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DeWitt Co. wants to test the waters for wind energy  

DeWitt County Board members won’t mind if it gets a little windy in DeWitt County over the next two to three years.

That’s because county officials are paving the way for construction of a meteorological tower to test the speed, direction and ambient temperature of the wind in northeastern DeWitt County. The data would help developers decide if the county is a good site for a wind farm.

The board’s land use committee discussed the concept with Duane Enger, a project manager for Trade Wind Energy, based near Kansas City, Kan. Enger told the committee his firm would be applying for a special-use permit for the tower and soon afterward would be applying for a second permit for a spot in the southwestern portion of the county.

“Wind energy has become a competitive energy source,” he said. “It’s a high capital investment generation source because it is abundant, plentiful and free. But the only problem is that you can’t turn it on and off. So, we have an availability factor here, and that is what this data from the tower will tell us.”

Enger said the company is hoping to find wind speed averaging about 20 mph in the two locations. The company’s preliminary data indicate that will be possible, and a range of of 3 mph to 33 mph would be acceptable.

If the numbers hold up, the company would pursue placing wind farms in the area.

Trade Wind Energy has working agreements in place with landowners for the towers, but it would need the special-use permit from the county to move forward.

The towers would be 197 feet high and would not interfere with any other county or state codes.

The county’s regional planning commission is in the process of writing wind ordinance legislation since none is in place at this time.

“They have made some progress with that at the last meeting,” said zoning Administrator Ted Turner. “They have about five or six different ordinances from counties around the area, and they are taking the best parts of each of those and fitting it to our needs here.”

Land Use Committee Chairman Larry Martin noted that with the addition of Trinity Structural Towers located outside of Clinton, it could benefit the company. Trinity builds wind turbine towers.

“Won’t that help and be able to save on transportation costs?” Martin asked. “I would think that would be a benefit.”

Enger said that having a construction firm so close would certainly help, but he reminded the committee at Wednesday’s meeting that such a project is still several years away from happening. The process of collecting data is generally a two-year process.

Enger will appear before the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals in following through on the next step of the special-use permit application. If it is approved there, the County Board will consider approving the special-use permit.

By Kevin Barlow

Bloomington Pantagraph

15 March 2008

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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