Questions from the Community Forum on January 24, 2019

To see the full video recording of the community forum, please click here.

How deep is the concrete foundation?

Wind turbines foundations will be approximately 10 feet deep.

Crops around turbines

Do the turbines alter the maturity of crops planted around them?

We have seen no evidence that crops planted around turbines are affected at all by their presence, nor have we received reports of such effects from farmers who have turbines in their fields.

Explain steps for burying a power line.

As part of the project's construction, a 34.5 kV cable will be run underground between turbines and the substation to collect electricity from each of the turbines and carry it to the project substation. We call this underground cable a "collection line." The following steps are required to bury the collection line:

  1. A trencher is used to excavate a narrow trench that is generally at least 42 inches deep. (Typically, the top of the cable will sit a minimum of 42 inches from the surface, though the trench will be dug deeper if there is an obstruction underground that the cable will have to go under.)
  2. The cable is placed into the trench along with a fiber-optic cable (for communication between the turbines, the substation, and our remote operations center) and a ground cable.
  3. Once the cable is laid, the construction crew will fill the trench with soil, compacting the soil around the cable one foot at a time.
  4. Once the cable is buried, the surface is restored, and farming can continue right over the buried line.

Water districts had problems with rocks when putting in water lines. Do you use rock trenches?

The trenching equipment that is used by wind farm construction crews is generally capable of handling some amount of rock underground. If the standard equipment is found to be insufficient for the site, the contractor will be prepared to switch to a different type of trenching equipment that is appropriate for the conditions they find.

In Neosho County there is a lot of rock. Do you use dynamite to construct the hole for the base of the turbine? What effect will this have on foundations and basements?

Wind farm construction crews do not typically utilize dynamite to excavate the holes required for turbine foundations. Before construction even begins, engineers conduct geotechnical surveys of the site to understand what soils and geology lie below the areas where turbine foundations are planned. After our geotechnical analysis is complete, teams also conduct micro-siting activities, which include a visual survey of each turbine location. This provides additional information for assessing the likelihood of finding solid rock underground.

In the case of Neosho Ridge, our preliminary geotechnical analysis has found that the rock beneath the area is "rippable," meaning that it should be possible for the digging equipment used by the contractors to either pull the rock out or dig through it. Although harder rock was found on the site, it is deeper than contractors will need to dig to place turbine foundations. Therefore, at this time, we do not anticipate that any blasting will be needed on the site. Once final turbine locations are selected and before construction begins, additional geotechnical and micro-siting analyses will be conducted, which should help confirm this assessment.

If, for some reason, blasting were to be required to excavate holes for turbine foundations in the project, these blasts would be controlled, and they would have no effect on nearby home foundations or basements. The shock waves from a blast at the scale associated would turbine construction will physically dissipate at a distance far shorter than that specified in the property line setback that has been proposed to the County Commission.

Where is your construction lay down yard?

We have not yet identified a location for a construction lay down yard. If construction begins on our current schedule, we would expect to have a site identified by summer 2019.

How close can I build a fence to the collection buried cable?

Once the underground cable is buried, it is actually possible to build a fence right over it. Cables are typically at least 42 inches deep, so they would not be expected to create a problem for fence building. For safety's sake, we do ask that those who wish to cross the collection lines with a fence contact the wind farm operations team so that they can help locate exactly where the cable is located before digging begins.

What responsibility does Apex/Empire have for maintenance of county roads over the life of the wind farm?

During construction, the project will maintain and repair all roads being used for project access. Once the project is constructed, responsibility for the maintenance of public roads will be returned to the county. It is helpful to note that once the project is operational, the project's use of the roads will generally be limited to travel by standard pickup truck.

Will Apex hire any local private contractors to complete this project?

As we approach construction, Neosho Ridge Wind will be responsible for hiring the primary contractor who will lead construction of the site. We call that lead contractor the "Balance of Plant" contractor (or "BOP" contractor). Once a BOP contractor is selected, it will hire numerous subcontractors to complete all of the work necessary to construct the facility. Because wind farm construction is such a specialized process, the firms that are qualified to fill the BOP role are very experienced in wind farm construction. There are not currently any qualified BOP contractors located in the Neosho Ridge Wind project area; however, it is common for BOP contractors to hire local subcontractors for various portions of the project. To learn more about the types of services required for wind farm construction, and to register to participate in our Local Vendor Program, please visit: https://www.neoshoridgewind.com/building_a_farm. To have your business added to the local vendor directory for consideration, please visit: https://www.neoshoridgewind.com/vendor_sign_up.

Our Local Vendor Program allows local contractors to sign up to be listed in our Local Vendor Directory, which will be shared with the selected BOP contractor to help them identify local subcontractors for consideration.

Who would contractors need to contact to be considered for bids?

Although a BOP contractor has not yet been selected for the Neosho Ridge Wind project, we are already allowing interested vendors to register as part of our Local Vendor Program. To have your business added to the local vendor directory for consideration, please visit: https://www.neoshoridgewind.com/vendor_sign_up. To learn more about the Local Vendor Program, please visit: https://www.neoshoridgewind.com/local_vendor_program.

Will the towers eventually be removed? Who pays?

At the end of Neosho Ridge Wind's operating life, which is anticipated to be 25 to 30 years, it is expected that the facility will either be decommissioned or re-powered. If it is re-powered, the turbine technology will be updated, and the wind turbines will not need to be completely removed. If the facility is decommissioned, it will be the responsibility of the facility's owner to remove all material components to a depth of at least 48 inches and restore the surface for farming.

