MONTEVIDEO – Construction could get underway this year on Chippewa County’s first commercial wind farm.
Fagen Engineering is currently in the permitting process for a 44.6-megawatt wind farm, which would be capable of producing electricity to power approximately 13,000 homes a year. Representatives of the company outlined plans Tuesday to the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners for the planned Palmer’s Creek Wind Farm. A group of investors formed Palmer’s Creek Wind Farm LLC for the project, according to Todd Hay and Mike Rutledge with Fagen Engineering of Granite Falls.
The 18 turbines comprising the farm will be dispersed over a 6,150-acre area north of Granite Falls. It will include two 2.3-megawatt turbines on 80-meter (262.4 feet) towers and 16 2.5-megawatt turbines on 90-meter (295.2 feet) towers. All of the towers will be located on agricultural land, and will be placed away from the Minnesota River bluff, according to the two.
The company has already reached agreements with landowners in the area to erect the towers. It is now in the final stages of obtaining state and federal permits for the project.
The company hopes to receive the permits by June to allow construction to begin this summer on the tower platforms. The components for two turbines and towers are already being stored for the project. The towers, blades, and generators for the remaining 16 are expected to start arriving in September from manufacturers in South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
The wind farm’s location north of Granite Falls places it in proximity to a Western Area Power Administration electrical substation, which provides access to the Midwest region’s power grid. Four or five large electrical utilities are connected to the substation, all potential customers for the wind farm’s power, according to Rutledge. The substation distributes electric power produced by the Western Area Power Administration at its hydroelectric facilities on the Missouri River.
Along with payments to landowners, the company will be paying an estimated $134,000 annually in taxes to local schools and governmental units. The project will create roughly 150 construction jobs and five to eight permanent maintenance jobs, they said.
Fagen Engineering erected a wind monitoring mast in the project area over two years ago. Data collected by it indicate the wind resource in the area is favorable for the project, according to Rutledge.
The company is also monitoring bird and bat populations in the area as part of the permitting process. There is an active eagle nest about one mile southwest of the site. The eagles’ foraging habits are monitored twice a week for eight-hour periods from spring through fall.
The company also erected two devices that record the acoustics of bats. Anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 individual bat calls are expected to be analyzed to determine the types of species and populations of bats in the area, according to Rutledge.
Collisions with wind turbines kill birds and bats, but the number is only a small fraction as compared to fatalities associated with cell and radio towers, the two said.
Minnesota had 3,526 megawatts of installed wind capacity at commercial wind farms as of 2016, according to information from Wind on the Wires, a conservation organization supporting wind development in the state. Commercial wind farms benefit farmers by providing annual wind and land payments and benefit local governments through taxes they pay, according to Isak Kvam with Wind on the Wires. Several Minnesota counties now realize over $1 million in taxes from wind power, he reported.
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