Rocky Forge narrowly approved

By Aila Boyd

The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors held two public hearings last week regarding wind energy.

Members of the public were given the opportunity to speak in person or remotely. The public hearings lasted for roughly four and a half hours. 

The public hearings addressed amendments to the zoning ordinance and a change of conditions to a previously approved Special Exemption Permit to construct a utility-scale wind energy system.

The ordinance text amendments included changing the maximum turbine height from 550 feet to 680 feet, the addition to provide a maximum height of 100 feet for equipment and structures for substations and facilities for points of interconnection, and the deletion of the five-year time limit that a Special Exception Permit for wind energy systems would expire if the system did not become operational.  

Each item was voted on separately. 

In a 3-2 vote with Chairman Billy Martin and Steve Clinton voting in opposition, the maximum turbine height was approved. 

In a 3-2 vote with Martin and Clinton voting in opposition, the substation was approved. 

In a 5-0 vote, the deletion of the five-year time limit was removed. It was noted by the county staff that instead of including time limits for projects in the ordinance, time limits could be put in place through individual Special Exemption Permits.

The change of conditions to the previously approved Special Exception Permit included the reduction of the maximum number of permitted turbines from 25 to 22 and the modification of the existing conditions related to constructing turbines at a taller height to be no greater than 680 feet.

In a 3-2 vote with Martin and Clinton voting in opposition, the change of conditions as approved. The final vote essentially provided the greenlight for the project. 

Advancements in technology were cited as the reasons for the requested changes.

The project is proposed to be located along three and a half miles of the southernmost portion of North Mountain with an entrance located on the north side of Dagger Spring Road.

The project was originally approved in 2016. The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors voted last December for the Planning Commission to review the proposal. The Planning Commission voted earlier last month to send the project to the Board of Supervisors. 

Rocky Forge Wind, LLC is a subsidiary of Apex Clean Energy, Inc.

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