FOREST CITY – EDF is reviewing a site in northern Winnebago County as a possible location for a 200-megawatt wind farm, Chris Sternhagen said at the Feb. 16 county Board of Supervisors meeting.
EDF is is the largest North American provider of third-party renewable operations and maintenance services with more than eight gigawatts of energy under contract. Oversight operations are based in San Diego, California.
Sternhagen is based in Minneapolis and works with projects from the Dakotas to Texas. EDF has projects in Cerro Gordo County and several other sites in Iowa.
“We’re heavy on wind but we’re starting to do a lot more solar than we used to,” Sternhagen said.
Winnebago County is being considered because it has an excellent wind resource, he said.
The site also has access to available transmission capacity and is near a diverse customer base, so EDF is assured there is a market for the wind energy, Sternhagen said.
“We need an arrangement to sell the power before construction,” he said.
Several other factors influence consideration of the county, including access to wind turbine manufacturers, terrain and regional support.
One of the most important is the support of landowners, Sternhagen said.
“If we’re not welcome in a community we’re not gonna force the issue,” he said, adding the company would consider other areas for a project.
Several farmers attended the Feb. 18 board meeting. Some had attended a prior county board meeting in which they recommended the county adopt a “good neighbor” policy for wind turbine projects.
The recommended policy would include standards for setbacks from houses and other property, repair of any damage to drainage tile and other considerations.
Sternhagen said such concerns are common. EDF studies areas of concern that include environment, habitat, drainage, wetlands, noise and shadow, roads and others, he said.
The company has setback requirements, including that a tower must be 1,500 feet from a residence, 470 feet from a road and others.
Raymond Smith, a landowner in the possible project area, said he wants to make sure drainage systems are not negatively impacted when heavy cranes travel across fields.
“We will work it out to put together a route that everybody can agree on,” Sternhagen said. “It is difficult for us to not to try and take the most direct route.”
There will be requirements to have any damaged tile repaired, Sternhagen said. If EDF sells the project, the new owner would have those same requirements, he said.
Joel Larson is a crop duster who wanted to know how far EDF wind turbines are from air strips and runways and how it handles crop dusting near turbines.
Sternhagen said EDF coordinates with local crop dusters to control the turbines. “We can shut them off or slow them down,” he said.
Once a wind turbine’s operations life span is over, what happens, Smith asked.
EDF is decommissioning several old towers in a desert in California, Sternhagen said. After removing the towers the cement foundation is removed to about 2 to 3 feet deep, he said.
Supervisor Bill Jensvold said on farm ground, 2 to 3 feet may not be deep enough.
Sternhagen said farmland has had those cement depths after decommissioning for about 10 years with other projects and “I’ve never had anybody concerned. But it’s something we can talk about.”
Gene Bruss asked why EDF can’t build more turbines in the Dakotas, which is much less populated and doesn’t have prime farm land.
EDF does have projects in the Dakotas but likes this area because of the wind, available transmission capacity, nearby customers and other factors, Sternhagen said.
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