The amount of money individual property owners might earn from hosting an Apex Clean Energy wind turbine is not information the company will disclose to voters.
“That is confidential information between us and the landowners,” Carmen O’Keefe, the company’s project developer, told a Crawford County audience Wednesday. “That is their business and our business.”
The company hosted a two-hour “community information session” at the Trillium Event Center in Bucyrus to lobby voters on the proposed Honey Creek Wind, a 300-megawatt industrial wind farm.
County commissioners banned industrial wind in May, but in June, Honey Creek Action – a political action committee backed by Apex and, at the time, headed by Tyler Fehrman – submitted petitions seeking a referendum vote on that decision this fall.
The Crawford County Board of Elections is expected to rule during its August 16 meeting, when it certifies issues for the fall ballot, on whether the wind farm vote will happen during this November’s general election.
Wednesday’s event was moderated by Rita Coleman Graham, an independent meeting facilitator from Pennsylvania hired by Apex. She told an audience of more than 100 Crawford County residents that she had paid county deputies to provide security during the meeting.
“I realize emotions may run high for a lot of people,” Graham explained at the beginning of the evening. “That’s understandable.”
Sitting at the front of the room were eight panelists selected – and paid – by Apex Clean Energy.
Of them, six were Apex employees: O’Keefe, Nate Pedder, Marcel Mibus, Jason Conley, James Stovall and Goni Iskali.
The other two were Dr. Jeff Ellenbogen, a neurologist, and Isaac Old of RSG Inc., a noise engineering company.
Panelists spoke on their specialties
Each spoke for a few minutes before the event’s moderator accepted written questions from the audience, then read them to the appropriate panelist.
O’Keefe told county voters that Apex would like to begin construction of the project in the spring of 2025 and power on the turbines by spring of 2026. She said the farm would pump about $2.7 million in royalties each year into the county’s school systems and other local governments.
Pedder, who works on permitting for Apex, explained the project would have to be approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board before it could move forward, a process which includes both a public hearing and a legal adjudicatory hearing. Once constructed, the turbines would have a lifespan of about 30 years.
Old told the audience that his company, RSG Inc., evaluates the amount of sound turbines generate. The noise can come from both the wind rolling off the turbines and the mechanics of the generators and gears inside the towers. A typical unit will create about 40 decibels, which he said was less noise than a cricket makes.
Mibus focused on the potential locations of the turbines in Crawford County. He provided a map of the Honey Creek project area, then overlaid coloration for areas that cannot be developed because of proximity to roads, streams, homes, oil and gas infrastructure, power lines and other obstructions. The few areas left uncolored were the sites Apex considers potential turbine locations.
Ellenbogen explained that his work was primarily in helping people sleep in noisy environments. He talked about results of a Canadian study on wind turbines and how doctors there had determined that there was no direct link between the location of wind turbines and any negative health issues experienced by nearby residents. His medical advice to the voters was that health concerns should not play a role in their opinion of the Honey Creek proposal.
Conley works in safety for Apex and told the audience Wednesday that extensive training would be provided to not only those employed at the wind farm, but also local emergency personnel and even nearby medical helicopter crews. He said the site would be monitored both on site and remotely by employees in Virginia who could power down the turbines if necessary.
Stovall is Apex’s site construction manager. His current project is a wind farm in Iowa. He said it takes about 11 months to complete a project. It starts with strengthening and sometimes widening public roads. They then build pedestals about 75-feet in diameter that consist of nearly 900 cubic yards of concrete. Cranes erect the towers and then lift “very large” blades into the sky. A substation would be built to collect the electricity from all of the turbines, and the power lines would be carefully recovered with topsoil.
Iskali told the audience that Apex has done environmental studies to ensure wildlife would be kept safe during the project and then would not be affected by the existence of the turbines in years to come.
Questions from the audience
The audience had many questions for the panelists, ranging from where the turbines’ electricity would be used to how the towers might interfere with cellphone and wireless internet signals.
Someone asked the doctor if their epileptic child would be affected by the towers, to which he answered that the blades would need to move at least 10 times faster than they’re capable of spinning for it become an issue.
He wasn’t sure, though, how the presence of the turbines might impact a neighbor who has autism.
“Nobody knows,” Ellenbogen said. “That’s not a topic that’s been studied.”
As to why Fehrman was no longer Apex’s face in Crawford County, the company refused to answer. The panelists agreed that Apex employees were not allowed to publicly discuss personnel matters.
Multiple panelists addressed the size of the potential turbines, and it was mentioned several times that specific details about turbines had not yet been decided. First, the company must select its locations, then it can make decisions on tower heights and blade lengths.
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