GALIEN — Apex Clean Energy isn’t giving up its wind farm vision for southern Berrien County, despite personnel changes and months without contact with area townships.
An Apex spokesman said his company is still interested in building a wind farm despite personnel changes and no contact with area townships in months.
Albert Jongewaard said four company representatives associated with the proposed Galien Oaks wind farm project are no longer involved. He has taken over from Dan Blondeau, who is with the company in a different capacity.
Others no longer involved include development director Brad Lila, David Guillory and Ryan Dykstra. Lila no longer works for Apex, and Jongewaard said he wasn’t sure of the status of Guillory and Dykstra.
“I don’t think there’s anything to read into” the change in personnel, he said. “We have an interest in the project, but it’s in the very early stage of development, and we know people have a lot of questions. The project is not dead.”
Apex proposed a $250 million wind turbine farm with 25 to 40 turbines on 13,000 acres in Baroda, Galien, Three Oaks and Weesaw townships. Each turbine would cost $3 million and be 600 feet tall. Apex is the largest wind farm developer in the country in terms of capacity.
As for contacts with townships, he said the company has to determine the public’s interest and conduct a feasibility study before approaching townships about approvals or changing ordinances.
At least one township, Weesaw, has an ordinance prohibiting commercial wind farms. In other townships, the company would have to get a variance on things like structure height.
He said Apex is looking at what recent changes to the state’s renewable energy portfolio means to the company. The state had required that up to 10 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources. That level is now up to 15 percent.
Jongewaard said the company’s other wind farm project in Michigan is on hold. The Maple Rapids project is in Shiawassee County, and county commissioners there put a one-year moratorium on the project in December.
Apex representatives first came to southern Berrien nearly a year ago, approaching farmers and other property owners about locating wind turbines on their land. The project came to public attention over the summer and was the subject of a public informational meeting in September.
Research committee forms
Meanwhile, several residents in the area have formed a Wind Turbine Analysis Committee. They announced that the committee’s goal is to work with townships to develop “strong wind zoning ordinances that protect the health, safety, and welfare” of residents.
They said they plan to share their research.
The committee’s press release quotes 78th District state Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Oronoko Township, in support of the effort.
“I encourage community grassroots efforts as an important component to healthy governance, and WTAC can play a vital role in helping our townships make informed decisions about industrial wind facilities,” he wrote. “My office supports WTAC in its mission to provide fact-based information on the long term implications a wind initiative will have on Southwest Michigan.”
The committee plans to host a number of public meetings in coming months to keep residents informed, the release stated. Committee member Beth Denton said the committee will continue to work regardless of whether Apex moves forward.