Groundwork is under way on the new Marshall Wind Farm to be built north and south of the Beattie area next spring.
Ryan Risch, senior project manager with Mortenson Construction, Minneapolis, Minn., the project’s general contractor, has spent the past week overseeing improvements to roads to a test tower and to a planned electrical substation near the intersection of 24th and Limestone roads, which is about a mile south of U.S. Highway 36 and a few miles east of Kansas Highway 99.
The 30-turbine wind farm is under development by RPM Access of Desoto, Iowa. Actual construction of the towers won’t begin until spring in Rock, Guittard and Murray townships. Several area landowners are being compensated for allowing access for towers and roads on their property.
On Monday, a Mortenson Construction crew was working on public road improvement along 23rd Road and preparing a private, 16-foot-wide “string road,” a rock road built through the stubble of a soybean field. It is the first of several new access roads to be built from existing roads to tower sites through farm fields.
“We’re putting the groundwork in place to have a head start for when we come back next year,” Risch said. “The bulk of the activity will take off in the spring.”
Meanwhile, Wolf Construction, Topeka, was doing the earth work Monday for the substation, which will be the gathering point for underground cables from the wind towers. Once built, the station will transfer wind-generated electricity to a Westar line that runs by.
Next year, crews will continue to put in string roads, complete the substation and build an underground collection system for the electrical cables. Then they will construct the towers.
“Once the turbines are erected, we’ll do restoration work to the land,” Risch said.
Farming will continue around the towers, which will be 100-meters high, more than the length of a football field. Each tower’s foundation will have more than 600 cubic yards of concrete and more than 50 tons of reinforcing steel.
He said the company plans to use as much local support from area businesses as possible to build the project. And he expects some local job opportunities will be available on the project, though Risch is uncertain how many.
Mortenson, a 60-year-old company, also has educational outreach to area schools to teach about wind energy.
“We like to partner with our client to involve the community,” Risch said. “We do a program where we come into the schools and tailor the presentation to the audience.”
A presentation called “Catch the Wind” is available for local grade-school children. Risch said presenters explain wind energy generation process.
“It’s a set of fun facts and helps put it into perspective,” Risch said. “We, too, can do a presentation at the high school level, which also promotes career orientation and opportunities within the industry.”
The company’s web site, mortenson.com, shows a diversity of past and current projects, including the Minnesota Vikings’ new football stadium as well as more than 130 wind farms and solar arrays nationwide.
Mortenson has worked with the Marshall Wind Farm’s developer, RPM Access, on past projects in Iowa. Risch said they expect 2014 to be a very busy year in the United States for wind farm construction in general.
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