Dane County ‘s first wind farm is on track to be up and spinning in about a year just west of Highway 12 in the town of Springfield.
A group of property owners has cooperated with Elgin, Ill.,-based EcoEnergy to build six 397-foot turbines, which will generate an estimated 22 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year, or enough to power more than 2,500 homes, according to Curt Bjurlin, permit project manager for EcoEnergy.
Property owners Tom Helt and Stan Hellenbrand proposed building two turbines in 2005, but after EcoEnergy, a member of the Morse Group, a national electric contracting firm, spent two years collecting wind data at the location, the project has expanded to include five properties, Hellenbrand said.
“The more you get, the more economical it is, ” Hellenbrand said. Six was the maximum number of turbines that could be fed into the nearby power lines, he noted.
The project will cost $20 million to build, Bjurlin said.
The 1.5 megawatt turbines manufactured by Madrid-based Acciona will be built along property boundaries, so there won ‘t be much farmland lost, Hellenbrand said. In return, he said, the farmers will receive about $4,500 per year for the power generated by each turbine. Bjurlin said wind farms can generate between $2,000 and $5,000 per year for a 1 megawatt turbine, depending on the amount of wind in a given area.
The energy will feed into Madison Gas & Electric ‘s existing distribution power lines, but a deal to sell the power to MGE customers hasn ‘t been finalized, Bjurlin said.
First of its kind
With a 2005 state law requiring that Wisconsin electricity providers produce 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015, EcoEnergy expects the Dane County project to contribute to attaining that goal.
Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a renewable energy advocacy group, said the project is likely to become the first working example in the state of the “community wind ” development model, which allows landowners to be investors in the projects, rather than just leaseholders.
“By allowing local landowners to establish equity in the wind project, the community wind approach increases the share of revenues flowing into the local economy, ” Vickerman wrote in a letter of support. The Dane County Farm Bureau also supports the proposal.
Town officials said there hasn ‘t been any opposition to the project. Most of the 25 people who attended Tuesday ‘s town meeting, which included the wind farm project on the agenda, were property owners involved in it, Town Clerk Sherri Endres said.
Because wind turbines can be built in agriculturally zoned districts, the towers don ‘t require any zoning changes or conditional use permits from the county, though they still need building inspection permits issued by an inspector. Maintenance roads should be built next summer with completion of the towers in late 2008 or early 2009, Hellenbrand said.
Meeting for neighbors
EcoEnergy is hosting a public information meeting for neighbors on Thursday and a trip to Montfort in Iowa County on Nov. 17 for neighbors to view a wind farm with 20 turbines. The Dane County towers will be about 70 feet taller and about the same size as other new projects being built around the state.
An information meeting for the general public will be scheduled sometime early next year, Bjurlin said.
Other wind farm projects in Wisconsin and around the country have faced some opposition, typically for reasons of visual aesthetics or danger to birds and other wildlife. A 133-turbine project in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties near Horicon Marsh stirred controversy in 2005 for the latter reason.
Curt Kindschuh, of Brownsville and a member of Horicon Marsh Systems Advocates, said his group still opposes the project, which is under construction and expected to be running sometime next year.
Other opponents of wind turbines seek to raise awareness of how wind energy doesn ‘t necessarily replace the need for coal power plants, which are more common in Wisconsin than in states with large wind farms like Texas, because they don ‘t produce enough energy on their own.
Lisa Linowes, executive director of Industrial Wind Action Group, explained that with natural gas plants, which are more common in Texas, energy output can be adjusted as wind energy is added to the system. With coal power an entire plant can ‘t be shut off during peak wind hours to adjust for the additional output.
If you go
What: Town of Springfield wind farm informational meeting
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: St. Martin ‘s, 5959 St. Martin Circle (in the school)
Plus: On Nov. 17, neighbors are invited on a trip to Montfort in Iowa County to view a wind farm with 20 turbines.
By Matthew Defour
9 November 2007
Horicon Marsh Systems Advocates: hmsadvocates.org
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