Apex Clean Energy has shelved plans to build a multi-million dollar wind power project in Perquimans County but will pursue building the Timbermill Wind project in Chowan County where it did win approval.
The company made the announcement last Wednesday.
In November 2016 the Perquimans County Commission rejected Apex’s application to build more than 50 turbines in the Bear Swamp area. Apex appealed the decision but in June Superior Court Judge Walter Godwin sided with the county. The deadline to appeal that ruling was Wednesday.
“After reviewing our options, we’ve decided to move forward with Timbermill Wind in Chowan County only,” said Don Giecek, the senior development manager for Apex.
“The spacious timber and agricultural lands in Chowan County present an ideal location to build upon North Carolina’s clean energy leadership role. Representing over 150 megawatts of clean, safe, renewable energy, Timbermill will provide several decades of substantial tax payments to Chowan County and will diversify revenue streams for local farmers and landowners.”
Perquimans County is already home to industrial-sized wind turbines. About half of the 104 turbines in the Amazon Wind Farms East project are in Perquimans County. Perquimans is also home to the operations and maintenance facility for the project.
This year Avangrid, the builder of the Amazon project, paid Perquimans County about $300,000 in property taxes. That was based on an economic development agreement negotiated between Perquimans and the developer of the project several years ago.
No economic development agreement has been reached for the Apex project, but by some estimates, the Apex project is expected to generate about $300,000 to $500,000 a year in property taxes to Chowan County. The Perquimans County share could have been that much or more since Perquimans would have more of the turbines plus the electrical substation and the operations and maintenance building based on the original plan.
Giecek said Apex is now looking forward to working with Chowan.
“Chowan County officials approved the Timbermill zoning permit unanimously, with broad support from community organizations and individual citizens,” he said. “We are excited to focus our development efforts in Chowan County and strengthen our commitment to the citizens of this community.”
Kyle Jones, the chairman of the Perquimans County Commission, said his board did the right thing, and he’s ready to move on.
“Throughout the whole process, I found the people of Apex to be reasonable and prudent, and I think their decision here reflects that,” Jones said. “We certainly understood their decision to appeal the board’s denial of the permit, as was their right, but we felt strongly that our process was correct. The county is pleased to have this behind us, and after all those hours of hearings, we’re grateful for then-Chairwoman Janice Cole’s leadership and her guidance of the board through the matter.”
Chad Essick, the attorney who represented opponents, said residents should be happy.
“Our clients are obviously pleased to learn that Apex will not be appealing Judge Godwin’s decision that the Perquimans County Board of Commissioners acted properly in denying Apex’s permit application.
“Having to fight against a large energy company over the past year has come at considerable expense to the residents, landowners and farmers in the Bear Swamp and Center Hill communities. They are glad to have this dispute behind them and find comfort in knowing that the community they live, work and raise their families in will not be subject to the noise, shadow flicker and property value reductions that other communities across the United States have experienced.”
While Apex has county approval to build in Chowan County, it still needs state and federal permits. The General Assembly this year imposed an 18-month moratorium on approving any new wind projects, but Gov. Roy Cooper has said wind projects can still be reviewed during the moratorium.
Cooper’s Executive Order 11 requires the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to continue recruiting wind energy projects to the state while the moratorium is in effect. It also allows DEQ to continue reviewing permits and conducting pre-application review for prospective wind farm sites.