Though it is highly unlikely that there would be a circumstance where the project owner was unable to pay for removal of the components at the end of the project's useful life, there are protections built into project leases that help ensure that neither participating landowners nor local taxpayers will be responsible for the cost of decommissioning. Neosho Ridge Wind's lease agreements state that the project shall issue a bond, letter of credit, or other collateral security on the 15th anniversary of the facility's start of operation date. The security is required to be issued in an amount sufficient to cover the costs of removing project components and restoring the surface, and it is specified that those costs will be re-estimated every five years to ensure they are still accurate. This security will function like insurance for the landowner in the highly unlikely case that for some reason the wind farm owner is not able to pay for decommissioning directly.

In addition, the project is currently negotiating an agreement with the County Commissioners to give them even greater confidence that sufficient funds will be available for decommissioning if and when such action is necessary.

Will money be put into escrow to cover future road repairs? How much?

A road use agreement is currently being negotiated with Neosho County, and these terms have not yet been finalized.

Are county roads closed during construction?

We do not anticipate that any county roads will be closed due to project construction for any meaningful length of time at any point during construction. There may be very short periods, generally lasting only a few minutes, when roads may be blocked to allow for large equipment to cross. There may also be times, such as those when we are applying stone to county roads, when traffic might get stuck behind a slow-moving piece of equipment. In those instances, contractors will attempt to create as little inconvenience for drivers as possible either by pulling to the side when safe to allow cars to pass or posting detour signage to help drivers find another route.

Where is the concrete for this project coming from?

The BOP contractor selected to build the Neosho Ridge Wind project will be responsible for sourcing and hiring a concrete supplier. Because it is so expensive to transport aggregate sand and other materials needed to produce concrete, it is most likely that the contractor will hire a ready-mix company that can procure concrete materials through the normal regional supply chain. The ready-mix contractor will set up a batch plant on-site where the concrete for the project will be produced.

Where will the project substation be built?

We have not yet identified a location for the project substation. If construction proceeds according to schedule, we anticipate that a site will be identified by spring 2019.

Where will the O&M building be?

We have not yet identified a location for the project O&M building. If construction proceeds according to schedule, we anticipate that a site will be identified by spring 2019.

What methods and safeguards are in place to ensure Apex complies with the terms of the road use agreement - as in making sure setbacks are as agreed upon and only those roads that have been agreed upon are being used?

The Road Use Agreement is currently being negotiated between the project and the County Commissioners. The current draft of the proposed Road Use Agreement enforces which roads will be used through a right-of-way permit. If the project fails to comply with the terms of the permit, corrective measures and actions will be applied as defined by local law.

Generally speaking, road use agreements focus on ensuring that vehicles transporting the larger loads associated with wind farm construction are limited to certain roadways. Larger loads in this context include things like rock and concrete, turbine components, and structural steel components for the substation. It is rare for transporters carrying these loads to veer from the approved transportation routes for a few reasons. First, some of these large loads -- for example, the wind turbine components -- are led to their destination by official escort vehicles that have been briefed on the planned route. Other transporters of these loads, including those carrying the rock and concrete to the site, utilize repetitive routes in which the same driver makes multiple trips along a planned path. In both of these cases, it is very uncommon for drivers to leave the planned path.

Why did you pick Neosho County since your own wind map only rates it as moderate for wind?

The wind speed at a site is one of several factors that are considered when selecting a location for a wind energy facility. A site with strong and consistent winds tends to offer the opportunity to build a project with a higher capacity factor. Simply put, the more wind, the more power that can be produced. In fact, Neosho County does have a productive and competitive wind resource. This question appears to refer to a nationwide wind map created by a company called AWS Truepower. Although this source provides an excellent, high-level and non-proprietary picture of wind speeds across the country, we actually have more granular wind data that is specific to the project site and was collected by our own meteorological towers. As part of our evaluation of the project area, we have been collecting site-specific wind data for several years. This data confirms that the wind speeds in the project area will allow us to produce cost-effective power here.

The other key factor in selecting a location for a wind energy facility is access to the transmission system. In addition to strong wind speeds, the Neosho Ridge Wind project area provides access to a section of the regional electric grid that offers robust transmission capacity. In other words, there is room on the local transmission lines to accept the power generated by the wind project.

How do the turbines catch fire?

It is very rare for turbine fires to occur, and in the unusual cases where they have occurred, they are most commonly contained within the turbine tower. In order to burn, fires require a source of ignition, fuel, and oxygen. The most common source of ignition in a turbine fire would be an electrical malfunction within the turbine. Most electrical fires are self-limiting, because they begin in the electrical cabinet within the turbine, and once they burn through the small amount of flammable material in the cabinet, they run out of fuel, and they go out. Other potential sources of ignition in a fire include friction from a malfunctioning yaw component or lightning. As previously stated, these occurrences are very rare.

Why are the proposed Neosho Ridge turbines expected to be so tall? Higher than the Elk river turbines that measure just under 400 ft?

As wind turbine technology improves, it is possible to produce more energy from a smaller number of turbines. Furthermore, these technological improvements are allowing new areas of the country to take advantage of the economic development opportunities associated with wind energy generation facilities. One way turbines have become more efficient is by getting taller and having bigger rotors, because these changes allow them to collect more energy from the wind. Because these newer turbines are more efficient, they have helped the cost of wind energy fall dramatically. Today, wind energy is the cheapest form of new energy generation  available in many parts of the country.

