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Airspace issue may force Erie wind turbine move  

The Erie School District wants its $3.5 million wind turbine project to move forward, but now may have to take another step back.

The latest delay deal with the turbine’s blades infringing on a nearby farmer’s airspace.

The school district has had one delay after another in its quest to get the unique project moving. There were delays in the spring with moving parts from East Coast ports to the Midwest. Once those parts arrived in June, the project seemed ready for construction.

But Luke Besse has farmland next to the school district and the site where the wind turbine is scheduled to be built. Part of the turbine’s 95-foot blades will go over Mr. Besse’s airspace, superintendent Mike Ryan said.

Mr. Besse wants to be compensated for the blades going over his airspace. Johnson Controls of Moline, which is overseeing the project for the school district, is working with Mr. Besse, Mr. Ryan said.

“Mr. Besse gave Johnson Controls a proposal approximately two weeks ago,” Mr. Ryan said Thursday. “He was giving them a deadline of tomorrow (Friday) to have a counter proposal back to his attorney. Johnson is in the midst of developing a counter proposal.”

Mr. Ryan said one of the options Johnson Controls is “strongly” looking at is moving the site of the wind turbine, although a cement base already has been built for the original site.

Kari Pfisterer, a Johnson company spokesman at its Milwaukee headquarters, could not be reached for comment Friday. Mr. Besse also could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Ryan said a new site would be farther from Mr. Besse’s property, “so that none of the (blade) tips intersect his property line.”

Johnson Control is getting estimates on the cost of moving the project, Mr. Ryan said, estimating that moving the cement base would cost the district an additional $150,000 to $200,000.

Overall, the project is expected to save the district some $4 million in energy costs over the next 30 years. Approved by the school district in the spring of 2006, the 1.2 megawatt tower was expected to be in place by the fall of 2006.

When it’s up and running, the school district would be the only one in the United States to have all its buildings – high school, middle school, elementary school and annex – powered solely by wind energy.

The current location for the wind turbine is at the southwest corner of the middle school, just south of the football field.

“With the blade length 95 feet, I think someone missed the calculations,” Mr. Ryan said earlier this year.

By Stephen Elliott

Quad-Cities Online

26 October 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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