Columbia County farmers considering leasing land to two major energy companies have an alternative to consider – harness their resources and build their own wind farm.
For the past three years FPL Energy – an affiliate of Florida Power and Light – and Midwest Renewable Energy Corp. have been courting area farmers to lease land for constructing a wind farm in 2008. The leases under option agreements run between 20 and 25 years for farmers who decide to sign with either company.
At the same time, Town and Country Resource Conservation and Development Inc., a nonprofit corporation, offered farmers the idea of a community-based wind farm.
Each group is attracted to relatively the same area of land – Friesland Road running parallel to the north of state Highway 33 in the town of Randolph and the village of Friesland – because of its high elevation, open fields, the ability to connect with a power grid and unzoned land.
“It’s an exciting project,” said Diane Georgetta, resource conservation and development coordinator for Town and Country RC&D.
Midwest Renewable Energy Corp. proposes 40 turbines for its Columbia County Wind Power LLC wind farm, while FPL Energy proposes 53. Each company would need 5,000 to 6,000 acres to accommodate the turbines.
Both companies would like to run at 80 megawatts at full capacity.
The acreage proposed by the two companies could affect residents and farmers across the town of Randolph, the town of Scott, the village of Cambria and the village of Friesland.
Farmers in the areas said there has not been much communication with them about the farms in the last six months from any organization.
Town and Country is not proposing a community-based wind farm in lieu of the other two large corporations, Georgetta said, but rather as another alternative.
Georgetta calls the community-based wind farm “a long process but worth it.” The first steps toward the construction is to gather area investors to approach a bank for a loan.
“We would really need a community leader to organize the group and get a local person to get people in Columbia County interested,” Georgetta added.
Don DeYoung, the Columbia County supervisor for District 12 – which includes the village of Randolph, the town of Randolph and Ward 2 in the town of Courtland – said the last time either company contacted him was two years ago.
“I own a couple farms and one company said they are coming my way and the other company said they are not. I’m really not sure what the proposals are,” DeYoung said. “Nobody seems to know what’s going on. I haven’t signed with anybody. I want to see what they have to offer.”
By Jen McCoy
5 July 2007
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