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Coles wind project topic at Charleston Rotary Club

CHARLESTON – Several officials with Apex Energy, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, discussed their proposed Coles Wind project, which would install as many as 70 wind turbines about two miles north of Charleston and just east of Interstate 57. The project would furnish enough power to serve about 103,000 homes.

Addressing the club via Zoom meeting were Josh Hartke, a Dieterich native and former Champaign County Board member who is the local project contact; Julianna Pianelli, lead project developer; Max Jabrixio, public engagement manager for Apex’s Midwest project; and Sean Stocker, project development specialist.

Pianelli said Apex recently completed a wind farm in West Texas that is the company’s largest. Apex has 13 other projects operating in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. The company also has completed a wind energy project in Hoopeston, Ill., and projects underway in Piatt, Logan, Sangamon and Morgan counties in Illinois.

Pianelli said there are two main factors considered in locating a wind energy project: transmission availability (this project would connect with AmerenCIPS) and wind speed.

“There is a good pocket of wind on the north side of Coles County,” she said.

She said that David C. Loomis, an economics professor at Illinois State University, estimated the Coles Wind project would provide more than 300 construction jobs and 10-12 long-term jobs. Other economic contributions would be taxes for schools and local governments, and lease payments to land owners who agree to rent a spot of land for the placement of turbines.

Farmers would sign 30 to 50-year leases. Apex officials currently are meeting with landowners in the targeted area. They said some landowners have signed leases.

Stocker said each turbine would require from a half to one acre of land. He said the wind farm could take up less than a half-percent of the land in the project area.

The Apex representatives pointed out that both Lake Land College and Richland College in Decatur offer wind technology programs.

Jabrixio said the company also offers $20,000 in grants to worthy local organizations. The grants would be for $5,000 with one offered each quarter.

The Apex representatives said the company performs environmental studies as well as bird and bat migration patterns.

Company officials would need to comply with the Coles County Board’s wind energy ordinance, which has been in place since 2005. If the project gains approval, construction could begin in 2024.

For more information, go to coleswind.com.

For more information on the Charleston Rotary Club, visit charlestonrotary.wordpress.com