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Botetourt residents weigh allowing wind turbine project to go higher

(WDBJ)
Published: Feb. 10, 2020 at 10:45 PM EST
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In Botetourt County Monday, residents got a chance to weigh in on a rule change that would allow wind turbines nearly 700 feet high.

A community meeting was held at Eagle Rock Elementary School, near the site of Apex Clean Energy's proposed Rocky Forge Wind Farm. Dozens of residents on both sides of the debate showed up, ready to share their thoughts.

'I believe it's a positive thing for the environment, and for jobs in this area," said one man, Mark Hanson.

"We still think it's a bad idea," said Steve Neas, another resident who lives within sight of the proposed wind farm. He worries about damage to the mountain environment, plus any noise the turbines might generate.

Botetourt County first gave the Rocky Forge Wind Farm its go-ahead back in 2016. At the time, they limited the size of wind turbines to 550 feet.

Apex spent the next three years looking for a buyer for their wind power. During that time, they say turbine technology changed. The company now wants to move forward with newer tech, allowing them to build bigger, but also fewer turbines.

"We can actually build these projects with fewer turbines and produce more power," said Charlie Johnson, Senior Development Manager at APEX. He says the higher turbines won't have an outsize impact on views in the county.

"Our goal is just to make sure we get the process right," said Nicole Pendleton, Botetourt's Director of Community Development. She says the county wants to hear from as many residents as possible. In addition to the meeting, they also have an online survey open right now.

"We will look at the results of the survey and gather any input, and see what's out there and see what we need to look at to change," she said.

For the new version of the wind farm to get approval, four more public hearings will need to be held, and the Board of Supervisors will have to sign off on the changes. Nonetheless, Charlie Johnson is optimistic Apex will break ground before the end of the year.

"We can do it. It's just a matter of making sure the pieces fall in line," said Johnson.

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