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Wind farm company halts applications in Lancaster, Gage counties

Volkswind USA has put the brakes on its process of getting permission to build a wind farm near Hallam and Cortland.

On Oct. 9, the Portland, Oregon-based company asked the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department to place its eight permit applications on hold so it can do more noise studies and reach out to residents who have concerns about the project, said Sara Hartzell, who works for the planning department.

Thursday morning, Volkswind USA President Jeffrey Wagner called Gage County Planning and Zoning Administrator Nancy Niedfeldt with a similar request for the company’s application there.

Hartzell said placing a hold on the applications does not mean the project is dead.

“The company will decide when to get moving again,” she said.

And Wagner said the company plans to fine-tune the layout of the wind farm based on the size of turbine it selects. He said he doesn’t know when the application process will resume.

Volkswind USA wants to build the wind farm on 7,000 acres of land in Lancaster County and 4,000 acres in Gage County.

The company withdrew its permit application for a single turbine near Hallam on Oct. 7 after some area residents voiced concerns about the project at an Oct. 6 meeting of the Hallam Village Board.

Cindy Chapman, a Hallam area resident and one of the organizers of Stop Hallam Wind, said she’s glad to hear the applications have been placed on hold.

“It just gives us a little more time to gather the information we need to present to both planning commissions on why these (turbines) are a danger to people’s health,” she said.

Chapman said she and others are concerned about potential noise, reduced property values and the effect on migratory waterfowl.

According to Volkswind USA’s original proposal, each of the 54 wind turbines would be 436 feet tall, measured from the tip of a blade at its highest point.

The company would like to sell the electricity from the wind farm to a utility and has submitted a bid to the Lincoln Electric System, which wants to add up to 100 megawatts of wind energy.

Depending on its size, the Volkswind USA project could cost $150 million to $190 million, provide 200 temporary construction jobs and a handful of full-time jobs. Both counties would receive about $700,000 in total tax benefits annually.