SHULLSBURG, Wis. – After investing $167 million in a wind farm in Lafayette County, a global renewable energy company is laying the groundwork to potentially do two more big projects in the county.
EDP Renewables soon will construct two meteorological “test towers” – one along Truman Road southeast of Belmont and the other south of Dunbarton Road, which is east of Shullsburg. Development Project Manager Darcy Lydum said each will be 320 feet tall.
“The purpose of these towers is to measure the wind speeds and model out the production at different hours and different times of the year,” she said.
Such research could pave the way for a pair of new wind farms, according to Lydum. But there is no guarantee the company will proceed with the projects.
TESTING THE WATER
The test towers will remain in operation for at least two years. Lydum said the earliest that new wind farms would be constructed is 2020.
EDP Renewables constructed a 49-turbine, 98-megawatt wind farm west of Darlington in Seymour Township last year.
Lydum said EDP Renewables made a capital investment of $167 million for that project, known as the Quilt Block Wind Farm. It can harness enough energy to power about 35,000 homes.
The project near Shullsburg likely would have a similar capacity. However, fewer than 49 turbines could be used to generate this power.
The potential wind farm near Belmont would produce 40 megawatts of energy, Lydum said.
Jack Sauer, chairman of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, said the county’s zoning committee approved a “special exception” that allowed for the construction of both test towers this spring.
In Seymour Township and Lafayette County, the economic benefits of the Quilt Block Wind Farm are evident.
“I guess, like a lot of things, the big thing is the money,” said Sauer. “The money definitely helps the township, and anything extra in the county coffers helps us out, too. Plus, the landowners (where the turbines are built) get paid, too, and that money flows back in the community.”
Lydum said Seymour Township will receive $150,000 per year throughout the life of the Quilt Block Wind Farm, while Lafayette County will receive about $200,000 annually.
County Economic Development Director Abby Haas noted that construction of the Quilt Block Wind Farm also generated significant short-term benefits last year.
“They stayed in the county for months,” she said. “They stayed here in hotels and bought their groceries and meals here. They pretty much joined the community during the construction, so there was a huge temporary benefit.”
During peak construction, the project employed more than 250 workers, the company has said. There now are nine full-time employees that EDP has serving the wind farm.
EDP Renewables also made payments to the county to cover the costs of road damage sustained during the construction of the farm in Seymour Township, Sauer said.
County Highway Commissioner Tom Jean previously said Seymour Township received $1.5 million for the use of its roads, Lafayette County received $450,000 from EDP for the damage the company did to county roads during construction, and Darlington Township received $150,000 to use its roads.
Lydum said construction of the test towers townships could begin as early as next week. The construction process generally takes several days.
She said many factors determine where EDP seeks to build wind farms.
“You need the right environmental characteristics, suitable wind speeds, proximity to a transmission grid, and you need enough willing landowners to participate,” she said.
County leaders acknowledged not everyone in the community has immediately embraced the concept.
Sauer noted that one business located the near the Seymour Township project complained of a bright glare coming off the turbines in the morning. EDP Renewables agreed to stop using that turbine early in the day.
Haas also acknowledged there is “a split” in the county when it comes to wind farms. She said some residents view the large turbines as an eyesore.
She doesn’t see it that way, however.
“Just speaking as Lafayette County resident, I am excited about them,” she said. “When I see the wind turbines, I think it is a sign that we are not getting left behind. To anyone driving through town, it is a sign that we are moving forward and keeping up with the times.”
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