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Mower County wind project back on front burner  

Credit:  John Weiss | Post-Bulletin | October 9, 2013 | www.postbulletin.com ~~

AUSTIN – After being on the back burner for nearly three years, the Pleasant Valley Wind Project is back, though on a smaller scale.

On Tuesday, the Mower County Board set in motion the process for Renewal Energy Systems Americas Inc. to build 88 two-megawatt wind turbines in northeast Mower County, and 12 more in far southern Dodge County. The board unanimously approved the process for another local review that will include an environmental assessment.

The board also approved RES’s request to start planning for a transmission line of up to 8.5 miles that would lead from the RES substation to a Great River Energy substation and into the national electrical grid.

RES would build the turbines and sell the system to Xcel Energy, which would operate them, said Sean Flannery, a RES permitting specialist.

The project, if it gets all the approvals, would add 200 megawatts of renewable power to the grid and provide a financial boost for townships and the counties, he said.

Construction, which could begin next spring and go through October 2015, could generate up to 200 jobs, he said. When done, six to eight technicians would work out of the office in Sargeant, he said.

Each turbine would pay about $9,500 in property taxes annually, Flannery said. The agreement is for 80 percent of that to go to the counties, and 20 percent to townships. Mower would get an estimated $669,000 annually.

Pleasant Valley was initially proposed as a 300 megawatt project with 130 to 180 turbines, he said. But in 2010, the economy began to tank and the demand for power dwindled. Recently, Xcel announced it wanted to buy more wind power, and Pleasant Valley was one of five projects chosen, he said.

The 100 turbines would be built on the property of 69 landowners, but the project will also need land for transmission lines and roads, he said.

RES will negotiate with townships and counties about paying for repairs to roads damaged by heavy equipment, Flannery said.

Because the project has been idle for so long, its conditional-use permits and transmission line permit for Mower County had expired.

It will hire a consultant to do the assessment. But before that, there will be public meetings to help set the scope of the project. Flannery doesn’t expect big changes from past permits because the area included and general scope are the same, just the size is smaller.

Dodge County won’t need to approve new permits because siting is covered by the state and it won’t have any above-ground transmission lines, he said.

Board member Tim Gabrielson said he was excited to see the Pleasant Valley project back on track.

“We have been waiting and waiting,” he said.

Source:  John Weiss | Post-Bulletin | October 9, 2013 | www.postbulletin.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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