With federal regulations requiring more electricity from renewable sources, Vernon County is being considered as a potential future home for a “wind farm.”
A wind farm is a collection of electricity-generating wind mills. Both the town of Christiana and city of Westby have been approached about erecting wind farms.
David Eggen, chairman of the Christiana town board, said EcoEnergy, which is a part of the Morse Group with offices mainly in Illinois, has talked about placing up to 40 windmills in the town. Eggen said the two-megawatt windmills cost $3 million each. Land owners are paid $4,000 to $6,000 in rent each year to have a tower on their property, Eggen said.
In addition to EcoEnergy, John Deere Financial also has shown interest in starting a wind farm in the town, Eggen said. John Deere has a different arrangement, Eggen said, paying landowners to maintain grounds near windmills, and then offering to sell landowners the windmills after 10 years in operation.
Westby City Clerk Sarah Lester said EcoEnergy appeared before the City Council earlier this month about plans for a wind farm.
Wind farms are not new to western Wisconsin. About 20 windmill towers already are operating off Hwy. 18 between Montfort and Dodgeville. And a wind farm has been discussed in Monroe County, although it has drawn considerable opposition. Eggen said EcoEnergy currently has 15 wind farms in operation or in the works in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Both Eggen and Lester said talks are in very preliminary stages.
“What people need to know about these things is that typically from the start of talks it takes another three to five years before the first tower goes up,” Eggen said.
Eggen said the key for municipalities is to get ordinances on the books regarding wind towers before land owners sign contracts. He said some landowners have been contacted and may already have signed contracts, although no public information is available on that as of yet.
“With the federal government requiring electric providers to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010, there’s a big push on to find these sources and get a move on,” Eggen said.
“As an official you’re not necessarily “˜for or against’ these things,” Eggen continued. “You do understand that the people who would be getting a windmill would be in favor of it and maybe those not getting one would be against it. It also has an impact on how the landscape of an area looks.”
A study of wind currents needs to be done as well to ensure the towers would be sustainable, Eggen said.
The town of Christiana is working with the Wisconsin Township Association on an ordinance governing the towers, Eggen said. He said a draft ordinance could be presented to the town board when it discusses the wind farm issue again March 20.
Lester said the Westby City Council has no specific meeting set for discussing the wind farm issue again.
Matt Johnson is editor of the Vernon County Broadcaster.
By Matt Johnson
23 February 2007
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