Two Apex Clean Energy representatives approached the Clay County Board of Supervisors last week to discuss the company's proposed Upland Prairie Wind project.
Upland Prairie Wind is a 300-megawatt, utility-scale wind energy project that Apex Clean Energy, based out of Charlottesville, Virginia, is currently evaluating the feasibility of developing near Royal. Brenna Gunderson, Apex's senior development manager, was one of the representatives who explained the project to the board.
"It is too early to say exactly where the project will be located in relation to Royal," she said. "The placement of Upland Prairie will depend on the available wind resource, level of landowner participation, plus various environmental and technical factors. The project is in the early stages of development with a projected completion date of 2018."
The project would consist of 130 to 150 wind turbines being constructed.
"Approximately 30,000 acres are needed to develop Upland Prairie Wind," Gunderson said. "Each turbine requires about one acre of land. Thus, 130-150 turbines would cover roughly 0.50 percent of the proposed 30,000 acres. Farming operations can continue right around the base of the turbine."
Upland Prairie Wind project's progress depends on whether enough landowners would be interested in participating with the project.
"Our process for responsibly siting a wind turbine involves numerous studies, analyses and investigations," Gunderson explained. "First and foremost, we need to determine whether enough landowners are interested in hosting wind turbines to support a viable project. We will then work with the participants on siting wind facilities in a way that will minimize the impact to their farming practices. We will also initiate a series of studies and analyses to develop an understanding of the site's wildlife, wetlands, geotechnical qualities, cultural resources, engineering requirements and more. We also conduct rigorous assessments of the site-specific wind resource. While conducting these studies, we work with local government officials, chambers of commerce, school districts and others to help inform the community about our work while gathering their feedback."
Benefits of the project for landowners include continued use of their lands used by Apex Clean Energy and a consistent new source of revenue. Upland Prairie Wind can also benefit the community by generating approximately $50 million in property taxes over the life of the project, creating hundreds of construction jobs and roughly 12-15 full-time jobs once the turbines become operational.
"On Dec. 7, we will request permission to install a meteorological test tower," Gunderson said, explaining the next step of the project. "The 60-meter tower will be used to collect weather data, wind speed, wind direction and other factors to help determine the potential to develop Upland Prairie Wind."
Supervisor Burlin Matthews noted the project would be a valuable addition to the county.
"When I ran for county supervisor 10 years ago, I was asked what we were doing in regards to wind energy," he explained. "We weren't doing anything. We've been looking for something to bring into the county to raise property valuations, and adding a new industry like wind energy would do that. It would be a blessing for the county."
He continued, "When they come in, they want all the land they use to be gotten voluntarily. There will be no use of eminent domain to complete this project. If they don't get enough landowners who are willing to cooperate, they will look elsewhere to locate this project. We are very interested to see where this project goes in the future."
Apex Clean Energy also stated its Upland Prairie Wind project is in no way related to the Rock Island Clean Line that has been proposed to cross through Clay County. For landowners interested in learning more about the project, Apex Clean Energy has set up a local office at 315 Main Street in Royal. Other sources of information on the project can be found online at www.uplandprairiewind.com or by phone at 712-933-2500.