Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Apex Clean Energy?

Apex Clean Energy is an independent renewable energy company based in Charlottesville, Virginia. We develop, construct, and operate wind and solar energy facilities across the country. Our team has over 5,000 MW of projects either under construction or in operation – that’s enough energy to power over 1.7 million American homes annually. Our partners have included major utilities, large corporations like IKEA, and even the U.S. Army and Department of Defense.

In Michigan, Apex Clean Energy oversaw the development and construction of the state's largest wind farm, Isabella Wind, a 385 MW project located in rural Isabella County.

How does wind power work?

Wind power captures the natural wind in our atmosphere and converts it into mechanical energy then electricity. This is not exactly new technology. Humans have been harvesting the wind for centuries, starting with windmills to pump water, process grain, and generate power.

Today's wind turbine is a highly evolved version of a windmill. Modern wind turbines harness wind's kinetic energy and convert it into electricity. Most wind turbines have three blades and sit atop a steel tubular tower, and they range from 80-foot-tall models that can power a single home to utility-scale models that can be up to 700 feet tall and power thousands of homes.

Why here?

Michigan is an attractive market for wind energy and ranks 12th in the nation for installed wind capacity. Montcalm County specifically has several key attributes that make the location ideal for wind energy development.

  • Verified wind resource
  • Expansive private land with interested farmers and landowners
  • Existing high-voltage transmission lines, limiting the need for new infrastructure
  • Proximity to state highways and transportation infrastructure
  • Avoids sensitive airspace and environmental areas
  • Demand from local utilities for renewable energy (DTE, Consumers Energy, among others)
  • Access to local skilled workforce

What is the project’s size and scope?

Based on local transmission line capacity, the Montcalm Wind project is expected to have the capacity to generate up to 375 MW of home-grown Michigan clean energy, powering up to 85,000 homes annually, comparable to our 385 MW Isabella Wind project, located north of Montcalm County.

By utilizing the latest and most efficient wind turbine technology available, we expect Montcalm Wind to be able to generate that amount of electricity with substantially fewer turbines than were needed for Isabella Wind (fewer than 75 turbines compared to 136 for Isabella). Each turbine would take up less than an acre of land on average, including its associated access road.

Approximately 50,000 acres of land could be leased as part of the project. Wind turbines and access roads would cover less than 1% of the land leased for the project.

How do I know if my land qualifies to be in the project?

We are currently evaluating land throughout Montcalm County across multiple townships. If you are interested in signing a wind easement on your land for the Montcalm Wind project, please contact Dan Paris at 989-506-6907.

If you live inside the project area, there is no minimum acreage required for a parcel to participate in the project (see below regarding our community-based lease).

Who benefits from the project? Only large landowners?

Apex uses an innovative, community-based lease for our projects in Michigan that spreads some of the financial benefits from the project more broadly among all participating landowners and residents. Under this model, anyone living in the project area is eligible to sign up and see direct monetary benefit from the project, whether you own 1,000 acres or just an acre and a home. Landowners and community members participating in the project will receive annual payments over the projected 30-plus year lifespan of the wind farm, injecting millions of dollars into the local economy to support local merchants, contractors, equipment suppliers, auto dealers, and others.

What is the project timeline?

  • Montcalm Wind is still in the early stages of development, and that process will take several years. Pending further studies and successful permitting, the earliest anticipated date for the project to be constructed and operational would be late 2024.

Can you build this project without local approval?

No. Local townships have the authority to approve or deny permits for a wind project in this area. Wind farms do not have eminent domain and can not touch private property without a formal easement agreement with the property owner.

Will anything be placed on my property without my permission?

No. Project components will only be sited on private properties whose owners sign an agreement with Montcalm Wind. All agreements are fully voluntary between landowners and the project.

Where will the power from Montcalm Wind go?

The power from Montcalm Wind would be delivered directly onto Michigan’s electrical grid via a nearby local transmission line with available capacity In the Midwest, this grid is called MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator). MISO helps connect energy that powers the Midwest to ensure a stable and reliable grid. When you turn on your lights at home, you are pulling power from this robust system. Electricity from Montcalm Wind will mix with electricity from all other generators on the grid. The power generated by the project could be used locally or sent where it is needed depending on local and regional generation and electricity demand.

Will Apex sell the wind farm once it is built?