How will the proposed PILOT contributions be passed onto the company who owns the project? Is that continuity guaranteed?

When Liberty-Empire takes over Neosho Ridge Wind, the utility will take on responsibility for all of the active legal contracts that have been signed by the project to date. These contracts will include the County Road Use Agreement, Contribution Agreement, and the Decommissioning Agreement. The community benefit payments, the decommissioning activity, setbacks, and all leases and right-of-way agreements will be upheld. 

Why is the city of Galesburg in the contribution agreement and not the city of Thayer, Erie or any other city in Neosho County? Why has Apex promised the city of Galesburg $100,000?

We strive to work closely with all stakeholders in our project areas to design facilities that serve community needs to the greatest extent possible. In late 2018, the Galesburg City Council was discussing the idea of supporting the Neosho Ridge Wind project. The City had two important requests that it felt must be accommodated if it were to support the project. First, it asked Neosho Ridge Wind to work with Winexes, a local area service provider for telephone and internet services. Second, it hoped the City of Galesburg would have the opportunity to economically benefit directly from the project. Neosho Ridge Wind was able to accommodate both of these requests. The Galesburg City Council passed a resolution in December supporting the Neosho Ridge Wind project.

What company's turbines will you use and what model?

Neosho Ridge Wind has not yet signed a Turbine Supply Agreement with a turbine manufacturer. For that reason, we are not yet able to definitively state the make and model of Neosho Ridge Wind's turbines. That said, we anticipate that the project will use Vestas 2.2 MW turbines.

Can you elaborate on wind energy 10, 15, 20 years ago? What advancements have been made?

Wind turbine technology has improved significantly over the past several years. Turbines have gotten taller, quieter, and more efficient. According to the Department of Energy's 2015 Wind Vision report:

"Progress has been made to improve performance and reliability and reduce the cost of individual wind turbines. Enhancements have included design of longer blades and taller towers that capture more energy from the wind, developments in drive train designs, and use of improved controls and sensors. By 2013, focus began shifting from individual turbine performance to overall system performance characteristics. Technology advancements center on developing enhanced micro-siting strategies and complex control systems for arrays of wind turbines. ...A better understanding of the wind resource and continued technology developments are leading trends in improved performance, increased reliability, and reduced cost of wind electricity. Additionally, declining wind technology costs are driving domestic demand for wind power, wind industry jobs, and economic growth in all regions of the country."

Have you ever developed a wind project in an area this densely populated?

Apex has several projects in development around the country in communities as dense, or denser, than the area surrounding Neosho Ridge Wind. For instance, Apex projects in some areas, including several Midwestern counties, have higher population densities than the Neosho Ridge Wind area.

Have you ever built towers in excess of 600'? If not, how can you have any credible information on shadow flicker, noise and other detrimental aspects of industrial power plants?

Apex has not yet been involved in building a project with turbines as tall as 600 feet. That is because this technology is very new. That said, calculations regarding shadow flicker, ice, and noise are scalable, based on the geometric and physical specs of the turbines. As towers have gotten taller, it has become possible for facilities to produce more power with fewer turbines, reducing the number of turbines required to reach capacity on several projects. Reducing the number of turbines generally helps reduce shadow flicker, sound, and ice shedding.

Approximately how many turbines will there be in a square mile?

Generally speaking, no more than three turbines would be placed on a square mile of land.

If the cost of wind energy has plummeted over the last several years, why has Warren Buffet said wind energy does  not make sense without tax credits?

The Production Tax Credit (PTC) is an incentive program to offer wind energy facilities a tax credit for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce. This kind of policy is used to promote investments that will help the United States, its economy, and every source of U.S. energy production receives similar incentives. In the case of the PTC, the credit has helped encourage the development of a robust wind energy industry in America, which now produces clean, domestically-generated electricity to serve our population. The credit has helped catalyze impressive growth within the industry, and the technological enhancements it has supported have helped significantly reduce the cost of wind energy generation, which is helping save U.S. energy consumers money in turn.

The cost of wind energy has plummeted so significantly that the wind energy industry has now agreed to allow the PTC to phase out. The wind industry is the only energy industry that has ever voluntarily agreed to a phase-out of one of its most valuable tax incentives. Starting in 2020, the value of the PTC will decrease annually until it phases out entirely, and wind energy is expected to remain competitive with other energy sources throughout. Warren Buffet's statement about the PTC is now more than five years old, and even five years ago, he may very well have been right. However, today, the cost has come down so much that the PTC is no longer needed to help wind energy generation facilities compete with other energy sources.

Isn't the history of wind projects that they are notorious for not paying property taxes and finding ways to avoid them?

Operating wind energy facilities are currently paying billions of dollars in property taxes to local municipalities across the nation.

Has there ever been a successful lawsuit to stop a wind farm?

We are not aware of a lawsuit that has successfully stopped a wind farm. No project developed by Apex Clean Energy has been terminated due to a lawsuit.

With regard to wildlife impact, are you willing to release your pre-construction findings? If not are you willing to pay for a local university to perform a pre and post construction environmental/wildlife impact?

