OCEOLA – The company working to develop the Honey Creek Wind Farm now expects to file its permit application with the Ohio Power Siting Board for a 300-megawatt project in the middle of 2022, a spokeswoman said.
Previously, company officials had said they hoped to reach that stage by the end of this year.
During a “Conversations on Wind” meeting Wednesday night at the Tod Township House, Carmen O’Keefe, development manager for the project for Apex Clean Energy, explained the company’s goal is now to get its permit in 2023, with commercial operation beginning in 2024. She estimated the “very large project” will include approximately 60 turbines, each with an anticipated height between 590 and 670 feet.
What was the original plan for the Honey Creek project?
Originally, Apex had planned a 360-megawatt project in northern Crawford and southern Seneca counties, but the project area no longer includes the latter county.
“The project has evolved over the past year or so, so now it is primarily northern Crawford, so anything north of (U.S.) 30, we are interested in,” O’Keefe said.
A person in the audience asked why.
“We don’t anticipate them approving turbines there,” O’Keefe said of Seneca County.
Tyler Fehrman, Apex’s field manager for Ohio, elaborated on that statement.
“There are a group of individuals who did not want it there,” he said. “Those individuals happen to be probably a majority in Seneca County and thus the county’s not going to approve the turbines. But there’s another half of ‘they’ in Seneca and in Crawford. So there’s always going to be folks who are opposed; we understand that. But there also are landowners who would like to benefit from what this project has to offer.”
Developers are considering extending the project into a small area in Wyandot County, O’Keefe said. “We’re still trying to see the viability of that.”
The power generated will feed into the regional transmission grid. The plan is to connect to transmission lines near Melmore in Seneca County.
Timeline for project uncertain
O’Keefe, who took over the position with Apex previously held by Ben Yazman, said it’s difficult to estimate how long it will take the Ohio Power Siting Board to rule on the permit request.
“It really varies on how long it takes from project to project,” she said. “I had one get permitted in seven months; I don’t think this one would. Usually the wind projects take a few years … it really will depend on who intervenes, what goes on in the hearings and all that.”
The company now has five temporary meteorological towers installed, and has completed some of the required environmental studies. Its goal is to complete those studies, including wetland delineation, this fall and in the spring.
Logistically, Crawford County is a “really good site for wind,” and there has been a lot of interest from landowners, O’Keefe said. “There’s a lot of good, open land, even with the Ohio setbacks, that works.”
Fehrman, who grew up in nearby Knox County, said he originally was surprised to hear the company was planning a wind farm in Crawford County.
“I was like, I’ve been to Crawford County; it’s not that windy. We’re not talking about wind like you and I feel it when we’re walking outside,” he said. “There are meteorological patterns and maps that we don’t feel, but we can observe. And so this area is part of that weird snow belt that we get in Ohio … the wind blows far above where you and I are walking everyday. And the wind resource available in Crawford County is incredible. It’s stronger than a lot of areas.”
The fact that Crawford County’s commissioners have designated it an Alternative Energy Zone, or AEZ, also makes it attractive to the company for development, O’Keefe said. That designation means instead of paying property taxes on the development, the company will be pay PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) fees of $9,000 per megawatt, nameplate capacity, each year. The project is expected to bring roughly $2.7 million into the county each year that it’s in operation.
How Ohio regulations will shape project
O’Keefe also outlined some of Ohio’s regulations for wind farm developments, which she described as being among the most stringent in the country:
• The formula for how close a turbine can be placed to a property not participating in the project is based on the length of the turbine’s blade, plus 1,125 feet. For the size of turbines Apex anticipate using in the project, that works out to about 1,375 feet from the property line.
• Sound studies, which already have begun, calculate the nighttime ambient sound level across the project area. The noise level at nonparticipating homes cannot exceed that average plus 5 decibels. Sound monitoring was done near both busy roads and rural areas, O’Keefe said.
• If shadow flicker – the effect caused when a turbine blade passes between a residence and the sun – exceeds 30 hours per year, the company must take actions to curtail its effects.
• Before construction begins, the company must file a final decommissioning plan with the power siting board, and a bond to cover the estimated cost is held by the board.
“So if something goes wrong, it’s in their hands to take it down,” O’Keefe said.
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