A new wind energy project could mean 30 wind turbines placed over a 9,000‑acre spread in the Columbia, Cherryfield and townships 18 and 19 area of Washington County. Downeast Wind, a subsidiary of Apex Clean Energy of Virginia, is exploring a wind energy project, with company representative Paul Williamson expected to attend the February 9 Washington County commissioners' meeting to discuss the project scope.
County commission Chair Chris Gardner says that the commissioners will "take a listen and see what they have to say and take it from there." He adds that only the portion of the project within the unorganized territories would fall under the jurisdiction of the county commissioners. Any portion that falls within an organized municipality, such as Columbia and Cherryfield, would be within that municipality's jurisdiction, meaning that the company will be following parallel but separate negotiations.
Williamson explains, "A fair amount is in flux right now with the plans." The company is in the development and exploration stage, with about 9,000 acres in Columbia, Cherryfield and townships 18 and 19 in agreements with property owners. The total project is expected to generate about 100 megawatts of power. Using three MW turbines would mean 30 turbines on the land. However, studies are ongoing that would influence turbine placement. They include studies on wind, wildlife and engineering. Wildlife and environmental studies have been conducted since the summer of 2015.
Williamson also notes that Downeast Wind has met with town officers and has held meetings and open houses for the public. There is now an office located at the four corners in Columbia.
"One thing I'm particularly excited about with this project is working with the blueberry growers," says Williamson. He notes that working with the blueberry industry is a way for those landowners to have another income stream without disrupting blueberry growing and harvesting. Additional income streams are "really becoming more important," as there have been continued downward pricing pressures on the industry.
Over the coming months Williamson expects that details about direct and indirect economic benefits of the project will become clear. While his company has conducted modeling to estimate impacts, when "we get closer to specifics of turbine locations and siting we will have a better idea."
Apex team’s history
The team behind Apex Clean Energy has almost a 20‑year track record of forming renewable energy companies that have at times resulted in sales of the start‑ups to large energy companies. Apex was founded in 2009 by a group who had previously formed a wind energy company in 2000, Greenlight Energy Inc., that developed $750 million worth of facilities with a combined generating capacity of 450 MW. In 2006, BP Alternative Energy purchased Greenlight. Following the sale, the former Greenlight leadership team reinvested in the clean energy industry through a new venture, Greenlight Energy Resources. In 2006, Greenlight Energy Resources founded Columbia Power Technologies, using direct‑drive wave energy systems, currently under commercialization.
In 2007, Greenlight Energy Resources launched Axio Power, a successful developer of utility‑scale solar PV facilities in the United States and Canada. Over the next four years, the company completed three acquisitions and assembled a large portfolio of projects in the two countries. By 2011, the company had secured power sales contracts for over 100 MW of solar capacity. SunEdison financed and built the projects and acquired Axio Power in late 2011.
Apex currently has project areas in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.