Pre- and post-construction wildlife data is not made public for a number of reasons. Reports on our findings are generally shared with the agencies responsible for managing wildlife at the state and federal levels, but we keep this information confidential, because our projects are usually constructed exclusively on private property. When a wildlife survey is done on private land, the results of that survey are private as well. Summary reports of the findings from a specific property can be made available to the owner of that property, but not to the general public.

As far as supporting local university research on wildlife in the project area, we are certainly open to that conversation. Accurate post-construction surveying requires highly qualified and skilled wildlife biologists who are familiar with specific scientific methodologies, so any partnership in this area would require researchers to be properly credentialed and qualified.

What are your setbacks for wetlands? Do you know what Ducks Unlimited suggests?

We have been working with Ducks Unlimited over the past several weeks, and we are excited about the progress we’ve made in working together to address their questions and concerns about waterfowl and wetlands. We are confident we are on track to find a solution that allows them to support the project.

Did you find any prairie chickens?

No prairie chickens were found on the Neosho Ridge Wind project site. Biologists did not see or hear any prairie chickens in the area during the mating season. The Kansas Department of Parks and Wildlife has indicated that it hasn't seen any greater prairie chickens in the Neosho County area for a long time.

What is the effect of wind turbines on deer, waterfowl and turkey?

Deer, turkey, and waterfowl will not be adversely affected by wind turbines. Deer in particular are known to acclimate to wind energy facilities once construction is over and the associated noise and traffic has decreased. Turkeys are not particularly skittish, and we would expect residents to see the same number of turkeys on their land when the wind farm is operating that they saw before it was constructed.

The potential effects on waterfowl are well-understood. There has been significant research on the interaction of waterfowl and wind energy, and waterfowl are included in the avian use surveys that are undertaken during the development of wind energy facilities. According to the peer-reviewed literature, including about 250 studies that have looked at the effects of wind turbines on different species of birds, waterfowl have generally made up less than 5% of overall avian fatalities at wind farms across the United States.

How do you conduct your avian use survey or any of your wildlife surveys?

Different methodologies are used to understand what wildlife is present on a site, depending on the particular habits and attributes of each type of wildlife. Avian use surveys are usually done using a methodology called an "avian use point count." In an avian use point count survey, a biologist will go to a series of randomly selected locations within a project area and count the number of different birds that are seen and/or heard within a certain amount of time and within a certain distance of that location.

How can your research be credible when 600 ft turbines are just now starting to be used?

Over the past several decades, wildlife survey methods have not significantly changed and the results they have produced have not significantly changed, even as turbine heights have increased significantly over that period. Avian fatalities have remained consistent across the country and over time. Therefore, we are confident that the studies we have used to draw our conclusions are credible for assessing the wildlife risk posed by the Neosho Ridge Wind project.

The world health organization in Europe has now recognized noise from wind turbines as a health hazard and has advised that chronic noise contributes to cardiovascular disease; lack of sleep, hearing loss, tinnitus and stress; and increased changes in blo

We asked Rob O'Neal of Epsilon Associates to answer this question. His response follows.

I disagree with the conditional recommendation presented in the WHO report. I have reviewed the WHO “Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region,” released on October 10, 2018 (“WHO 2018”). This is the first time the WHO Guidelines have attempted to cover wind turbines as a noise source, and much more work and research needs to be done, as explicitly acknowledged in the report, before these guidelines should be used to set sound level standards for wind turbines.

The WHO document proposes an annual guideline of 45 dBA Lden (day-evening-night) for wind turbines. Owing largely to the lack of evidence linking wind turbine noise and public health, these WHO recommendations for wind turbines are considered "conditional." "Conditional recommendations" are the weakest types of recommendations in the WHO 2018 report because “conditional recommendations” are those in which high-quality evidence indicating a strong adverse effect is lacking. The report defines  “high quality” evidence as that for which "…further research is very unlikely to change the certainty of the effect estimate.” In contrast, “low quality” evidence is defined as that for which "further research is very likely to have an important impact on the certainty of the effect estimate and is likely to change the estimate."

Because conditional recommendations are not considered reliable, the report says that decisions made using conditional recommendations require a “policy-making process with substantial debate and involvement of various stakeholders." It goes on to explain that "There is less certainty of [a conditional recommendation's] efficacy owing to lower quality of evidence of a net benefit [associated with implementing the WHO guideline], opposing values and preferences of individuals and populations affected or the high resource implications of the recommendation, meaning there may be circumstances or settings in which it will not apply." Indeed, the report itself acknowledges that in forming its recommendations for wind turbines, there was no stakeholder input at all.

Finally, the report states that “…only limited data are available on the population’s perception of newer sources of noise, such as wind turbines”, and that the evidence supporting the 45 dBA Lden is “low quality.”

For all of the reasons described, "conditional recommendations" should be treated carefully. They are not intended to serve as a foundation for decision-making on a proposed wind project on their own, but to document the early stages of research on a complicated topic.

Key findings about wind turbine noise from WHO 2018:

  • Incidence of heart disease – no studies available
  • Incidence of hypertension – no studies available
  • Prevalence of highly annoyed population – low-quality evidence. The studies used were primarily self-reporting and did not include objective measures of health. The Guideline Development Group (GDG) recognized that non-acoustic factors are an important confounder in annoyance.
  • Sleep disturbance – low-quality evidence. Based on the low quantity and heterogeneous nature of the evidence, the GDG was not able to formulate a recommendation addressing sleep disturbance due to wind turbine noise at night time. " …Studies were not consistent and in general did not provide evidence for an effect on sleep."