In Michigan, it is not uncommon for one of the local utilities (DTE or Consumers) to purchase a wind farm after the completion of construction and operate the facility alongside their other generation sources in the state. This is the case with the Isabella Wind farm, developed and constructed by Apex in Isabella County Michigan—that project was purchased by DTE.

The sale of a project to another entity is not a cause for concern. Every agreement and contract signed by the project prior to any potential transfer of ownership will remain in place if a transfer takes place. Commitments to landowners and local governments remain in place and are fully enforceable under the law.

A unique aspect of Apex Clean Energy is that we develop, construct, and operate projects across the country. We currently operate 1.6 GW of wind and solar facilities and an entity that purchases a project may retain Apex to manage the project operations, including local Operations and Maintenance staff as well as support from our 24/7 Remote Operations Control Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Where will the wind turbines be placed? When will the public be able to see a draft turbine layout?

It is very early in the development process, so we will not be able to assemble a proposed turbine layout for some time. The project layout will also be dependent on the total number of project participants, required setbacks from township wind ordinances, environmental studies, and consultations with the FAA.

Any layout is also subject to multiple revisions. Layouts are generally solidified in the very late-stages of a project development, and they are first shared with the participating landowners to identify and address any issues they may have with the project plan for their particular properties.

A detailed final site plan will be submitted when the project files for a special use permit with local townships.

What happens to the wind turbines at the end of their lifetime? Are landowners or the town responsible for taking them down? If something happens to Apex, would the wind farm be abandoned?

When a turbine reaches the end of its useful life it can be decommissioned (removed) or retrofitted (“repowered”).

Typically, local ordinances require wind projects to submit plans for decommissioning the facility at the project owner’s expense. A decommissioning bond is often posted in favor of the county or local jurisdiction and assessed based on the presumed per turbine cost of removal. Removal is then the responsibility of the project owner, whether that be the original developer, a utility, or another company that may own and operate the project in the future. If something happens to the project owner's finances in the future, that decommissioning bond is already in place to provide the resources to remove the turbines once they are no longer in use.

If the need to remove a turbine or close a wind farm does arise, every landowner who signs an agreement with Apex is protected from the cost and burden of decommissioning through a protected financial security outlined and required in the easement agreement. The site must also be restored to the same condition that existed prior to construction upon decommissioning.

What economic impacts will the project have locally?

If approved, Montcalm Wind would be one of the largest economic development projects the county has seen in recent years. This includes hundreds of millions of dollars in construction spending, tens of millions of dollars in payments to landowners and community participants, and tens of millions of dollars in personal property tax payments to local school districts, Montcalm County, and township governments over the 30-plus year lifetime of the project.

We are currently engaged in an economic impact analysis to assemble projected revenue figures based on the area’s local millages, but the total direct financial impact to the community will be in the tens of millions of dollars over the life of the project, with additional economic benefits to the local economy through construction and operations, including hundreds of jobs created during construction and up to 15 long-term, full-time, local jobs during operations.

Do wind farms pay taxes?

Yes, they do—Montcalm Wind will pay both Industrial Personal Property taxes and Utility Personal Property taxes on project facilities. This means the project will not only support local and county millages applied to personal property, but also education-related millages for both the Montcalm Intermediate School District (ISD) and local school district debt and sinking fund millages.

In some cases wind projects can also lower residents' property tax bills by increasing the tax base that school debt millages are applied to—lowering the bill for everyone else for the term of the debt.

WIll this project raise my electric bill?

Quite the opposite. Wind energy is the cheapest form of new generation in most parts of the country and can actually help consumers save money. The cost of wind energy has dropped by over 70% since 2009 (Source: Lazard, “Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis,” Version 14.0, November 2020).

For a wind project to be successful, there has to be a buyer for the power it will produce. Generally this electricity is purchased by utilities, manufacturers, universities, or municipalities that demand large amounts of energy. These large-scale customers buy wind power because:

  • Wind energy is a cost competitive energy source. The input costs for wind don’t change as the fuel for wind energy is free
  • Once a project is built, the cost of producing energy remains constant, so power purchase contracts “lock in” a predictable, steady electricity rate for 15 to 20 years.
  • Wind energy is clean, reducing pollution and its associated health impacts while helping meet local renewable energy goals.

Is this project subsidized by taxpayers?

