A clean energy company is appealing a decision that it ran out of time for its wind farm project in Botetourt County.
The developer of Rocky Forge Wind, a proposed complex of 14 mountaintop wind turbines that would stand about twice as tall as the Wells Fargo tower in downtown Roanoke, informed the county this week that it will appeal.
A public hearing will be held within 90 days, after which the county’s board of zoning appeals will have 60 days to make a decision.
Since announcing plans for the wind farm in 2015, Apex Clean Energy has seen a number of setbacks. The most recent came last month, when county zoning administrator Drew Pearson determined that Apex had missed a May 26 deadline for county approval of a site plan.
The Charlottesville company did not qualify for an exemption passed by the General Assembly for some projects that were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pearson ruled.
Consequently, a special exception permit granted to Apex by the board of supervisors in May 2020 expired.
“The Board was concerned that the project was showing little progress and added a condition, at the recommendation of the Planning Commission, that required the project to receive final site plan approval by May 26, 2021,” the county said in a news release.
Apex has said that a backlog in the supply chain due to the pandemic slowed its plans, and that it should qualify for an extension approved by the General Assembly that would push the deadline back to July 1, 2022.
The company first submitted a site plan last December for the wind farm atop North Mountain, about 5 miles northeast of Eagle Rock. After questions and concerns from the county, a revised version was submitted in March.
More than 100 deficiencies remained, the county said, and both it and the Virginia Department of Transportation rejected the plan. According to Apex, it did not receive comments from the county until June, well after the deadline had passed.
When plans for Rocky Forge were first unveiled in 2015, it was poised to become the first onshore wind farm in Virginia. Since then, the state has passed laws that require an accelerated transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy such as solar and wind.
As of Thursday, no date had been set for the board of zoning appeals to consider the matter.
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