As wind power continues to generate excitement for a “green” energy source in the future, developers are looking to Fillmore County as a potential source of the needed winds, especially in the southwestern part of the county.
During its monthly meeting Nov. 15, the Fillmore County Planning Commission heard Minneapolis-based representatives of enXco present the second and third requests this year to put up meteorological towers to obtain information on winds.
These towers will track wind speed and the likelihood there will be wind. If the data received is favorable, as expected, turbines could later be constructed for wind farms.
Board members voted to approve the towers and will pass that recommendation on to the Fillmore County commissioners for consideration at their board meeting Nov. 27. That meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the courthouse.
Kari Brown and Steve Edwards, enXco representatives, requested two conditional use permits (CUPs) to place towers on two separate locations around 4 miles apart, on property owned by Bob and Carol Miller in Section 18 of Bristol Township and on property owned by Richard Berg in Section 19 of Harmony Township. The Miller location is around 10 miles west of the city of Harmony, while the Berg site is around 4 miles southwest of Harmony.
Brown explained if approval moves forward in time, enXco may be able to put up the meteorological, or “met,” tower yet this fall before ground freezes. Once erected, it would gather wind information for the next two to three years.
Edwards said the data is needed to show customers and investors the project will be feasible. With favorable data in hand, a turbine project could move forward in three to five years.
This Fillmore County project would be for 200-megawatt (MW) power generation. Edwards then did the math, saying that if the typical 1.5-MW turbines were used, there would be 134 “generators,” or towers. If the wattage goes up to 2 MW per tower, there would be 100 generators.
When asked, he also talked about state regulations for siting the generators. The state handles permitting for wind farms above 5 MWs, although it was noted there has been discussion at the state to move that number slightly higher in allowing local control. The towers must be five rotor diameters apart with additional setbacks along the edge of the property.
He said there are a lot of transmission requests for this area. Edwards noted current enXco projects in the Elkton, Dexter and Grand Meadow area. Another is moving forward near Riceville in Howard County, Iowa.
When asked where power goes, he said the Grand Meadow wind farm power goes to the Pleasant Valley “peaking plant.” It’s located at Sargeant, which is around 9 miles northwest of Dexter. That plant runs when heavy electrical use calls for increased power generation. The Grand Meadow power is sold to Xcel Energy. Power from the Riceville wind farm would be sold to Wisconsin Public Service, from Green Bay. It would go to a station outside of Riceville.
Both electric companies will get credit for alternative forms of power. They would put it “on the grid” – on the electrical grid of power lines – for transmission. It would go wherever the demand is.
Board member Duane Bakke, who is also a county commissioner, said during earlier discussion on wind power, it seemed local, wind-generated power might be transmitted right by Harmony to other locations. He said this analogy made more sense, that it would go where needed.
He also asked about the possibility of having a private transmission line built to a point. Edwards responded it could happen. For example, in the Dakotas there is a lot of wind power generation, but not a lot of transmission lines. But this area is set up with lines so that power could go right on the grid.
Pilot Mound Township resident Paul LeDuc asked how the companies acquire land. Edwards said enXco has no right of eminent domain, but public utilities do.
Planning Commission member Brad Erickson noted that another company also had put up a met tower close to the locations enXco had selected. He asked if that would create problems. Edwards said, no, that the companies currently share common borders at two wind farm locations. They maintain setbacks just like they would within the project.
David Williams of Preble Township asked about the company’s ownership. Edwards said enXco has headquarters in Escondido, Calif. It has been involved in wind projects for the past 20 years, originally from the maintenance end. It is now owned by the French company edf-en, which stands for Electricite’ de France – Energies Nouvelles.
In April, approval was given to Eco Energy of Elgin, Ill., to place a similar met tower on the Les and Kay Prinsen farm in Bristol Township, around 2 miles south of Greenleafton. After that initial request, the Planning Commission – which has been updating its ordinances – came up with a new ordinance dealing with wind energy conversion systems. It may be viewed at www.co.fillmore.mn.us/zoning/documents/2007proposed_wind_energy_conversion_systems_ord.pdf
By Lisa Brainard
23 November 2007
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