New wind energy firm opens OC office
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
OHIO CITY — A number of people were on hand Wednesday to welcome Apex Clean Energy to Ohio City, as well as tout the advantages of wind energy in Van Wert County.
Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Susan Munroe was the first to provide a welcome to Apex.
“We are happy to support Apex’s development in Van Wert County,” she noted following a ribboncutting ceremony at the office. “We have seen the benefits of wind energy and what they already done in Van Wert County, so we just look forward to seeing what the future holds with Apex and how they can further grow.”
Munroe said wind farms have been a blessing to the county in a number of ways.
“Wind energy development generates economic prosperity for our schools, our community, our farmers, and our businesses — quite literally out of thin air,” she noted. “Big businesses are committed to using renewable energy, which is driving down their energy costs (and) companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook demand renewables, primarily wind, as part of their energy portfolio.”
Munroe added that having available wind energy would also be a positive when trying to attract a large technology company to the county’s 1,500-acre megasite, as well as tenants in area industrial parks.
“…Being on the leading edge of wind farm development provides Van Wert County with a game-changing competitive edge in our recruitment efforts,” she noted.
Scott Hawken of Apex was pleased with the welcome and also optimistic about Apex’s Long Prairie wind farm project.
“We’re excited to be here in Van Wert County and excited with the Long Prairie project,” Hawken said. “One of our biggest achievements is trying to be a partner with local communities, and we think this office and our local presence on the ground will attest to that.”
Hawken noted that Apex is hoping to continue to work with landowners in the Long Prairie project area, which encompasses approximately half of the county south of Van Wert and includes three school districts: Van Wert, Crestview, and Lincolnview.
The project is currently being planned in two phases, with the first phase a 250-megawatt wind farm in Van Wert and Lincolnview school districts and a 200-megawatt second phase in an area encompassed by Van Wert and Crestview school districts.
Representatives from Van Wert City and Lincolnview Local schools attended the ceremony and spoke briefly on what benefits they see from the new wind farm project, as well as existing wind farms in the county.
Van Wert City Superintendent Ken Amstutz said he was looking forward to seeing the Long Prairie project up and running.
“I’m looking forward to the economic development that can come as well,” he noted, while adding this project would be the first wind energy project that Van Wert City Schools will be a part of. “The biggest thing we have not had … is the additional funding that has come from the wind farms that the others district in the county have had.”
Amstutz noted that, while Van Wert City Schools has been doing a lot of interesting things, educationally, without wind farm money, having additional funding from such a project would help the district expand those efforts.
Lincolnview Superintendent Jeff Snyder was also on hand to talk about the benefits his district has received from the existing county wind farm project.
“We’ve seen an increase in educational programming in our district,” Snyder said, adding that a 1-to-1-computer program for all district students was funded mostly from wind farm money. “Hopefully, we’ll have it for a long, long time; it’s been a shot in the arm for our district and our facilities.”
Snyder also said it was nice to have a source of funding that doesn’t come from the state, while adding his hopes that the Long Prairie project gets off the ground sooner, rather than later, “so we can benefit over 900 students in our district every day.”
The project is currently on hold because of state setback regulations that have put significant limits on the number of wind turbines that can be placed in an area.
However, pending legislation (Ohio House Bill 190) sponsored by State Representatives Tony Burkley and Tim Brown would allow individual counties to have more control and options on how many wind turbines they would allow in a given area.
Munroe announced that HB 190 recently got a powerful supporter in a subsidiary of Amazon.com: Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The Amazon subsidiary has contracted with EDP Renewables to construct and operate a 100-megawatt wind farm in Paulding County called the Amazon Wind Farm U.S. Central. The project is expected to generate approximately 320,000 megawatts of electricity each year by May 2017.
Amazon Web Services has sent a letter to the Ohio General Assembly supporting HB 190 and encouraging passage of the legislation.
“Amazon supports the common sense approach taken in HB 190 to allow county commissioners to determine appropriate setback standards,” John Stephenson, manager of Amazon Web Services’ public policy, wrote in the letter (click here for a copy of the letter).