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O’Brien County Wind Farm pace quickens; Landowner negotiations, turbine sites on front burner  

Credit:  Friday, July 19, 2013 | By Loren Gaylord Flaugh, Correspondent | Cherokee Chronicle TImes | www.chronicletimes.com ~~

PRIMGHAR – Wind energy developer Invenergy, LLC met one requirement of the O’Brien County Wind Energy Device Ordinance on July 10 when they hosted a pre-application meeting at the Primghar Community Center. Invenergy intends to file their wind farm construction permit application with the county on Friday, July 19.

Invenergy project developers Greg Leuchtmann and Erin Brush presented current information on the wind farm’s progress to interested landowners and answered numerous questions after their formal presentation.

About 50 landowners living within the 40,000-acre footprint of the Highland Wind Energy Center Project attended this pre-application meeting.

Leuchtmann briefly reviewed the project’s early history. “There’s been a lot of activity over the last nine years. We signed some land in 2003 and 2004. We came back in 2006 and 2007 and signed more. And we continued to come back in 2010 through now.

“All of this has been with an effort to try and create a project that we can bring to market, to construction and to operation,” Leuchtmann said.

Invenergy has been discussing wind farm specifics with individual landowners over the last few weeks. “This is one of the final steps before entering the permitting process with the County,” he explained.

“One of the other things we’re doing is we’re sitting wind turbine locations. We’re discussing these locations with landowners so we can get the necessary information of what’s on their land.” he continued. “The need to know where drain tile and any buried utilities like gas lines is information that will be plotted in advance.”

When Invenergy hosted a June 18 open house at the Primghar Community Center, the general shape and size of the wind farm hadn’t been made public. Since then, Invenergy and their engineering consultant, Ulteig Engineering, have made steady progress on sitting probable turbine and access road locations.

For these landowners, perhaps the most attention-grabbing exhibit Invenergy displayed was recently developed sets of engineering drawings that showed the general shape of the wind farm, probable wind turbine sites and access road locations.

What Invenergy now plans is a 500 megawatt (MW) wind farm with 218 turbine sites.

“What you see on these maps is 235 locations. We’re looking at 218, but we’re also considering 235 locations. There’s always a situation that develops when we go to the permitting process when a turbine location isn’t suitable. We are trying to have options for alternative locations,” Leuchtmann explained.

The drawings show turbine sites as far south as two miles north of Highway 10 west of Sutherland in northern Liberty Township. The wind farm’s northern boundary is two miles south of Highway 18 between Sanborn and Hartley in northern Center Township. In the southern end of the wind farm, drawings show a significant number of turbine sites west of Highway 59 in eastern Dale Township northeast of Paullina.

The access roads to turbine sites, in almost all instances, run straight and parallel to roads and fence lines. Wind turbines are essentially arrayed in rows that line up east to west. Generally, not more than four turbine sites are located in any particular section.

Before the open house, Invenergy hadn’t decided what turbine manufacturer or size they would use, 1.6 MW or 2.5 MW. “All these units will be 2.3 MW Siemens wind turbines,” Leuchtmann reported. “The idea with the model SWT-2.3-108 turbines is they would be an 80 meter high (about 260 feet) wind turbine to the center of the hub. The turbine will have a 108 meter (about 354 feet) diameter, three-bladed rotor.

There are reasons why we’re going with the 2.3 MW machines. The good supply availability over the next two years is one. It’s becoming one of the most popular size wind turbine to use.”

It’s likely that the wind farm will connect onto the high voltage grid where the MidAmerican Energy 345,000-volt transmission line is located southwest of Primghar in Dale Township. “We are talking about this with these landowners and with people from MidAmerican while we consider options,” Leuchtmann reported.

In his summation, Leuchtmann said, “As I said earlier, there’s a number of reasons why we continue to move forward. The electric transmission system in this area has really improved. Transmission system upgrades are opening up new potential for wind energy.

The Production Tax Credit that exists now, we’re trying to capture that this year and take advantage of it while it does exist. Part of that is getting into the construction phase this year.”

The next step after filing the construction permit application is the county supervisors need to schedule a public hearing. According to the O’Brien County auditor’s office, the earliest date that a public hearing could be held is around August 20.

Invenergy wants to start building access roads and driveway entrances in September starting in the southern part of the wind farm and then working north. They still expect to start other civil activities like foundation excavation and other foundation related work in October.

Leuchtmann then answered numerous landowner questions covering a wide range of issues and concerns.

Source:  Friday, July 19, 2013 | By Loren Gaylord Flaugh, Correspondent | Cherokee Chronicle TImes | www.chronicletimes.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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