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Despite protests, wind farm projects picking up speed  

Area wind farm projects have started breezing along at a quicker pace.

Developers are wrapping up the details and planning construction schedules on three projects in Fond du Lac County: Forward Wind Energy Center, Cedar Ridge Wind Farm and Blue Sky Green Field Wind Project.

Combined, the projects will host 253 turbines and provide up to 380 megawatts of power.

Forward Wind Energy Center

Despite legal action against the project and Federal Aviation Administration concerns, Invenergy spokesman Neil Palmer said the company continues to move forward with construction plans for Forward Wind Energy Center in southern Fond du Lac County and northern Dodge County.

Last week, the FAA approved a permit for the 133-turbine wind farm, despite an ongoing study by the Department of Defense on the effect of wind turbines on military radar.

“We’re very pleased that the permits have finally been issued,” Palmer said.

The permits clear the project for construction, he said, but there is still a possibility the Department of Defense study could influence the development. Palmer believes that is unlikely, however.

“Whatever impact it might have on us, presumably it would have on many, many wind farms across the country,” he said.

The FAA’s decision was surprising, said Curt Kindschuh, spokesman for Horicon Marsh Systems Advocates, a group opposed to Forward Wind Energy Center.

“As a resident of this country, that scares me,” he said, referring to the FAA’s report that showed some existing wind turbines in the area cause interference with military radar.

Another potential roadblock for the wind farm is the HMSA appeal of a Dodge County Circuit Court decision that affirmed the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s order approving construction of the wind farm.

“The appeal filed by the opposition group to the project is still pending before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals,” said Palmer. “We remain comfortable that we and the Public Service Commission will prevail in that appeal.”

Determined to stop the project

On March 23, Dodge County Circuit Court denied HMSA’s request that wind turbines be built at least four or five miles away from the Horicon Marsh. The distance, advocates said, would provide a buffer zone to protect migratory birds traveling in and out of the marsh. Currently, a two-mile buffer from the marsh was created by the PSC in July 2005.

HMSA also asked for a three-year, in-depth study of the impact of wind turbines on migratory birds in the project area.

Kindschuh said HMSA members hope the appeals process will work in their favor.

“The leadership of Horicon Marsh Systems Advocates is extremely confident that the Wisconsin state court will rule in our favor,” he said. “If not, we are prepared to take this to the next level. We as a group are prepared to take this as far as we need to take it to stop this project.”

Construction moves forward

The court proceedings do not prevent the company from beginning construction, Palmer said.

“While a case is on appeal, our permit that we got from the Public Service Commission is valid,” he said. “We can start construction if we so choose.”

Invenergy has not set a date for the start of construction because of the nearly yearlong delay in receiving the necessary FAA permits, Palmer said.

“The delay in obtaining the FAA permits was so lengthy that basically what we have to do now is go back and reaffirm all the pricing for the project,” he said.

The company will establish a new schedule after reassessing the project, Palmer said. Construction will take about six to eight months to complete once it begins.

“We look forward to moving forward and getting this project up and running to generate the wind power that the utilities in this state are asking for,” Palmer said.

Cedar Ridge Wind Farm

The Cedar Ridge Wind Farm project in the towns of Eden and Empire in eastern Fond du Lac County is moving closer to construction, said Alliant Energy spokeswoman Erin Dammen.

“So far, so good,” she said.

Project organizers are trying to acquire the appropriate permits, Dammen said.

“We just recently filed our application files to the Public Service Commission,” she said.

Alliant is hoping for approval by early 2007, which would allow for construction to begin in the first half of 2007 and for the wind farm to be fully operational by the end of 2007, she said.

Good planning and support from the landowners and communities have helped the development move forward, she said.

“We’ve had a great deal of support from the communities,” Dammen said. “It’s just been wonderful.”

Few concerns

Wildlife concerns – like HMSA members have regarding Forward Wind Energy Center – have not been a major concern for Cedar Ridge, she said.

“I think that we’re in a slightly different area, not as close to the marsh, so we don’t have a lot of the bird populations up in these areas,” said Dammen, noting that most of the sites for the turbines are located on farmland.

She said preliminary avian studies showed “relatively little threat to birds.”

Open houses on the project will be held for landowners later this month.

“We just want to make sure we’re keeping everyone up to date,” Dammen said.

Alliant bought the wind farm from Midwest Wind Energy in July.

“When we took over, it’s a new company, new faces, people have questions,” she said. “They want to meet the people who are in charge of relations with the landowners.”

An open house for anyone interested in the project will be held in November, Dammen said. Final details for that open house are not available yet.

Blue Sky Project

The Blue Sky Green Field Wind Project is “off to the races,” said We Energies Wind Farm Project Manager Andy Hesselbach.

“So far it’s going well,” he said of the 88-turbine project planned for the towns of Calumet and Marshfield in northeast Fond du Lac County.

We Energies has received the required FAA permits and has applied for PSC permits as well.

Hesselbach said the company hopes to have the wind farm operating some time in 2008 or 2009, with construction beginning in 2007 or 2008.

“Like all processes, they always burn a little more time than you hope,” he said.

Blue Sky Green Field has received a lot of support from Marshfield and Calumet residents, Hesselbach said.

“The communities have been quite supportive,” he said.

Open houses on the Cedar Ridge Wind Farm project will be held for landowners noon to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, at the Eden Community Center, 104 S. Pine Street, Eden.

PLANNED AREA WIND FARMS

# Forward Wind Energy Center ““ A 133-turbine, 200-megawatt wind farm in southern Fond du Lac County and northern Dodge County by Invenergy of Chicago.
# Cedar Ridge Wind Farm ““ An approximately 40-turbine, 80- to 100-megawatt wind farm in the towns of Eden and Empire by Alliant Energy of Madison.
# Blue Sky Green Field Wind Project ““ An 80-turbine, 80-megawatt wind farm in the towns of Calumet and Marshfield in northeast Fond du Lac County by We Energies of Milwaukee.

By Jared Blohm
The Reporter jblohm@fdlreporter.com

fdlreporter.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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