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Concerns raised about wind farm in township  

MAGNOLIA TOWNSHIP-Residents packed the town hall Tuesday night to ask how 400-foot wind turbines might affect their quality of life and how much revenue the town would collect from a wind farm.

The township is the site of a proposed wind farm that could dot the countryside with 34 to 66 turbines.

Following an informational workshop, the town board unanimously passed an ordinance to defer applications and stay construction of wind energy systems for six months while the town studies the issue and drafts a permanent ordinance.

The board will begin work on an ordinance at its Aug. 14 meeting.

More than 30 residents attended the meeting to ask questions and hear answers from questions raised at a similar workshop last month. Here’s some of what was discussed:

What is proposed for Magnolia Township?

EcoEnergy, a wind energy developer, wants to install 34 to 66 wind turbines if data from a test weather tower shows the area will provide enough wind to be financially successful, said Wes Slaymaker, director of wind energy development.

Each turbine requires about a half acre, and the wind farm could be spread over 5,000 to 6,000 acres if enough landowners are willing, he said.

The test tower went up in spring on the Tom and Laurie Drew farm at Highway 213 and County B. Average wind speeds in May from the top of the 197-foot tower were recorded at about 16.5 mph, Slaymaker said.

Summer months typically produce less wind, and a full year of data is needed to get an accurate average, he said.

Who would develop and own the project?

The Wisconsin owner of the project is a limited liability company called EcoMagnolia Wind. EcoEnergy last month sold EcoMagnolia Wind, along with 16 other limited liability corporations, to Acciona SA of Spain, the world’s largest wind developer.

The North American subsidiary of Acciona is based in Chicago with about 60 employees.

Acciona is constructing a turbine manufacturing plant in Iowa and will own and operate wind projects in the Midwest. Acciona owns more than 3,500 megawatts of wind turbines operating around the world and has two manufacturing plants in Spain and one in Asia, Slaymaker said.

“We needed financing, we need wind turbines, we needed this partnership, and they need a project,” he said.

A 99-megawatt project, or 66 turbines, would cost about $189 million, he said.

No American companies offer the same kind of partnership deals, he said. EcoEnergy would continue as the developer and partner in the project while Acciona would own and operate the wind farm.

What is shared revenue and how does it work?

The Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 31 in 2003 to provide incentives for local governments to host new or expanded power plants.

In lieu of property taxes on wind turbines, wind farm owners pay the town and county a portion of its revenue based on a formula, Slaymaker said.

Shared revenue begins for wind farms of 50 megawatts or more, which would be about 33 turbines of 1.5 megawatts each, he said. Qualifying for the shared revenue is based on the capacity of the turbines, not the actual energy produced, he said.

Slaymaker assured residents that decisions on the proposed project would not center on staying under the 50 megawatt level to avoid or pay shared revenue.

No towns have received shared revenue in Wisconsin from wind farms, Slaymaker said, but that’s because Act 31 was passed in 2003. No large-scale systems have been built since then, but two farms under development in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties will receive shared revenue, he said.

The Montfort Wind Farm in Iowa County, for example, has only a 30 megawatt capacity, so it does not qualify for shared revenue.

What about quality of life issues?

Slaymaker said the permitting process would require studies evaluating quality of life issues including shadow flickers.

The project likely would be permitted through the state Public Service Commission, not the town, he said. All issues would be addressed through the state’s permit process, and the town would play a large role, he said.

It could take six months to put the application together, he said.

Are there any reasons the company would withdraw its plans?

“If nobody agreed to lease land for a wind turbine, there would be no project,” Slaymaker said.

It also would not be economical in today’s market to proceed if one year of data from the weather tower shows the average wind speed is only 14 mph, he said.

By Gina Duwe
Gazette staff

gazetteextra.com

18 July 2007

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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