As the Apex Clean Energy wind project inches closer to becoming a reality in Morgan County, plans for the next phase of the project are ready to get underway.
Chris Nickell with American Wind Energy Management Corporation in Springfield said that Apex Clean Energy purchased the wind energy projects in and around Morgan County a number of years ago from American Wind Energy Management, who is working hand in had with Apex to get the projects off the ground.
Nickel said that though the project has dedicated areas for the wind turbines to be installed, the exact locations of the planned turbines has not been set in stone just yet.
“We are no longer looking for new turbine locations. We have almost 35,000 acres under lease now so right now we are finishing up the details on our locations. We do not have exact locations for the turbines yet, we are currently working on that, because every time one little thing changes, it can move a handfull of turbines one direction or another. So the final turbine locations is kind of the last thing you get figured out. We are getting very close and I would say within the next two weeks we will have a map showing where all the turbine locations will be.”
According to Nickell, construction could start very soon, but it would take some time before wind turbines are seen on the horizon and start sending electricity into the power grid.
“The construction is a multi-stage process. It looks like right now that about this time next year, next fall, we will be starting construction. Now a lot of that preliminary construction would not be visible as you are driving by. It will be the construction of roads and turning radius’s and culverts, foundations for the turbines and things like that. The turbines themselves you will probably not see until 2021, and once those start going in, it happens pretty fast. They can do a couple of those a week, and then we should be up and going and injecting power sometime that year, in 2021.”
Nickell gave some comparison to explain the amount of power the turbines in Morgan County can produce.
“Each turbine is about three megawatts each and we will have about 100 of them. One megawatt, I believe will power about 300 homes, so each turbine will have the capacity to power about 900 homes. For example, in Springfield, CWLP’s coal fired plant that you see when you drive by on I-55, has three smoke stacks there and I believe that is a total of just less than 400 megawatts, so we are on the scale of a reasonably sized coal generation plant.”
Electricity produced from the wind farm is put directly into the power grid as needed. Nickell said that like other sources of power, if usage of the power grid decreases, wind farms scale back production until more power is needed on the grid.
“The same is true for all generation now, coal fired plants and nuclear plants cannot store their energy either, so essentially the way the grid works is, every resource creates their power and puts it up on the electrical grid. Then there is an organization that controls the grid and makes sure that the electricity is flowing where it needs to be, and we are not melting lines and blowing transformers. So we create the power, it goes on the grid, and if there are days if there is no demand for power, we may have to turn off.
We do not have control necessarily over how we run. And again, to use the coal fired plant as an example, when you drive around the lake (Springfield), sometimes all three of the stacks are puffing, and sometimes only one of them is. If there is not demand for power on the grid, then the organization that controls the grid will have some or part of the plant shut down to keep from injecting power onto the gird that is not needed. Battery technology is coming it seems, but we do not have it yet, so as of now, utility scale electricity is not stored.”
Representatives from the Apex Energy Safety Team will be providing training next week to area first responders on how to work around wind farms and turbines during an emergency.