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Possible wind turbine project sparks discussion

FOREST CITY – A potential wind turbine project for part of western Winnebago County had county officials talking at the Jan. 12 supervisors meeting.

“From the farmers I’ve talked to (the company) is trying to garner enough support,” supervisor Terry Durby said.

County officials said EDF Renewable Energy is proposing the project.

EDF is based in San Diego, California. It has an office in Forest City. Telephone messages left by the Summit with the San Diego office and Forest City office on Jan. 12 were not returned.

Durby said there could be up to 100 turbines in Winnebago County between Rake and Buffalo Center with additional turbines in Kossuth County and southern Minnesota.

County zoning administrator Jim Rice said EDF had an informational meeting recently in Buffalo Center.

Rice said he has not yet been contacted about a possible project but wanted the county board to be aware of it.

Rice, Durby and supervisor Bill Jensvold said not all the response at the Buffalo Center meeting was positive.

“I don’t know that there was any negativity toward doing it,” Durby said. Landowners were concerned about the impact on aerial spraying of crops, that turbines would cut up fields and potential damage to drainage tiles, Durby said.

“But when you talk about the increase in the tax base, that helps ease some of the concerns,” Jensvold said.

Rice has some of his own concerns about a potential wind turbine project.

Contractors can ruin roads with too heavy of loads or if road conditions are not fit for heavy traffic, Rice said.

“The timing of construction is huge,” said Mark Johnson of the county’s secondary roads department.

Permits can require contractors to repair any road or similar damage, Rice said.

Rice said he and county officials should review permits used for past projects so that any needed changes can be made.

Another consideration with any wind turbine project is the number of level B roads in the project area.

Level B roads receive minimum maintenance in the winter.

The county has had to upgrade Level B roads in the past for wind turbine projects but that can increase the work load for secondary roads, Johnson said. A big work increase may require additional staff and equipment, he said.