million in PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) revenue.
Hawken said that, if lawmakers change the setback requirements soon, the project could be up and running by 2017, although he said a more realistic timeline would be 2018.
Those wanting to know more about the project can attend an open house at Apex’s Ohio City office on Wednesday, February 17, or go to the Long Prairie website: www.longprairiewind.com.
Also Tuesday, the commissioners reassured representatives of several Van Wert County villages that they will continue to push for economic development projects in their towns.
Officials from Convoy, Middle Point, Ohio City, Willshire, and Wren met with the commissioners after they read about Van Wert City Council wanting more input into the economic development process, which raised concerns in the villages that their interests might suffer if that happened.
The commissioners assured village officials that they continue to place a high priority on village economic development interests.
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