Coles Wind talks clean, wind energy

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Max Jabrixio, public engagement manager at Apex Clean Energy, leads a Zoom call on clean energy. The call was hosted by the Academy of Lifelong Learning.

Luke Taylor, News Editor

Apex Clean Energy is proposing a wind farm project in Coles County which they say could bring in millions of dollars to local communities.

The proposed project, Coles Wind, would consist of 70 turbines spaced a quarter mile to a half mile apart on farmland north of Charleston.

Max Jabrixio, the public engagement manager for the project, presented details on it and answered questions during a virtual event at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Jabrixio said that the project is in its “early- to mid-stage” of development as Apex works with landowners to sign leases to place turbines and other facilities on parts of their land.

Apex is based in Charlottesville, VA, but the company has completed wind and solar energy projects in other parts of the country.

Along with the Coles Wind project, Apex has worked on seven other energy projects in Illinois, six of which were wind, and one of which was solar. These are based in Vermillion, Piatt, Logan, Macoupin, Sangamon and Morgan Counties.

Apex is interested in placing wind projects in central Illinois because the open farm land is conducive to high wind speeds and farmers can lease out plots of land for turbines and still work around them.

On average, each turbine takes less than one acre out of crop production, including access roads and all associated facilities.

“They do have to do a little bit of farming around the turbine but essentially it’s not changing the land use in a significant way,” Jabrixio said.

Most of the region of Coles County which has been selected for this project has mean wind speeds of 7.25-7.5 meters per second. Turbines usually require speeds of six to eight meters per second, so that falls right in range.

Coles County also has a preexisting infrastructure of an Ameren transmission which Apex can use to connect to the power grid, saving steps and cost of construction.

Jabrixio said that this still means Apex will need to build a substation near that line, but having a lower level of construction will also mean that more farm land stays in production.

Apex also intends to hire Coles County residents to be construction and maintenance employees for the project.

The majority of available jobs would be full-time roles that would last just over a year, which is the estimated construction time for the project.

After that, a few long-term jobs would be created as some manpower is needed to maintain the turbines.

Luke Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]