[caption id="attachment_69628" align="alignright" width="300"]<img class="size-medium wp-image-317086" src="https:\/\/mountainmedianews.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2021\/03\/Rocky_Forge_Emblem_BLU-300x249.png" alt="" width="300" height="249" \/> [SUBMITTED PHOTO][\/caption]By Matt de Simone\r\n\r\nEarlier this week, Apex Clean Energy kicked off early site preparation for the construction of the Rocky Forge wind project northeast of Eagle Rock.\r\n\r\nIn 2016, Apex received an approval from Botetourt County for the construction of 25 turbines with a maximum height of 550 feet. The next phase of the project involved Apex getting a permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) in 2017. Later, the Commonwealth of Virginia entered into an agreement to purchase power from Rocky Forge wind through their contract with Dominion Energy. The project is expected to produce enough energy to power up to 21,000 homes. The project has on-site transmission lines where the power will be distributed to a high-voltage grid on the construction site.\r\n\r\nLast May, the Board of Supervisors made a stipulation in its approval of the amendment for taller turbines that Apex would be required to receive site plan approval from the staff by the end of May 2021.\r\n\r\nCharlie Johnson, Senior Development Manager for Apex Clean Energy, grew up in Roanoke County and graduated from Glenvar High School. This project hits close to home for Johnson due to his familiarity with the area.\r\n\r\nJohnson recently spoke with the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors at its meeting last Tuesday. He remains confident the project will continue on schedule and Apex will continue to provide the county with any information or revisions, if needed.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe have been under development for several years and the technology changes every year,\u201d Johnson said of the Rocky Forge wind farm. \u201cWe realized the turbines that were feasible for the project were too large. The tip height is larger than the 550 feet limit that the Botetourt Board of Supervisors imposed in 2016. We had to go back to the county and ask for the ability to use newer turbines which does increase the height, but also reduces the number of turbines.\u201d\r\n\r\nApex has chosen 14 General Electric turbines that stand at 612 feet. The newer turbines will result in fewer turbines constructed than originally planned.\r\n\r\nJohnson compared the wind project\u2019s layout similar to a tuning fork which contains two ridges at the center that converge into one. The mountain contains similarly natural ridges, meeting in the middle of the mountain\u2019s \u201cfork\u201d halfway up the site. With less turbines built, the project will only need to construct turbines along one of the ridges instead of two. This will create less ground disturbance for the build.\r\n\r\nApex is currently finalizing the engineering stages, according to Johnson. They have issued a limited notice to proceed with early stages of tree clearing that could begin as early as this week. Apex anticipates issuing the full notice to proceed by June. Johnson explained that the reason for the clearing to begin now is due to an agreement Apex made with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so that the project doesn\u2019t interfere with the local bat population, which is inactive during the winter months.\r\n\r\n\u201cI would argue this is the best location in the state of Virginia to have a wind project being that it\u2019s a large, expansive private land and there is not a house within a mile of a planned turbine,\u201d Johnson explained. \u201cThe isolation part of the project made sense from the get-go. In terms of why this make sense for Botetourt, I think it\u2019s a culmination of community support. We\u2019ve seen overwhelming support at all levels of development. People see the benefits far outweigh the detriments of the project.\u201d\r\n\r\nJohnson updated the project\u2019s status for the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors at its meeting last Tuesday. He remains confident the project will continue on schedule and will continue to provide the county with any information or revisions, if needed. For more information about the Rocky Forge wind project visit www.rockyforgewind.com.