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Firms eye Adams County as possible wind farm site

Two leading wind energy companies are looking at Adams County as a potential site for a wind farm.

Global Winds Harvest of Schenectady, N.Y., in partnership with Acciona Energy, a Spanish company that owns 192 wind energy facilities worldwide, is studying wind speeds and talking with landowners in the Camp Point area.

“I don’t think there’s anything happening in Adams County which is particularly unique at this point. We’re looking at wind projects across the Midwest. Part of that process includes assessing wind conditions in various places in Illinois and other places in the Midwest,” Acciona marketing director Eric Schneider said.

“It is prudent for any company in wind development to be assessing wind in the Midwest at this point. We’re no exception.”

Wind assessments explore the potential of an area for a wind farm but make no promise of future development.

“It’s just premature to assume that any kind of project in any location being assessed will actually happen. That’s what assessment is for,” Schneider said. “There’s a large percentage of assessments that don’t result in anything further in terms of development.”

Officially, Schneider said Acciona doesn’t “have any information to offer” prior to wind assessment about the potential for wind energy capabilities in any location.

But the company is working with landowners to lease land for turbines.

“People are willing to listen,” said one landowner who has been approached about the wind farm project but did not wish to be named. “Rumor has it they are well over halfway signed up to what they need.”

Each turbine requires less than an acre of land. Landowners, based on a formal agreement, are paid a set amount for a set number of years to have a turbine on their property.

“Wind farms and wind energy is a benefit to agriculture and rural areas, because it provides an opportunity for the landowners to make some extra money off their land,” Adams County Farm Bureau Manager Shawn Valter said.

“It’s definitely the wave of the future when we look at energy consumption. It’s definitely a green form of energy by capturing the wind and converting it to power, and it makes us less dependent on other nonrenewable sources of energy.”

Wind farms can help boost an area’s tax base and provide jobs for construction and ongoing maintenance. However, not everyone likes the idea of the huge turbines – measuring some 300 feet tall with a blade radius of 110 feet – as neighbors.

Critics nationwide have raised concerns about noise and light pollution by the turbines, the potential for turbine blades to “throw” damaging ice deposits onto nearby property, what happens after turbines live their useful life and the impact on the surrounding, largely rural, landscape.

“It will drastically change the landscape,” the landowner said. “Anybody who has been over to Bloomington and seen the wind farm over there, it definitely changes the landscape. They’re huge.”

Companies rely on wind data collected over at least a year in determining potential wind farm sites. “I believe they’ve got a tower up that is measuring the wind speeds. That went up in the wintertime,” the landowner said.

The effort, even if unsuccessful, could generate more interest in wind power in the area.

“They’re not the only company doing wind projects,” the landowner said. “If you have an ideal spot, there’s a good chance more than one company is looking at it.”

Ultimately what landowners think about wind turbines could depend on the property line. How attractive a turbine is “might depend on if it’s on your property and you’re getting paid, or if it’s across the fencepost and you’re not getting paid,” Valter said.

On the Web: www.acconia-energia.com; www.globalwinds.com

By Deborah Gertz Husar

Quincy Herald-Whig

11 July 2008