Virginia’s First Commercial-scale Wind-energy Project–in Botetourt County–Receives DEQ Permit in March 2017, Clearing Way for Construction to Begin

On March 2, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a permit for the proposed Rocky Forge wind project, a commercial-scale, 25-turbine, 80-megawatt-capacity wind-energy facility in Botetourt County.   The project is to be built by Apex Wind Energy (headquartered in Charlottesville, Va.; Web site: http://www.apexcleanenergy.com/).  The DEQ permit is the last regulatory step Apex must clear prior to beginning construction.  The project, which APEX expects to have ready for operation in 2018, would be the first commercial-scale wind-energy project in Virginia.  (The proposed Highland New Wind Development project in Highland County, Va., received local permits, survived a legal challenge, and received a State Corporation Commission Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience in 2007, but as of 2015 no construction had started.)

The DEQ permit included certain restrictions on the operating times allowed for the 550-foot-high turbines in order to reduce their impacts on bats

Apex first filed application with Botetourt County for the permit in October 2015.  In January 2016, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors approved a special exception permit to allow construction of the project; the special permit included 17 items on a conditions list that APEX must address, including the following, according to the Roanoke Times on 1/28/16: noise, dust, flicker shadow, lighting, hours of construction, emergency response, decommission, remedies, compliance, traffic, and other issues.

Botetourt County passed a zoning ordinance in June 2015 to regulate wind turbine size, location, noise generation, and other impacts; the ordinance set the maximum-allowable turbine height at 550 feet.  In late July 2015, several county residents filed a lawsuit in Botetourt County Circuit Court, alleging that the ordinance would inadequately protect against noise, visual impacts, and wildlife impacts.  At a hearing on that lawsuit on December 16, 2015, Judge Paul Sheridan dismissed the citizens’ lawsuit, ruling that the case was premature because the county had yet to decide on the company’s request for a special exception permit, which the local ordinance requires.

Apex filed an application in October 2015 with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a determination from that agency as to whether the proposed project—with turbines at 549 feet high—would interfere with aviation.  In January 2016, a FAA preliminary report asserted that the proposed project would in fact pose a hazard.  In October 2016, the FAA made a final determination that the project would not endanger aircraft.

APEX’s application to the DEQ involved two public-comment periods.  The first ran May 5-June 6, 2016.  In July 2016, APEX announced a second public-comment period, Aug. 4-Sep. 6, 2016, resulting from a request by the consultant that conducted a report on potential impacts on birds to make a correction to that report.

In October 2016, APEX stated that it had moved back to 2018 the anticipated start of producing electricity.

The Web site for Apex Clean Energy, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., is http://www.apexcleanenergy.com/.

Sources for This Post, Plus Additional Related News Media Items

At Last, a Wind Farm Virginia Can Call Its Own, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/3/17.

Apex’s Rocky Forge Wind Moves Ahead In Virginia, North American Windpower, 3/3/17.

Plans OK’d for Botetourt’s North Mountain as site of Virginia’s first commercial wind farm, Roanoke Times, 3/2/17.

Neighbor says he’s happy about the Botetourt Co. wind farm, WSET TV-Lynchburg, 3/3/17.

Wind farms coming to Botetourt County, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 3/3/17.

Rocky Forge Wind Turbines Not a Threat to Aviation, Bacon’s Rebellion, 11/1/16.

FAA gives clearance for wind farm atop Botetourt County mountain, Roanoke Times, 10/31/16.

Botetourt wind farm project completion pushed back one year, Roanoke Times, as published by Charlottesville Daily Progress, 10/25/16.

Botetourt wind farm developer reopens public comment period, Roanoke Times, 7/19/16

Botetourt wind farm developer files plan, seeks to avoid bat deaths, Roanoke Times, 5/8/16.

FAA approves test towers for Pulaski County wind farm, Roanoke Times, 5/20/16.

Wind farm proposal in Botetourt County begins state approval process, Roanoke Times, 4/20/16.

Botetourt County approves wind farm permit unanimously, Roanoke Times, 1/26/16.

Botetourt wind farm would be a hazard to aviation, FAA says in preliminary report, Roanoke Times, 1/19/16.

Judge dismisses lawsuit filed by wind farm opponents in Botetourt, Roanoke Times, 12/16/15.

APEX files for SEP permit for Botetourt wind farm, Roanoke Times, 11/5/15.

Company seeks permit for a wind farm in Botetourt County, Roanoke Times, 10/31/15.

Company seeks FAA approval for wind farm in Botetourt County, Roanoke Times, 10/13/15.

Wind turbine company seeks Botetourt County’s approval for test towers, Roanoke Times, 7/29/15.

Wind turbine foes sue Botetourt County, Roanoke Times, 7/28/15.

Rockbridge County goes on record against Botetourt’s wind farm, Roanoke Times, 6/5/16; and Citizens Voice Their Concerns About Rocky Forge, Lexington News-Gazette (approximately 6/15/16; date not indicated in article).

Energy company hears from those for and against wind power project, Roanoke Times, 5/25/16.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe links Botetourt wind farm proposal to economic development, Roanoke Times, 4/6/16.

Rockbridge County asks Botetourt to delay wind farm action; Rockbridge’s board of supervisors said they first received formal notice of the project on Jan. 4, Roanoke Times, 1/25/16.

Wind farm could be an economic windfall for Botetourt County, Roanoke Times, 12/9/15.

Website offers preview of Botetourt wind farm, Roanoke Times, 11/22/15.

Other Sources of Information on Wind Energy in Virginia

James Madison University’s Center for Wind Energy, online at http://wind.jmu.edu/projectdev/utilitywind.html).

U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, “Virginia Activities,” online at http://www.boem.gov/State-Activities-Virginia/.

Virginia Energy Plan 2014—Updated 2016, online at http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DE/2014_VirginiaEnergyPlan2.shtml.

Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority, online at http://wind.jmu.edu/offshore/vowda/.

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