A Columbia businessman wants to construct a wind energy farm near Valmeyer. The project, with an estimated $190 million price tag, is in the very early planning stages, with financing and numerous approvals up in the air.
Developer Joe Koppeis envisions several dozen 400-foot-tall wind turbines on agricultural fields off C Road south of East Main Street.
Koppeis said he plans to lease 150-foot diameter circles from farmers for the masts as well as construct access roads.
“The footprint that the farmers will be giving up is extremely small,” he said.
Koppeis would not talk about the specific size of the project.
The turbines would convert wind energy into electricity. Koppeis said he would sell the power to businesses and offset costs. He’s also lining up investors and pursuing various grants and tax credits.
The project grew out of a need for electricity at Rock City, a former limestone mine near Valmeyer that Koppeis owns, he said. The mine has been turned into a massive storage facility.
“We started because we wanted to generate our own electricity for the freezer,” said Koppeis, who has developed several businesses. He also owns the Columbia Center shopping complex.
Koppeis is also testing wind speeds at Valmeyer to see if there’s enough power for turbines. He also visited a wind farm in Fowler, Ind., over the summer and later urged Monroe County officials to create an ordinance allowing the turbines.
The Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled to discuss the issue Tuesday, after the deadline for this story.
Next steps for developing wind farms typically involve dealing with everything from environmental regulations to worries about glare from blades bouncing into houses, said Ruth Miller, an associate professor at Kansas State University who specializes in wind energy. The Federal Aviation Administration may also have to give approval, she said.
Miller said getting permits is the most complicated element of getting wind farms going.
“Once (that) has been approved,” she said, “there’s very little that’s likely to be a problem.”
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