May 7, 2008

Wind power plan could arrive in July

A proposal to build an 80-turbine wind farm straddling the DeKalb-Lee county line could be before the two counties’ boards as early as July, representatives of Florida Power & Light Energy said at an open house Tuesday.

The power company hosted the meeting to answer the public’s questions about the proposal. A second open house is scheduled for Wednesday evening.

The company proposed a 64-turbine farm in DeKalb County in 2003. Despite a vocal opposition, FPL obtained the property easements and county permits it needed, but the company abandoned the project when it was unable to find a buyer for the electricity. While the current proposal has been better received, some residents who live near the proposed turbine sites are not sold on the idea.

“They say it doesn’t affect property values, but I think that’s debatable,” Milan Township resident Ron Stefanski said. “If someone wants to live in the country and a windmill is nearby, it will be strike one right there.”

Elton Township resident JoAnn Russell said she and her husband are very interested in the turbines, which will still allow them to farm the land.

“It’s not going to hurt our operation one bit,” she said. “Coal isn’t clean, but there’s no emission from a wind turbine.”

Sixty-nine landowners have agreed to let FPL build the turbines, which are more than 420 feet tall, on their properties, project manager Anthony Pidroni said. Eighty turbines could be built in the southwest corner of DeKalb County and part of Lee County, and more could be added if more landowners sign on to the project, he said.

A tentative map showed about 60 windmills in DeKalb County and about 20 in Lee County, bordered by Interstate 39, Interstate 88, Route 30 and Route 23. The final location of the turbines will depend on factors such as land surfaces, Pidroni said, and each turbine would take up about an acre of land, including access roads for maintenance.

“The map is close,” Pidroni said. “But you might get out on site and find a soil feature isn’t conducive to a turbine, so we have to move it a little.”

The company plans to start applying for county special-use permits by the end of June, Pidroni said.

“The next step depends on feedback we get from landowners who we’re still discussing the option with, and then governments,” he said.

DeKalb County Board Chairwoman Ruth Anne Tobias, D-DeKalb, said no formal discussions have taken place with board members about the wind farm.

“I don’t know what will happen, but one would hope people would think about it more positively,” Tobias said.

FPL has agreed to pay a total of more than $1 million to landowners annually, and a total of more than $1.2 million per year to the counties in taxes, Pidroni said.

If you go

Energy’s second open-house meeting to discuss a proposed DeKalb County wind farm

When: 4-8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Clinton Township Community Center, 160 W. Lincoln Highway in Waterman.

By Benji Feldheim

Daily Chronicle

7 May 2008

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