Isn't it true infrasound has been found to have health effects even if we don't hear it? Can you guarantee 48dBA or less at all times for non participants?

It is true that infrasound is not audible, but it is also true that all peer-reviewed studies and research on infrasound, including recent Health Canada and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs studies, have concluded that infrasound at the levels produced by wind turbines does not cause health effects. We are currently working with the County Commissioners on an agreement that will likely specify a dBA limit for those not participating in the project. We have proposed that the agreement should specify a 48 dBA limit from nonparticipants.

It is my understanding that Leq measures an average noise level over a 24 hour period. So the noise level could be 80db at 8a.m. and 80db at 8p.m., but as long as the average noise level over a 24 hour period does not exceed 48db, is that all your contract require? If so, why not use Lden measurement?

Leq stands for “Equivalent Continuous Noise Level”. Traditionally, to measure Leq, sound data is collected in 1-3 second increments that are averaged into an hourly value. In other words, Leq DOES NOT measure an average noise level over a 24-hour period. By committing to respect an Leq of 48 dBA at Neosho Ridge Wind, the project commits that it will not exceed an equivalent continuous noise level of 48 dBA over any hour of the day or night.

Lden stands for “Day Evening Night,” and is a measure designed to calculate a value for sound over an entire 24-hour period. Lden places a “penalty” on nighttime noise and a “benefit” on daytime noise. Because Lden measurements cover an entire day, they make it difficult to distinguish the sound coming from wind turbines from sound coming from other sources. For this reason, both the ISO (International Standards Organization) and the IEC (international Electrotechnical Commission) specify that Leq should be used to measure sound for pre-construction modeling and post construction enforcement. Furthermore, all wind turbine manufacturers use Leq in their product specifications, which makes it important to utilize Leq in setting limits, because selecting a common standard allows for proper enforcement of sound commitments.

If your study shows there will be no property value loss in Neosho County due to this project, are you willing to recommend to Apex that they provide a property value guarantee to non participants for fair market value?

No. Property value guarantees are not an effective tool, because there are too many variables that can impact a property's value at any given time. There are numerous conditions that could affect a property's value - from upkeep or the economy to the condition of a neighbor's home and other activities taking place near the property - and it is not feasible to isolate the impact of the wind farm from the affects of other factors on this list.

How will property values be impacted?

Evidence suggests that the presence of a wind farm will have no impact on the values of nearby properties.

How close were the homes in Harper County to the turbines?

In the report produced by MaRous and Company regarding the impacts of wind turbines on nearby property values, the homes that were evaluated in Harper County were over two thousand feet away from the nearest turbines.

How are the homes in Harper and Danville a matched pair? It's 40 years newer and 1,000 sq ft bigger?

When matched pairs are selected for this type of analysis, it is difficult to find properties that are identical except for proximity to a wind turbine, and for which sales occurred under substantially similar market conditions. This is especially true in rural areas. For this reason, a standard methodology exists to make adjustments to appraisals to account for those factors that differ between two otherwise comparable homes.

While the newer home referenced in the question was 40 years newer than the comparative property, it was still not new. At 22 years old, it cannot claim an increased value due to updated standards and design. That said, the comparison did include a significant adjustment based on the age difference between the two properties.

The difference in size between the two properties was also incorporated into the comparison, and a major adjustment was made to reflect the 800 square foot differential between the two properties.

Even given these differences, standard matched pair methodology supports comparing these two properties, because they have other meaningful similarities, including that they are both larger homes for this market and they have similar function.

Why does your economic impact study not incorporate depreciation on the value of turbines for years 11-25?

No depreciation is shown in years 11 to 25, because by year 11, the project's value will have already depreciated to the full extent allowed by state law.

If Liberty Empire takes over the project, it will be taxed at 80% rather than 20% when the state takes over in 10 years. Will the project be state assessed?

Since 2016, renewable energy generators have been exempt from property taxes for only twelve years if owned by an independent power producer and ten years if constructed by a regulated public utility per K.S.A. 79-259. After this exemption period, the wind energy project will pay property taxes to all the taxing jurisdictions. Typically, wind developers in Kansas enter into a Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILOT) agreement to voluntarily support the county during the 10 or 12 year exemption period. Thus, wind power projects increase the property tax base of a county, creating a new revenue source for education and other local government services, such as road maintenance, libraries, and cemeteries.

After the exemption period is complete, the wind energy project will be appraised for tax purposes by the state appraiser. The state appraiser should use the “retail cost when new” less depreciation in order to appraise the project. Since the accounting depreciation is over a maximum of seven years for an asset whose life is over seven years, the wind farm could be fully depreciated by the time of the expiration of the exemption. However, the appraised value cannot be less than 20% of the “retail cost when new” if is in operation. In addition, the appraised value cannot be less than 20% of the retail cost when new by law. Thus, we assume the county appraiser will value the property at 20% of the “retail cost when new.”

What types of employment opportunities will Neosho Ridge offer?

During construction, the BOP contractor selected to build Neosho Ridge Wind will hire many subcontractors and service providers to complete the work. A full listing of the types of services required for wind farm construction is available at: https://www.neoshoridgewind.com/building_a_farm. Our Local Vendor Program allows local contractors to sign up to be listed in our Local Vendor Directory, which will be shared with the selected BOP contractor to help them identify local subcontractors for consideration. To sign up for the Local Vendor Program, visit: https://www.neoshoridgewind.com/vendor_sign_up.

