December 25, 2016
By KEVIN GREEN, COURIER TIMES
Apex Clean Energy officials are pleased the Henry County Commissioners have approved a road use agreement.
County officials stated in the past that three agreements needed to be in place to ensure the county is in a position to take advantage of the benefits a wind development project makes possible. The agreements include economic development, which details monetary payments to the county based on the amount of energy produced; decommissioning, which specifies who is responsible for taking the wind turbines down and how that will be paid for at some point in the future; and road use, which spells out the wind developer’s responsibilities with respect to repairing damage to local roads that might occur during the wind turbine construction process.
It was stated at the most recent meeting of the county commissioners the wind developer could proceed without a road use agreement being in place, but that was news to many of those in attendance.
“With the acceptance of the road use agreement we are now able to build the Henry County portion of Flat Rock Wind,” said Dan Blondeau, public affairs manager for Apex Clean Energy, Inc. when contacted by The Courier-Times. “This is great news for the landowners, community members, and all of the other stakeholders that have continually supported Flat Rock Wind over the years.”
Blondeau said Apex now has its sights set on starting construction as early as the spring of 2017.
Apex officials have said in the past that before any turbines are erected in Henry County, the company will need to find someone interested in purchasing the electricity those turbines generate. Blondeau now says the Flat Rock Wind project has received “serious interest” from prospective buyers of the power.
The exact number of turbines to be erected in Henry County, which has changed from time to time since the idea of the project was introduced, currently stands at up to 29 at previously approved locations, Blondeau said.
“With this move we now have all of the necessary agreements to construct up to 100 megawatts of wind energy in Henry County, and all of the local jobs and investment that go with it. The Henry portion is independent of Rush County,” Blondeau said.
“While we are very excited about the progress achieved in Henry County, we want to be clear that both Henry and Rush Counties are an important part of our overall plan. We remain hopeful that we can secure the same agreements with Rush County officials.”
Flat Rock Wind’s future in Rush County remains unknown. Officials there originally welcomed the idea of wind development, but the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals changed setback requirements to 2,300 feet from the 1,000 feet originally called for in Rush County’s Wind Energy Conversion System ordinance.
Apex filed a legal objection to the increased setbacks and special Rush Superior Court Judge Matthew D. Bailey ruled in the Rush County BZA’s favor. Apex is appealing that ruling.
Further complicating the future for Apex in Rush County, earlier this month, while considering a request from wind developer NextEra, the Rush County BZA voted to establish setbacks at 2,640 feet from neighboring property lines and limit turbine height to 200 feet or less.
Should Flat Rock Wind decide to proceed in Henry County, the hurdles left for them to clear are approval of an improved location permit and a building permit through the Henry County Planning Commission office. If the project meets local ordinance requirements, denying the energy company’s requests would be difficult, according to county attorney Scott Hayes.