BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – It’s time to take the next step for the proposed wind farm in northern Botetourt County. On Monday, the planning commission will host a public hearing for feedback on the request to build taller turbines.
Apex Clean Energy hopes to put the Rocky Forge Wind Farm in the hills of Eagle Rock. The commission will consider changing the rules for wind farms. County community development director Nicole Pendleton said there are three elements in proposed amendments, but the major one is turbine height.
“Their original request to the planning commission which is to extend the height of the ordinance to the maximum turbine height from 550 feet to 680 feet," Pendleton said.
Rocky Forge said technology changed since they first gained approval about five years ago and that’s why they need to build taller. Earlier this year, the county hosted an open-house, taking feedback and sharing information about turbines with residents.
Project manager Charlie Johnson said it’s been quiet since then.
“We certainly hope that no news is good news in terms of direct feedback on our application, but it seems like they’re asking the right questions and doing their due diligence," Johnson said.
The ordinance change would affect any wind farms in the county, but as of right now the Rocky Forge project is the only one planned. At this time of economic uncertainty during the virus outbreak, Johnson said the project can be a good influx of cash.
“We certainly would never wish this time on anybody, but I think that this project can help bring some more finances to the county," Johnson said.
It’s a controversial topic for some, an issue made even more difficult due to new social distancing restrictions. Monday’s meeting will put people in different rooms and look different than a normal meeting. But there will be a live-listen phone line and a way to leave comments from a distance. You can also give feedback ahead of time.
“We’ve been trying to make sure that people recognize that they have as many opportunities as possible to give us feedback in advance of the meeting," Pendleton said.
If all goes to schedule, construction could begin this fall. If the planning commission makes a recommendation on Monday it will move onto the board of supervisors. They could bring a final vote by the end of next month.