Once the project is operational, turbine technicians and on-site operations and maintenance staff will be hired. In addition, the project will work with various local vendors, as needed, to assist with activities like road work, civil work, fencing and landscaping, drainage, and other maintenance activities over the life of the project. Local restaurants, caterers, convenience stores, grocery stores, hotels, and other service providers also get additional business due to the presence of the project throughout its operation.

Please state each and every assumption used in preparing the economic impact report? 

The complete Economic Impact Report for Neosho Ridge Wind is available here.

The report features a complete methodology section that explains how its conclusions were reached. In the interest of convenience, we have excerpted the methodology section of the report here:

"The economic analysis of wind power development presented here utilizes the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL’s) latest Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) Wind Energy Model (W6-29-18). NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. The JEDI Wind Energy Model is a model that measures the spending patterns and location-specific economic structures that reflect expenditures supporting varying levels of employment, income, and output. Essentially, JEDI is an input-output model, which takes into account the fact that the output of one industry can be used as an input for another. For example, when a wind farm developer purchases turbines to build a wind farm, those wind turbines are made of components such as fiberglass, aluminum, steel, copper, etcetera. Therefore, purchases of wind turbines impact the demand for these components as indirect impacts. In addition, when a wind farm developer purchases a wind turbine from a manufacturing facility, the manufacturer uses some of that money to pay employees, and then the employees spend that money to purchase goods and services within their community, which causes an induced impact. In essence, JEDI reveals how purchases of wind project materials not only benefit turbine manufacturers but also the local industries that supply the concrete, rebar, and other materials (Reategui et al., 2009). The JEDI model uses construction cost data, operating cost data, and data relating to the percentage of goods and services acquired in the state to calculate jobs, earnings, and economic activities that are associated with this information. The results are broken down into the construction period and the operation period of the wind project. Within each period, impacts are further divided into direct, turbine and supply chain (indirect), and induced impacts.

"The JEDI Model was developed in 2002 to demonstrate the economic benefits associated with developing wind farms in the United States. The model was developed by Marshall Goldberg of MRG & Associates, under contract with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The JEDI model utilizes state specific industry multipliers obtained from IMPLAN (IMpact Analysis for PLANning). IMPLAN software and data are managed and updated by the Minnesota IMPLAN Group, Inc., using data collected at federal, state, and local levels. The JEDI model considers 14 aggregated industries that are impacted by the construction and operation of a wind farm: agriculture, construction, electrical equipment, fabricated metals, finance/insurance/real estate, government, machinery, mining, other manufacturing, other services, professional service, retail trade, transportation/communication/public utilities, and wholesale trade (Reategui et al., 2009). This study does not analyze net jobs but rather the gross jobs that the new wind farm development supports. A person who takes a job at the new wind farm could have been employed elsewhere beforehand, thus not every gross job results in a net additional job. A new jobs analysis would subtract the job losses from the job gains of the new project but it is highly speculative and very dependent on numerous interactions. Thus, it is more reliable to limit the analysis to the gross jobs created by the new wind development.

"...This methodology has been validated by a paper in the peer-reviewed economics literature. In the article, “Ex Post Analysis of Economics Impacts from Wind Power Development in U. S. Counties,” the authors conduct an ex post econometric analysis of the county-level economic development impacts of wind power installations from 2000 through 2008. They find an aggregate increase in county-level personal income and employment of approximately $11,000 and 0.5 jobs per megawatt of wind power capacity which is consistent with the JEDI results at the county level. (Brown, 2012)

"It is important to note that there are factors that this analysis of the impacts of construction and operation of the Neosho Ridge Wind farm does not include, such as the net effects of increased demand for the construction and operations of the wind farm on employment, income, and output in the affected regions. Additionally, the methodology in this section is highly dependent on the cost data and the percentage of equipment, materials and labor obtained locally. The cost data is based on preliminary estimates; high level figures were allocated based on industry standards. Specific contractors have different abilities to procure goods and labor locally and since a general contractor has not been selected for the project, the local material and labor could vary from these estimates. The author of this report has reviewed and evaluated all of the cost and local percentages and they are quite conservative estimates based on his modeling experience with other wind farms around the country."

What will our Neosho taxes look like if the project fails over the next 20 years?

We do not see how it would be possible for the project to "fail" in 20 years, though it is possible we misunderstand what is meant by the word fail here.

The Vestas manual mandates a safety radius of 500m for workers in case of fire or brake failure. Do you agree with this recommendation?

In the rare instance of fire or brake failure, proper safety precautions must be taken to ensure preservation of life, limb, and property. However, the 500 meters referenced in this question comes from an out-of-date operations manual for an old Vestas turbine. Current operations manuals for Vestas turbines have clarified that emergency protocols should be customized for each project, based on the terrain, technology, and expertise of the team responsible for managing turbine operation. Vestas has also repeatedly made it clear that the protocol referenced in this question was never intended to be used to define turbine setback distances.

If wind turbines are so safe why are you guaranteeing participants 1200 ft as a minimum setback?

Turbines do create sound and they can cause shadow flicker. At appropriate distances, however, the audibility of this sound is quite low and the potential for shadow flicker decreases. At a distance of 1,000 to 1,200 feet from a turbine, the sound generated by the turbine blades cutting through the air is generally less than 50 dBA, a sound level that is scientifically understood to be safe. These distances also help reduce the impact of shadowing on nearby residences.

