Dane County’s first wind farm aims to be just the beginning for a company that recently opened a Madison office.
“There’s a lot of (wind energy) potential in Wisconsin, and we’re going to develop a lot of projects in Wisconsin,” said Curt Bjurlin, permit project manager for EcoEnergy, which has its local office at 211 S. Paterson St.
The firm, which is part of Freeport, Ill.-based Morse Group, has several other projects on the drawing board in Wisconsin and a 100-megawatt wind farm in the works in northern Illinois.
Bjurlin said the best areas for wind power in the state are in southern and eastern Wisconsin, which is good because that’s where the state’s population centers are.
But you can’t build just anywhere – numerous studies are required to cover everything from environment concerns to air traffic. Areas around the Dane County Regional Airport would be great for wind power but are off limits because of the air traffic in the area, Bjurlin said.
“There’s a lot of hoops you have to jump through,” he said, noting that at least a year of wind studies at a site are needed to convince financiers of the feasibility of a project.
EcoEnergy’s proposed EcoDane Wind project would site six turbines in the town of Springfield, not far off U.S. 12 in northwest Dane County. The turbines will measure 262 feet from the ground to the hub and have 131-foot blades.
If all goes according to plan, construction would start next year on the 9-megawatt wind farm and operations would begin late next year or early in 2009, Bjurlin said.
The $20 million project would produce roughly 22 million kilowatt-hours per year of energy, which is enough to power more than 2,500 homes. The power will go into MGE Energy’s distribution system, although EcoEnergy still must finalize a deal with MGE.
EcoDane Wind is relatively small but every bit counts as the state aims for its goal of producing 10 percent of its energy from renewables by 2015, Bjurlin said.
Currently, the state has a little more than 50 megawatts of wind power online, with about 1,000 in some stage of planning or production.
“Wind energy is a very exciting field to be in,” Bjurlin said. “It’s gaining a lot of traction.”
With global warming a growing concern for many, better technology reducing noise levels, and wind farms becoming more familiar to people, opposition is lessening, Bjurlin said.
“I think people know it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “They recognize renewable energy is the solution to the problem” of global warming.
And, he added, wind costs are stable, rather than being tied to volatile fossil fuel prices.
EcoDane Wind has drawn support from groups that include the Dane County Farm Bureau and RENEW Wisconsin, with no organized opposition seen yet, he said.
The company has leases with the farmers whose land the turbines would be built on. Each turbine takes only about one half-acre out of production.
Engineering work is being done now to determine the best routes for access roads, Bjurlin said.
Wind farms are accepted uses for agriculturally zoned areas, so no special zoning approvals are needed. And the state Public Service Commission only gets involved in wind projects of 100 megawatts or more.
The majority owner of the project will be Acciona, a Spanish wind power company that has a plant in Iowa. EcoEnergy will be a partial owner, Bjurlin said.
EcoEnergy, which has grown from two to 15 employees in the past couple of years, also works in biomass.
By Jeff Richgels
16 November 2007
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