Montcalm Wind is a privately funded energy project. No federal cash subsidies or ratepayer dollars will be used to build the project and, once built, the project will provide a long-term, competitive source of electricity for the state's utility grid. 

Historically, all forms of energy have been incentivized in some fashion. Between 1950 and 2016, 65% of all energy subsidies went to conventional fuel sources. In fact, for every dollar spent on federal energy incentives, less than 3 cents in tax incentives have gone to support wind energy.

Wind energy is eligible for tax incentives via the Production Tax Credit (PTC). The PTC is similar to depreciation in how it decreases tax liability for a period of time during the operation of the project. The PTC has helped wind energy technology develop and become cost-competitive, and it is now in the process of being phased out for projects constructed after 2020.

Will the wind farm affect residential property values?

No. The latest and most robust studies show that wind farms do not increase or decrease residential property values. On the other hand, it is well-documented that wind farms drive community economic development and provide funding for local schools and services, which benefit all property owners in a hosting community.

A major independent study on this topic, released in August 2013 by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, analyzed more than 50,000 home sales near 67 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine states and was unable to uncover any impacts to nearby residential property values.

For more, read the study at https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6362e.pdf.

What does a wind farm sound like?

As wind turbine blades pass through the air, they make a sound that is often described as a “whoosh.” Measurements of this sound show that it is no louder than a kitchen refrigerator or a standard air conditioning unit at a distance of 1,000 feet. Often the sound of a wind turbine on a windy day is indistinguishable from the sounds of the wind rustling through the trees and grass at these distances.

(See https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/listen-infographic)

The project will comply with Apex’s internal guidelines on sound as well as local township wind ordinance requirements related to sound limitations at residences.

What is low-frequency sound? What about “infrasound”?

Most low-frequency sound and “infrasound” produced by turbines is significantly below the human hearing threshold. Wind turbine infrasound levels are far lower than those experienced in everyday activities such as traveling in a vehicle, being by the ocean, or being out in the wind.

Scientific evidence confirms this sound is not dangerous, and that any low-frequency waves produced are not harmful to those nearby. As reported in a recent study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

 “…the weight of the evidence suggests no association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems.”

Source: http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dep/energy/wind/turbine-impact-study.pdf

What is shadow flicker?

This term refers to the shadows cast by wind turbine blades as they rotate in front of the sun, similar to the shadow cast by a tree blowing in the wind. By positioning wind turbines at a carefully calculated angle and distance from dwellings, Apex ensures that most homes in a project experience no shadowing at all. For those that do, shadowing will occur for no more than a few minutes per day, on average. Shadowing does not occur on cloudy or foggy days and a typical local wind ordinance might limit shadow flicker to no more than 1% of all daylight hours over an entire year.

Some worry that this flicker can cause seizures in photosensitive individuals. However, according to the Epilepsy Foundation’s research, the rate at which wind turbine shadows “flicker” is far below the frequency associated with seizures. 

Will the wind farm be harmful to local wildlife and the environment?

Wind energy is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of electrical generation on the planet. That is because wind energy emits no air or water pollution, requires no mining or drilling for fuels, uses virtually no water, and creates no hazardous or radioactive waste. Clean, renewable wind energy also displaces harmful emissions from fossil fuel plants and offsets carbon emissions, making it a safer generation option for people, wildlife, and natural ecosystems.

While birds unfortunately do occasionally collide with turbine blades, modern wind farms are far less harmful to birds than buildings, communications towers, power lines, and vehicles. In fact, turbines account for only a small fraction, about 0.0003%, of all human-related bird deaths. Housecats alone kill 2.4 billion birds a year.
(Source: http://www.stateofthebirds.org/2014%20SotB_FINAL_low-res.pdf.)

Nonetheless, Apex works hard to minimize avian impacts through responsible siting. We will work in close consultation with federal and state environmental agencies and use targeted conservation measures to ensure that the project has no significant effects on bird or bat populations.

How will the wind farm impact local deer populations and hunting?

The operating wind farm will have no impact on the deer population or hunting. Just as deer adapt to construction of new homes, buildings, and other new sights and sounds near their habitats, the deer population also becomes accustomed to wind farms. It is not uncommon to find deer and other wildlife feeding or resting near the bases of turbines. Cattle, horses, goats, and other livestock are also 100% compatible with wind energy technology.