How much electricity produced by the turbine is consumed by the operations of the turbine systems?

Wind turbines consume very little energy, and most of the time, they are generating far more electricity than they will use. A single turbine at the Neosho Ridge Wind project can be expected to produce enough energy to power more than 800 homes over the course of a year. The energy needed to power a turbine when it is not operating is limited to activities like keeping the turbine warm in the winter and powering the yaw system, which is what allows the nacelle to turn into the wind. These energy demands are negligible when compared to the power each turbine produces.

Are any of the operations of the turbine grid powered?

See above. 

How does the shut down system on a wind turbine work?

Generally speaking, a turbine is designed to automatically shut down in certain high-wind or low-wind conditions. For example, if sustained wind speeds get higher than about 50 miles per hour, the turbine will shut down. The turbine is designed to sense the wind speed through the anemometer located on its nacelle, which monitors wind speeds, direction, temperature data, and more throughout operation. When the anemometer measures sustained wind speeds above the specified threshold, machinery in the turbine will feather the blades to decrease wind resistance and allow the rotor to slow until it comes to a stop. The turbine will remain in that position until wind speeds have returned to levels within the specified range. Turbines can also be shut down manually at any time the operator deems necessary.

Will the wind turbines be able to survive an electromagnetic pulse from a catastrophic incident and still be able to produce electricity?

Although we are not aware of any such incident taking place in the United States, we believe that such an incident would actually shut down the entire electrical grid. If the grid was disabled, the turbines would be disabled as well.

Rumors abound that this project will mean new roads and bridges for the county. Please explain in detail what your obligations are with regard to county roads and bridges used in construction.

Neosho Ridge Wind is currently in the process of negotiating a Road Use Agreement with the County Commission. That agreement will include detailed information about how the roads and bridges used during construction will be upgraded and maintained and who will be responsible for those activities.

If the manufacturer states a safety zone of 1,640 feet from the tower, why is the setback not 1,640 feet from the property line?

We anticipate working with Vestas turbines on the Neosho Ridge Wind project, and we do not believe they currently specify any kind of "safety zone" around operating turbines.

 

Previously Submitted Questions 

Throughout the development process, we have been asked questions from Neosho County residents and wanted to post the q&a here:

Q. How much will landowners be paid for hosting turbines?
A. Our estimate is about $1 million per year.


Q. How will we be protected from decommissioning costs?
A. In the lease agreements that are put into place with the landowners, there is protection in case of a decommissioning. A bond, letter of credit, or other collateral security would be put in place to cover the costs of removing the wind facilities from the property and restoring the surface of the property.


Q. How much maintenance is involved in keeping the turbines running for 20 to 30 years?
A. Once the wind farm is operational, an operations and maintenance building will be constructed, where full-time wind technicians and site facility managers will be based for the life of the wind project. Regularly scheduled routine maintenance will take place, along with monitoring of the wind turbines and facilities. Jobs like this are in high demand—in fact, wind turbine technician is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. In Concordia, Kansas (Cloud County), there is a Wind Energy Technology program for aspiring wind turbine technicians at the Cloud County Community College. The Cloud County Community College is also working in the southeastern region of Kansas with the LaHarpe Rural Regional Tech Center in Allen County to develop a wind tech program.


Q. Are you involved in Jayhawk as well?
A. Yes, Jayhawk Wind is one of Apex Clean Energy’s projects in development.


Q. Being tax exempt for the first 10 years, how do you plan on paying $55 million in taxes in the years following the project?
A. Kansas state law does say we are exempt for 10 years, but we would like to set up a contribution agreement with the county for the first ten years so everyone can benefit from the wind farm. We estimate that the project will provide over $45 million in tax revenue over the life of the project.


Q. Will you mix your own concrete or will it be bought locally? Also will you buy your rock locally or will you crush your own?
A. The procurement of all materials and installations are part of the construction bidding process. All local concrete material and placement contractors are encouraged to participate in the bidding process, and the project encourages ALL bidders to source as much local material and labor as possible. The concrete will be mixed on site due to the large quantity and timing required for each pour. There will be two or more temporary (mobile) mixing plants, whose locations will be within the project area so as to be as close to the foundations as possible. The project will not crush its own rock. Generally, rock is procured locally due to the cost associated with the transportation of this large a quantity of stone. If a local source can provide the specified rock and quantity required, then it should have the advantage during the bid. Note: This project will require a minimum of 130,000 yards of the specified rock.


Q. How often do you have to put in a connection box? And will these be fenced in?
A. Junction boxes are placed every 6,500 to 8,500 feet depending on location, distance between turbines, and existing site conditions. 8,500 feet is the maximum allowed distance between junction boxes. This distance starts at one turbine and ends at another turbine or the substation. The connection boxes won’t be fenced in, but the boxes will be locked, with four yellow bollards set in concrete at each corner for protection.


Q. Does a laydown yard get covered in gravel? If so, does it all get removed when you are finished?
A. Yes, the laydown yard will be covered with rock. The rock will be removed unless an agreement is in place with the landowner to leave the gravel after construction is complete. All the rock will be salvaged and placed throughout the project to top roads, especially in areas that need additional stone or dressing. Once the stone is removed, the laydown area will be decompacted and restored.

