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Catching up: New wind turbines not at full power yet

When the wind blows, at least some of the six towering new turbines northwest of Madison spin and generate power – but not much.

They aren’t at full power because late last year when Epic Systems hurriedly built the turbines along Highway 12, company officials didn’t know Madison Gas & Electric would need to upgrade its equipment in order to accept power from the array, said Bruce Richards, Epic director of facilities and engineering.

The medical software manufacturer is now studying alternatives that include paying for improvements to Madison Gas & Electric equipment, or laying 16 miles of underground lines to send the juice straight to Epic’s Verona campus, Richards said.

“We didn’t know about the limitations when we launched the project,” Richards said.

Epic planned and built the six 262-foot towers, each with three 135-foot blades, in four months in order to qualify for federal tax credits that were to expire by the end of 2012.

“You take a normal wind farm project and it’s a year to two-year project,” Richards said. “In eight months we’ll still be ahead of most schedules.”

Epic qualified for the 2012 tax credits because the turbines were operational by the end of the year, even though they were creating about half-megawatt on average. Eventually they’ll produce their full 9.9 megawatt capacity.

Richards wouldn’t discuss costs, but he said a new tax credit in place for 2013 will help pay for the work needed to crank the array to full speed.

At least one previous effort to build turbines on the site in the town of Springfield failed because the developer wanted a higher rate than Madison Gas & Electric would pay.

Epic has an agreement to sell electricity to Madison Gas & Electric, but its terms are confidential, said utility spokeswoman Margaret Collins.

Richards said there isn’t disagreement over the rate the utility is paying, just a problem in its capacity to accept 9.9 megawatts of wind power.