Pioneer Green Energy was the sponsor for the January Breakfast meeting of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce held in the Chamber headquarters on the campus of Gadsden State Community College- Cherokee. David Savage, vice president, with the assistance of Patrick Buckley, development manager, shared how Pioneer is proposing to harness the area’s wind energy and use it to power local homes and businesses through eight wind turbines to be constructed adjacent to the Rock Village area.
Pioneer Green Energy, Savage said, is based in Austin, Texas.
“We’ve been in the area for a couple of years now.developing a wind energy project,” said Savage. “We are still in the development stage of the project. A lot of work has been done but there is a lot of work to be done still. But it seemed like the right time over the last couple of months to get the word out about the project to people in the community so you can understand what we are doing, talk to us and make your views known. We are really excited about the project.”
On behalf of Pioneer Green, Savage thanked the Chamber of Commerce for having them and also to Johnny Usry for providing the meal.
Pioneer Green Energy, he said, is a small, privately funded company of with approximately 20 employees which does development work on these type of energy projects.
“We find places in the country where we think wind and solar energy projects would be a good place to develop them and then we spend several years going through the process of investigating the feasibility of it and getting the permits to do that kind of work,” said Savage. “After two or three years, if we still feel it is a go, then we will eventually note in the construction there wil be a wind or solar energy plant.”
“Combined, we have about 50 years of experience doing this type of thing,” said Savage. “So it is a new company, a small company, but we are old hands at it.”
With modern methods, Savage said, there are different types of machines and manufacturers, laid out in many ways.
“Fundamentally, they are all the same kind of machine,” said Savage. “They have roughly the same dimensions and roughly the same look. They are tall machines that look like a propeller on a stick. Wind turns the blades and generates electricy in the hub, transmits it down the cable into an underground system of wires that deliver it to an energy grid.”
“In addition to being pollution free, they don’t take anything into these plants except for the wind which is free and they don’t create any pollution on the backside, one of their great advantages,” said Savage. “But they are spaced pretty far apart, about a quarter of a mile, fifth of a mile at minimum because if they are closer than that, they will take the energy from each other. You maximize the energy they produce by spreading them out along the area that you have to work with.”
Savage says Pioneer Green thinks of energy in terms of megawatts.
“One of these machines is about two megawatts so a two megawatt machine would be about enough energy for 750 homes,” said Savage. “The wind energy plant we are developing here in Cherokee County would be just a shade under 20 megawatts, about eight or nine turbines depending on the final choice of turbines. So the amount of energy we are producing is pushing about 6,000 homes which we have penciled out at somewhere between half and two thirds of the homes in the county. Again, the energy is not delivered directly to the homes, it is delivered to the energy infrastructure, but that is about the equivalent amount of energy that would be powered by the project.”
“When the plant is done, it will be this string or array of turbines as we call them, eight or 10 in a row,” said Savage.
“They will be connected by a road, they will have an underground cable connecting them, but other than that, that will be it. And so while the area of the ridge that we are working on is almost two miles long,about 5 percent of that land will actually be occupied by the infrastructure, really a circle around each of the turbines and then the road connecting it.”
“They are unusual energy plants,” said Savage.
“Most energy plants are very large buildings or large complexes. They are real concentrated, you sort of stay away from them and they generate their power that way. Wind energy plants are built into the environment and landowners can continue doing almost anything they were doing before as long as it is sort of plugged into the effort, whether it is farming, timbering, hiking. You can continue doing mining or anything like that, you just have to work your way around the turbines.”
“That is why they are popular in a lot of ways with landowners,” said Savage. “It adds to what they are doing to their land.”
Savage said they are are looking for a good working relationship with the people and businesses in this area.
“We actually came 10 years ago and looked at Alabama, said it wasn’t a go and came back,” said Savage.