Q.How wide is the area used for burying electric lines connecting turbines and then connecting turbines to the switchyard?
A. The easement for constructing the collection lines is 50 feet wide. Generally, the construction disturbance is closer to 35 feet wide for a single collection line. The area gets wider as multiple lines parallel one other running back to the substation. The trench the electrical lines are buried in will be 1 foot 6 inches wide and 3 feet 6 inches deep. The collection lines can be installed parallel to one other at a minimum of 16 feet on center.


Q. How wide are the roads that will connect the turbines if you can go from turbine to turbine? And will this road go straight or can it be moved to where the landowner would like to have it?
A. The access roads that connect to the base of the turbines will be 16 feet wide. The preference is for the access road connecting two or more turbines to be as short as possible, but it does not always go in a straight line from point to point. The design will consider existing site conditions and does have some flexibility to incorporate the landowner’s input.


Q. How big is the crane pad, and does it get removed after the turbines are up?
A. Crane pads can vary in size depending on soil conditions. The pads for this project have not been designed yet, but they can typically be around 100 feet x 50 feet. The pad does get removed after the turbine erections are complete, and the ground will be decompacted and restored along with the adjacent area.


Q. Will the company that buys or takes over the turbines also have to hold a liability insurance policy? If so, what will be the minimum on that policy?
A. In order to receive financing to build and operate a wind project, the project owner is required to have adequate liability coverage in place to guard against any material negative outcomes. This is standard practice in the industry.


Q. How many turbines will this project have total?
A. The Neosho Ridge Wind project will have up to 130 turbines.


Q. What companies have bought Apex’s wind projects?
A. We have worked with several partners, both utility and non-utility. Some of these include IKEA, Southern Company, the U.S. Army at Fort Hood, Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy. Visit www.apexcleanenergy.com/our-story for the complete list of partner companies.


Q. Where are Apex’s completed projects?
A. We have completed projects in Texas, Oklahoma, and Illinois.

Q. Are leased landowners guaranteed a setback over 550’ from their houses?
A. We will be siting turbines 1,200 feet away from participating homes.


Q. How much will each individual landowner get paid per turbine installed on their property?
A. For competitive reasons, will are not able to provide the payment information set out in our lease terms with landowners.

Q. Is the payment to the landowner on turbines based off plate capacity or production? 
A. It is industry standard for landowners to be compensated on either wind turbine nameplate capacity, energy production or both.

Q. How many square sections of land does the footprint cover? 
A. The current project boundary covers approximately 56,944 acres which is equivalent to 88.9 square sections. Project boundaries are subject to change as the project layout and leasing efforts are finalized. 

Q: Do you work at night delivering supplies and constructing the turbines? If yes, what are the hours? And if no, what are the hours? Are you planning to use all new parts for the nacelle or are any parts of these turbines refurbished or used before
A: Typically, construction occurs for 10 to 12 hours a day, starting at sunrise until the work plan for that day is complete. The team typically works Monday through Saturday, with Sunday as a makeup day as needed. Delivery of supplies, and specifically turbine components, will only occur during daylight hours. If the schedule requires it or if the weather (namely, if it is too hot) necessitates it, then nighttime hours may be added to the schedule. A good example of nighttime work would be pouring concrete to take advantage of the lower outside temperatures, which both allows the workers to complete their tasks in a safe level of heat and helps the concrete curing process. The need for nighttime hours would depend on the quantity of construction activities in the schedule and the forecasted temperatures.

Q: Based on your answer to question 5, can one assume that the PILOT is figured into the $45 million in taxes over the life of the project?
A: Neosho Ridge Wind is projected to pay more than $45 million in taxes over its lifetime. That number does not include the contribution amount that would also be provided to the county.

Q: After the meeting at Galesburg last Wednesday November 7th, 2018 , I am at a loss to understand the setbacks you have proposed. I would like to see in writing from Apex what you propose for participants, from the middle of their house to the turbine, and from the participants’ property line to the turbine. I would also like to know the setback for a non-participant’s home to the turbine, and from the non-participant’s property line to the turbine. Thank you for the clarification.
A: Apex has stated to the commissioner that we are happy to memorialize setback distances in an agreement with the county.

Q:Who did the structural engineering on tower bases? And what is applied vertical forces at hub on wind turbine?
A.The final design and engineer of record are forthcoming. The forces can’t be analyzed until the layout is complete. And the tower foundation cannot be designed until the forces are computed. Once this information is pulled together then the engineer will be brought on board.

Q:What criteria went into determining the 2,000 per MW payment for Neosho County? The Caney River project in Elk County pays 4,500 per MW and the turbines there are not nearly as large as the Neosho County turbines will be.
A: 
Over the years, economic benefit payments have been relatively consistent from project to project in Kansas. However last year, a big change was made to the Kansas tax code that is changing the economics of wind projects in meaningful ways. The updated tax code eliminated the lifetime tax abatement for wind energy, converting it to a tax abatement that only lasts for the project’s first ten years. In other words, whereas projects that were previously built in Kansas would never pay local property taxes, all new projects will have to pay taxes to local counties starting in year 11.

Since the tax laws were only changed last year, no standard has yet been set for what economic benefit payments to counties will look like under the new regime. Our proposal to offer $2,000 per MW has been based on an economic assessment of the project and what we believe it can sustain to remain viable. However, we continue our negotiations with the county commissioners on this point, and we will continue to look for ways to adjust the project economics to sustain a level of community benefit that the commissioners deem appropriate.