Van Wert County Commissioners and townships trustees meet Tuesday with representative of Apex Clean Energy about the projected Prairie Wind project planned for Van Wert County. (DHI Media/Ed Gebert)
Van Wert County Commissioners and townships trustees meet Tuesday with representative of Apex Clean Energy about the projected Prairie Wind project planned for Van Wert County. (DHI Media/Ed Gebert)


DHI Media Editor

VAN WERT — Is the latest proposed wind farm in northwest Ohio still on track to become reality? Director of Development of Apex Clean Energy Developer Scott Hawken believes so.

“The major roadblocks that are slowing us down in development are the current setbacks that the state has in legislation. So we are working with industry groups to try to educate the legislators on the impact that those setbacks have on stifling wind development. We’re opening a path forward. We’re excited about Ohio. Apex is committed to it. Apex has been here since 2009. We think they’re still a big future in going forward,” he stated. Hawken met with Van Wert County Commissioners and many township trustees Tuesday morning for an update.

The progress of windfarms in Ohio has ground to a halt due to stricter setback laws on the books. These laws keep wind turbines from being set closer than 1,125 feet from the property line of a neighboring landowner. But Apex has been signing agreements with neighboring landowners to include them in the project and waive the stricter setback laws. These setbacks could pave the way for windfarms, which had been shelved as too costly by many developers. With these “good neighbor” agreements, it will be possible to fit in the needed amount of turbines onto a site to make the windfarm viable cost-wise.

“If we can work with the landowners within the project footprint with some other participation agreements to make them partners within our project, then we should be able to design around the setbacks, Hawken said.

Apex has been leasing land in the southern half of the county and beyond to make Long Prairie Wind operational. The project was begun by BP Wind, but Apex, a company from Charlottesville, Virginia, bought the rights when BP closed it’s energy division. Apex now has an office open in Ohio City and is actively involved in making wind energy happen again in Van Wert County.

“There is a demand for clean, renewable energy here in Ohio. Customers, corporations are looking for that, that’s why we are here, Hawken said. “We have been measuring the wind resource here for three years. We know it’s a good windy location. We’ve done two years or more environmental study, bird and bat studies on the project boundaries. We are very far along as far as our interconnect for the first phase of the project.

According to Hawken, Apex presently has 35,000 acres under lease contract spread across eight or nine townships of Van Wert County. Phase one of the project would involve wind turbines in Jennings, Washington, York, and Ridge townships and perhaps Pleasant Township. Phase two of the project would involve lands mostly to the west of U.S. Highway 127. Still to be decided is the final location for each of the turbines, and much of that will depend on the size of the turbines used in construction. The decision will likely be between a model that generates 1.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity and one which generates 3.0 MW.

“Right now we’re focusing on three-megawatt machines,” Hawken revealed. “So that would put us around 60 turbines in the first phase, and up to 150 turbines in total.”

Apex already has six operational wind project in the U.S. They run windfarms for Ikea and have the largest number of wind projects already in the pipeline.

Hawken said, “Our mission is to accelerate the shift to clean energy in our country.”

Still on the agenda is for Apex to wok out agreements with the county regarding road maintenance for the construction vehicles and equipment, and an agreement on how payments will be made, whether by property taxes or in payments lieu of taxes as was done previously by Iberdrola Renewables for the Timber Road Windfarm in northern Van Wert and in Paulding counties. Work on these agreements will begin soon,and submitting the final application for approval to the Ohio Power Siting Board.

“We do not have 100 percent of the land within the proposed footprint signed up for the project of course, but within that footprint we have land to accommodate the number of turbines we will need,” Hawken announced.

If the entire 450 MW of the site is built, that will translate into a $900 million investment into Van Wert County.

With roadblocks peeled away, Prairie Wind could be a reality soon.” If everything were to line up, the stars would align out of Columbus, we could start this project a year from now and have it online in 2017,” said Hawken. The more realistic estimate would be sometime in 2018. The windfarm would be warranteed for twenty years.

Prairie Wind is having an open house on Feb. 17 at it’s Ohio City office Feb 17.