Wind farms looming on the local horizon have brought the promise of renewable energy and pitted neighbor against neighbor.
As projects set in the rural townships of Eden, Empire, Calumet and Marshfield move forward, citizens for and against the towering turbines continue to speak out.
Some see the beauty of giant blades turning in the wind and herald the environmental benefits of green energy. Others oppose corporate infiltration into their quiet countryside and backyards and consider the turning turbines an eyesore and a product of greed.
“We moved far enough out into the country and had to buy 35 acres to build a house,” said Tony Moyer of Dotyville. “We thought not in our life would we have to worry about the city or a highway passing by our home. We now will be staring at this ugly wind turbine right out our back door. Go to the front porch with your cup of coffee and sit there and what do you know, here is another ugly tower in the front of my dream home. Our fellow greedy neighbors, all of whom are farmers that are supposed keepers of the land, sold out to easy money.”
Becky Holl of Brownsville feels much differently about wind farms.
“It’s about time our generation takes responsibility for the energy situation,” she said. “I wish we had enough acreage to put one up ourselves. I would ask all residents to join in the effort of helping out our energy crunch.”
All reader comments about the subject of wind farms – in their entirety – can be viewed online at www.fdlreporter.com.
Both Blue Sky Green Field, a planned 88-turbine wind farm set on 10,600 acres in the townships of Calumet and Marshfield, and Cedar Ridge Farm, with 41 turbines on 7,800 acres in the townships of Eden and Empire, are expected to be in operation by the end of this year. Output from Blue Sky Green Field alone will double the Wisconsin wind energy capacity approved or already in operation.
Add the 133-turbine Forward Wind Energy Center going up in southern Fond du Lac County and northern Dodge County into the equation and the combined wind projects involve 253 turbines and will provide up to 380 megawatts of power.
In support of wind farms
Though opponents of wind energy may have a loud voice, enough to stall projects in some areas of the state, they don’t reflect a majority mindset, said Michael Bickerman, 17-year director of Renew Energy, a non-profit advocacy organization.
“Actually, a poll done in Calumet showed very strong support, with 70 percent in favor of the project,” Bickerman said. “Loud voices are often concentrated at the local government level. There are six counties in Wisconsin where wind projects have stirred controversy, but I wouldn’t count Fond du Lac as one of them.”
Wind generation has strong support from farmers because farmers who host turbines receive rent for their land in an amount far greater than what they would earn if the land was planted in corn, he said. One turbine takes up about a half-acre and co-exists with crop production and dairy farming
After watching energy rates for natural gas and coal climb over the past six years, Bickerman said he is convinced rate payers will save money over the operating life of a wind power plant.
“While there may be a little bit of a rate impact in the beginning because of costs wrapped up in equipment and construction, if that same electricity would be provided by fossil generation it would cost more,” he said.
Cedar Ridge Farm is expected to generate 68 megawatts of electricity – enough to provide power for 17,000 homes in southeastern Wisconsin. Blue Sky Green Field will produce between 132 and 200 megawatts per year, enough for service to 35,000 homes.
The contractor for both projects is WindConnect, a company created by Alliant Energy.
At the state level
Wisconsin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard states that by 2015, 10 percent of Wisconsin’s energy must come from renewable sources. The law encourages greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy in the state, based on recommendations issued by Gov. Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
In November 2007, Doyle joined governors of other Midwest states in a pact to cut global warming pollution by 25 percent by 2025. The agreement, signed at a meeting of the Midwest Governors association, will spur investment in clean, renewable energy and energy-efficient technology, fueling the growth of local wind farms in Wisconsin.
A recent economic analysis predicts that Wisconsin would gain 4,240 new jobs, $724 million in new capital investment, $291 million in income to farmers and $11 million in local tax revenues if it adopted a plan to generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable fuels by 2020, according to Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy group.
Cedar Ridge Wind Farm
A total of 31 landowners have leases with Alliant Energy involving Cedar Ridge Wind Farm, the company’s first wind farm project, said Alliant spokesperson Steve Schultz.
The construction end of the $165 million project is currently on break for the winter, but engineering and behind-the-scenes preparation plans continue.
The first turbine is expected in place by July 15.
“At this point, access roads and foundations are completed. We will begin construction again in April with underground cable installation,” Schultz said.
Towers will arrive on flatbeds near the end of May, and the turbines, the propeller portion of the windmill, will arrive in June. All 41 wind turbines should be up and running sometime between October and November, Schultz said.
An education center and offices for employees will be located along Highway 45, east of Eden, on the Dale Grahl property.
“We are really excited about this being the first wind farm we own, creating renewable energy and helping the environment,” Schultz said.
Town of Eden Chairperson Richard Guell said about 22 of the turbines will be located in his township. He’s heard little dissent from residents.
“I suppose some people are jealous because of the money some farmers will be getting, but it will be helping people pay their taxes, and that’s not a bad thing,” Guell said. “The turbines aren’t noisy, like some people claim. I hope everything goes OK. We will see.”
Blue Sky Green Field
Blue Sky Green Field, a We Energies project, has 12 turbines in place, ready for operation by February, said We Energies spokesperson Andy Hesselbach. All 88 wind turbines are expected to be on line by May.
Approximately 55 landowners are involved in leases of land or easements.
“The leases pay out every year, but we have not provided that information publicly,” Hesselbach said. (Alliant also declined to release the information for Cedar Ridge).
An office located just north of Johnsburg will house about a dozen maintenance technicians who will check each turbine weekly.
Local townships that host wind farms will receive some type of compensation from the state through a shared revenue program.
“We pay a gross revenue tax on every kilowatt hour we sell regardless how it is generated or purchased,” Hesselbach said. “The state has a formula to share that revue with communities that host energy generation.”
No one knows yet what that amount will be.
He wrote a book on the subject
Mike Winkler was so incensed by the Blue Sky Green Field project that he actually moved away and wrote a book about it.
The names have been changed in the fictional “Wind Power – It Blows!” but the setting is Fondue Lake County, which includes Peatfield, the Horken Marsh and the Unholy Land.
“I lived in Mount Calvary and was treated like a leper when I vocally opposed the project,” he said. “There was a group of us – four families – who moved away, and there are more families still waiting for their houses to sell. I’d say it turned longtime friendships into hatred.”
The premise of the book, available at Book World in Fond du Lac and at Amazon.com, is a dispute over industrial wind energy. The book chronicles what happened to his family farm.
“Other counties in the state will likely refer to Fond du Lac as the textbook example of how certain areas are targeted because of the general ignorance of the public regarding the less-obvious facts of wind energy developments as industrial installations,” he said.
By Sharon Roznik
13 January 2008
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