A rural area of mostly farmland in the southeast corner of Outagamie County is being explored as a possible wind power project site.
Wisconsin Public Power Inc., the Sun Prairie-based power supplier that serves Kaukauna Utilities and many other municipal electric utilities, is working with an Illinois developer, EcoEnergy, to find a location to build three to five wind turbine towers nearly 400 feet in height in the Town of Buchanan.
It’s part of WPPI’s renewable energy initiative that includes wind power projects in Wisconsin and Iowa along with the methane gas-to-energy project now online at the Outagamie County landfill.
The targeted area appears to be south and east of Countryside Golf Club, W726 Weiler Road, Kaukauna. The project needs to be west of Outagamie Road, the Brown County line to the east, and north of County KK, the Calumet County line to the south, to stay within the Kaukauna Utilities service territory.
“Right now we don’t have exact sites picked out,” said Eric Kostecki, WPPI’s renewable energy project coordinator. “The developer is working with land owners out in that area. Nothing has been set in stone yet.”
WPPI hopes to have the wind power project in operation “by late fall 2008,” Kostecki said.
“It’s something we’re very interested in,” said Jim Brown, energy services representative for Kaukauna Utilities. Earlier this month, the Kaukauna Utilities Commission authorized general manager Jeff Feldt to explore the possibility of purchasing the wind turbines “and run it right through our system,” Brown said.
The Buchanan sites being explored are located on a ridge and have the best wind production in the Kaukauna Utilities service territory, according to a previous wind assessment study. “It’s pretty much farmland, open land,” he said.
“WPPI will buy the output power from the turbines,” Kostecki said. Unless purchased by Kaukauna Utilities, EcoEnergy will build, operate and maintain the turbines, which are expected to produce about 1.5 megawatts of power each. “That would power roughly 400 homes per year, per turbine,” he said.
The proposed turbines, which would have blades 131 feet long, would be mounted on a 262-foot tall tubular steel tower. “The maximum height from ground to tip when pointed straight up is just under 400 feet, 397 feet,” Kostecki said.
Buchanan Town Chairman Jerry Wallenfang said the town has no ordinance restricting windmills or wind towers. A representative of EcoEnergy has been in contact with the town and has approached some town residents about siting the wind towers on their lands.
The issue has not come before the Town Board, Wallenfang said. “There is support (for renewable energy) and I’ve heard some negativity too,” he said. “All the bad rumors about geese and ducks flying into them and the disruption of nesting areas. I don’t know how much of it is true.”
The Kaukauna area project is one site being pursued by WPPI as part of its community-based wind projects that could generate up to 24 megawatts of wind power from 16 turbines. New Holstein and Westby also have been identified as potential project sites.
Kostecki said a 1.5-megawatt turbine costs about $3 million, an expense borne by the developer who gets paid back via a purchased power agreement. “There’s no impact to Kaukauna rate payers,” he said.
Electricity produced by the wind turbines could supply enough power for about 6,400 homes each year, according to WPPI officials.With the renewable energy initiative adding more than 150 megawatts of renewable capacity, WPPI expects to be six years ahead of schedule in meeting a state requirement that a minimum of 10 percent of electricity produced by retail customers by 2015 come from renewable sources, according to Anne Rodriguez, WPPI spokesperson.
Kaukauna Utilities is “kind of a pioneer in renewable energy because we’ve had hydro for years” and enjoy some of the lowest electric rates in Wisconsin because of it, Brown said.
Kostecki said it’s important for utilities to maximize renewable energy options to offset the use of fossil fuels, primarily coal or natural gas, that produce carbon dioxide emissions harmful to the environment.
By Michael King
Post-Crescent staff writer
31 March 2007
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