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Project blowin’ in the wind: Developer confirms efforts to erect new wind farm in Tazewell

TAZEWELL county – An official from PNE Wind USA Inc. confirmed Friday the company intends to erect a wind farm in northern Tazewell County and has just finished a meteorological tower that will help the company determine the number and size of the turbines it will use.

The name for the wind farm the company hopes to build will be Light Tail Wind Farm, according to PNE’s Greenfield Developer Keith Kurtz.  [NWW note:  The developer has told Wind Watch that the name is actually White Tail.]

Kurtz said PNE needs to study the wind patterns in the area before deciding how many turbines will be erected, but he said the company intends for the wind farm to be a project that generates 120 megawatts of electricity.

The project is very early in its development as, according to Kurtz, the company has “thousands of deadlines that we have to meet,” meaning few details are yet available. Kurtz said the project will generate property tax income for the county and it would create probably 10 permanent jobs and about 100 temporary construction jobs to erect the turbines and facilities.

As for reaching out to land owners in the area and being able to secure land on which to put the turbines, Kurtz said simply “so far so good.”

Tazewell County Administrator David Jones said there is not much for the county to do until PNE puts together a plan that includes the size and quantity of turbines to be erected. However, he added “We’re certainly prepared to work with the developer.”

The county already has experience dealing with the erection of a wind farm, having gone through the process with the Rail Splitter Wind Farm located in the southeastern region of the county. According to Jones, the Rail Splitter Wind Farm has been very successful from an economic standpoint, having generated $50,000 in one-time permit fees, about $500,000 in total annual property tax, and it created several good-paying construction jobs at the time.

“It’s not often that a project comes along that generates half a million dollars a year in taxes,” Jones said. “We’re ready when they are.”

However, the process can take a long time as there will be public hearings and other “due diligence,” according to Jones.

Kristal Deininger of the county’s Community Development Department added the permit application said the meteorological tower could be up for 18 months taking measurements, meaning it could potentially be a long time before any significant construction is undertaken.

Jones said the process to approving the Rail Splitter Wind Farm, which is a 100.5 megawatt-per-year wind farm that was completed in July 2009, was contentious at the time. He said he hopes the county’s experience handling all the issues that accompany such a large project will help if this project comes to fruition.

“The county has an ordinance in place that governs the process of creating a wind farm, and we now have the experience of having gone through a wind farm project which will hopefully make it go more smoothly,” Jones said.