LAWRENCE – A wind power project with up to 130 turbines generating enough electricity to power 110,000 U.S. homes could be in store for northwest Nuckolls County.
Representatives from Charlottesville, Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy visited with landowners from the 90,000-acre footprint identified for the Prairie spirit Wind project during an open house informational meeting Tuesday evening at the Lawrence American Legion Hall.
Project Developer Dylan Ikkala said Apex is currently in the leasing land and data collection process.
“We’re here to answer questions, address concerns, whatever there is, allow neighbors to talk through it,” he said. “There’s ones who have signed, there’s ones who haven’t signed. They can intermingle and decide what the overall vibe of the community is.”
The project, when completed, would generate up to 300 megawatts of electricity per hour, he said.
An information sheet available Tuesday said the project could include up to 130 turbines, but Ikkala said the total number depends on the size of the number used.
Of the 90,000-acre footprint, Apex is looking to install turbines within a 20,000- to 30,000-acre area depending on where the lease land falls.
He said the turbines could most likely be up and running in 2020.
According to an information sheet about the project, up to 10 full-time jobs would be established for operations and maintenance in addition to hundreds of jobs that would be created during construction.
Apex has wind and solar projects stretching across the country.
With 1,042 MW of wind facilities built in 2015, Apex was the market leader for new wind energy capacity additions in the U.S. that year.
“We’ve got a lot of projects under development in various regions and areas throughout the United States,” Ikkala said.
Support for the project in and around Lawrence has been strong so far, he said.
More than 75 people walked through the doors of the Legion Hall during the first 30 minutes of the two-hour open house, gathering pens, stickers and hats while they ate meatballs, cheese and crackers, fruit and brownies.
The handful of Apex representatives present answered landowners’ questions about the project, including lease amounts and responsibility for the turbines.
The project includes a 30-year commitment for the landowners with an option for two 10-year extensions.
At the end of the contract, Apex either goes out to market to find another buyer for the energy produced or the company decommissions the project, taking out all facilities, removing the concrete base and restore the surface to how it was previously. Apex would cover decommission costs.
Ikkala said landowners can receive $6,200 to $15,000 per turbine per year.
He said northwest Nuckolls County was selected for the Prairie Spirit Wind Project because of its close proximity to transmission, overall wind availability and landowners’ response.
“It’s been extremely positive,” Ikkala said about the public response. “The leasing’s moving a lot faster than expected. We’re getting a lot more positive response early on and we’re headed in the right direction.”
Apex investigated the area late last year, doing due diligence with landowners.
“We reached out to some early landowners and there was some positivity from those guys,” Ikkala said. “We definitely feel out the community before we go in full-fledged, just to verify that they’re going to be accepting of the project. We really need the community to make the project successful.”
Apex had several poster boards set up around the Legion hall with facts about wind turbines and the Prairie Spirit Wind project, including energy and health factors.
An information sheet available Tuesday stated that measurements show from 1,000 feet away the whoosh of a wind turbine is no louder than a refrigerator or air conditioning unit.
Citing an article that appeared in a 2011 issue of the scientific journal Environmental Health, the information sheet stated “To date, no peer reviewed scientific journal articles demonstrate a causal link between people living in proximity to modern wind turbines, the noise (audible, low frequency noise or infrasound) they emit and resulting physiological health effects.”
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