PLYMOUTH CO. – A portion of southeast Plymouth County may one day be home to a wind farm.
EDF Renewable Energy, a French-owned independent power producer with American headquarters in San Diego, is exploring a possible location in the county.
Plymouth County Zoning Administrator Alan Lucken said he has been aware of the project since January.
EDF is looking at constructing the wind farm on 16,000 acres in the north half of Union Township and a portion of the south half of Marion Township, Lucken said.
The project of about 100 towers, has the potential to produce 200 megawatts of electricity, if all are running at capacity. Each turbine has the capacity to produce 2.3 megawatts of electricity.
The site was chosen as it is near a 350,000-volt transmission line that runs from Sioux City to Minneapolis.
The wind farm must be near transmission lines in order to sell the power it produces, Lucken explained.
“Up to this point, transmission lines have been at capacity, so that’s why we’ve never had a wind farm here,” Lucken said. “EDF feels confident they can get on the line.”
The company would also build a substation near the wind farm.
Company representatives have been in contact with the landowners in the proposed footprint of the project.
The 136 landowners were invited to attend a meeting held Wednesday in Le Mars, according to Lucken. He added the number of people attending was smaller than he anticipated.
There were few questions concerning leases from those attending, Lucken said.
Leases with landowners would include yearly payments for land occupied by the tower and road access to the tower site.
One woman said the noise from the turbines would be irritating to her.
The company representative said at about 1,500 feet from the turbine, noise would be between 40 and 50 decibels.
The woman said she had traveled to O’Brien County and listened, and thought that would be an objection for her.
Another landowner said he didn’t like the looks of the turbine towers.
Lucken said the wind farm is by no means a done deal.
“They have to find buyers for the electricity at a price that will work for the company to put it up and make economically feasible,” Lucken said. “They also need to get enough landowners and farmers to sign up on the project.”
EDF is also working a study for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department.
“They are actually in the process of counting eagles and eagle nests, and trying to determine if there would be an issue with the eagles and bats,” Lucken said.
“They also have to be aware of archeological issues as well. A lot of research has to go into this before it’s built,” Lucken said.
In order to get approved by the Federal Regulatory Commission, it’s going to take about 18 months, Lucken said.
Currently EDF will be looking to line up easements for the towers and access to the tower sites.
They will also be doing engineering plans of where towers would be located on the site.
They also need to apply for a conditional use permit from Plymouth County.
“The zoning is already done,” Lucken said.
He explained about five years ago the Plymouth County zoning regulations were revised and the wind farm would fit in.
According to information provided to Lucken by EDF, the wind turbine towers would be between 450 and 500 feet tall when a blade is in the air. The blades are 165 feet long.
At Wednesday’s meeting, landowners were told if approved, work on the project may stretch into 2019.
The project’s cost is estimated at between $200 and $300 million.
At this point, the project is only a possibility.
“A lot of things need to line up for it to happen,” Lucken said.
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