FLEMINGSBURG | A representative from Duke Energy attended Fleming County Fiscal Court Tuesday to discuss a wind turbine project proposed in Fleming and Mason counties.
About 25 residents were on hand from Mason and Fleming counties to listen to a presentation and ask questions of the Duke Energy representative.
“This is a new project for Fleming and Mason counties,” Fleming Judge-Executive Larry Foxworthy said. “This presentation will give us a better understanding of what this project will entail. This is simply a preliminary meeting. We don’t know much about this project and we’re here for information only.”
Duke Energy Director of Business Management Graham Furlong gave a short PowerPoint presentation on the benefits of renewable energy.
“We currently have about 15 windmill projects and about 16 solar projects,” Furlong said. “They’re low cost and safe and they have high reliability.”
Furlong said there are about 29 states with a renewable energy portfolio goal, which means a certain percent of the state has to have renewable energy.
“That is something Kentucky does not have at this time,” he said. “But, with (Environmental Protection Agency) requirements getting stricter, it is becoming more difficult to build and manage fossil plants.”
Furlong said with tax credits, renewable energy is a feasible option.
“And, it’s not a small industry any longer,” he said. “Renewable energy produces about 60,000 megawatts of energy (annually).”
According to Furlong, there is a possibility of about 26-100 turbines being built in the area, which could produce 70-150 megawatts. Construction of the turbines could began between 2016 and 2019.
“We want to wait for the market to develop a little more,” Furlong said. “And, we want to wait for the turbines to progress a little more, as well. During that time, we will continue to collect data in our test areas.”
Furlong said standard industry turbine height is 330 feet, base to blade, and some are higher.
“The turbine height will be decided by the amount of wind in the area,” Furlong said. “If there is a lot of wind, the turbines will be smaller, but as this is a lower wind area, we will need fairly tall turbines.”
The benefits of turbines include a steady land payment to homeowners with a turbine on their property, continued land use for agriculture, tax revenue for counties, construction jobs, operational jobs, emission free energy and minimal water usage, according to Furlong.
“A good example of the taxes it will generate is this; say we build a $200 million project,” he said. “That will generate about $8 million in county and state tax revenues. It will be considered a property, so we will pay the property taxes on it, as well as paying the homeowner for renting their land.”
After the presentation was completed, Furlong opened the floor up to questions.
Magistrate Ray Money asked, “I’ve heard if these things catch fire, you can’t put them out and they can release toxins. Is that true?”
Furlong said if one of the turbines catches fire, it will have to continue to burn.
“Unfortunately, that is true,” he said. “It’s a mechanical object that could catch fire. It can release toxins into the air, if it catches fire, because it’s a burning smoke.”
Attorney Kim Razor asked numerous questions related to the lease given to homeowners.
“What about other low wind areas? Do you know if they’re producing any electricity?” Razor said.
“We have one in Tennessee,” Furlough said. “I believe it’s producing electricity. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have it.”
Furlong explained two options that can be taken when the turbines are first built. There is an investment tax credit, which reimburses 30 percent of the cost and there is a production credit, which allows 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour produced.
“Most take the production credit, because it generates more money over a longer period,” he said. “If you’re not producing anything, you’re not getting your money.”
Razor then asked if the turbines will use any electricity to run.
“It will,” he said. “It may use some to start them up and if there is little wind, it might have to use some to spin. However, it will produce more electricity than it will use. If it didn’t, there would be no reason for us doing this.”
County Attorney John Price asked how fast the turbines spin. According to Furlong, the blades will spin about 180 miles per hour.
Magistrate David DeAtley asked if there are buffer zones for property owners who do not wish to have turbines.
“We allow a setback area,” Furlong said. “We do take into account other homes in the area who do not wish to have them.”
Someone asked if it was true that Duke Energy would not pay for any damage done to a home because of the turbines.
“That is untrue,” Furlough said. “We are putting these on your property. Therefore, if anything happens, it is our responsibility. And, say we have to bring in equipment and the only way to get the equipment to the turbine is to go through the corn you’re growing. We will reimburse you for any lost revenue from us destroying the corn.”
Furlong also said the number of turbines will be split about evenly between Fleming and Mason counties and each property where they are eventually located.
“We don’t have a lot of information at this time,” he said. “But, as we progress and continue our studies, we will give you all the information.”
Other items discussed at the meeting included:
— Second reading of the interlocal agreement with the city of Ewing, stating the Fleming County Road Department will continue to do work for the city of Ewing, as long as Mayor Wally Thomas and the council pay the fiscal court $12,000 for work done between 2007 to 2013.