Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart claims Apex Clean Energy has been attempting to secure land rights from property owners in northern Mercer County for wind turbines, without notifying the public or local governments.
Company representatives, though, told the newspaper they’re not actively seeking any new properties in northern Mercer County at this time.
“Because your livelihood and the well-being of your land is important, I would like you to be aware of this proposed large scale industrial wind turbine project that Apex Clean Energy is attempting to develop and how you, as landowners, can help protect your land,” Wiechart wrote in a news released he issued on Friday afternoon.
Local officials, Wiechart said, have limited to no authority when it comes to regulating “large landscape-altering projects.”
“Instead, this authority currently resides with the Ohio Power Siting Board,” Wiechart wrote. “The only real and tangible method to preclude a landscape altering development across a multiple township area is for the company (Apex Clean Energy) to be unable to acquire land rights in a geographic foot print to site.”
Weichart requested that all landowners approached by ACE, or any other wind development company, educate themselves about the “significant rights” they are granting before signing any contracts.
ACE has been working on Long Prairie Wind, a proposed 450 megawatt wind energy project. Most of the land already set aside for the proposed project is in southern Van Wert County, but the company is leasing some land in northern Mercer County, according to Sarah Moser, an ACE development manager for the area.
Mosser said ACE had been approached by some landowners wanting to sign up, but pointed out she is not aware of a company campaign to bring in more land.
“We’re renewing leases, but we’re not really aggressively pursuing anything,” Moser said. “Right now nothing’s happening because of the setbacks at the state level, so there’s not going to be anything happening in Van Wert or Mercer County until the legislation figures things out at the state level.”
The company is waiting on the passage of state legislation that would change the formula used to determine how far away a turbine must be from certain properties.
“Currently Apex has invested over $19 million in Ohio, so it’s hard to keep investing when you can’t build,” Moser said. “We don’t really want to put a lot more money out there until we know what’s going to happen with (the legislation), so we’re just kind of on hold. I think there’s just people trying to stir the pot in Mercer County, to be honest.”
Wiechart could not be reached for comment about what prompted his news release.
Steve Caminati, senior manager of strategic engagement at ACE, also said the company was not looking to acquire any new properties in northern Mercer County at this time. He wondered aloud if there might be confusion concerning old land leases, but did not elaborate further, saying he needs to look into the matter.
“With the current state setback requirements, this project is pretty much on hold,” Caminati said.