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Test towers sought to see if wind farms feasible

A little more than 10 years ago, Madison County approved two conditional-use permits for wind towers to measure wind speeds to see if the areas were suitable for construction and operation of a wind farm.

The towers, which also measured such things as wind direction and temperature, have since been taken down. No wind farms ever materialized.

The towers were built by Third Planet Wind Power of Bad Axe, Mich., and the information collected is considered proprietary, so it isn’t known what information they yielded. They were located between Battle Creek and Norfolk and in the Meadow Grove area.

The bottom line is that no permits for a wind farm were ever sought.

But that could change in the future.

On Thursday evening, the Madison County Joint Planning Commission conducted public hearings and approved two conditional-use permit applications sought by Invenergy Wind Development of Denver for conditional-use permits.

One is for a temporary meteorological tower on land about eight miles north of Newman Grove at the intersection of 832nd Road and 526th Avenue.

Another is for a temporary meteorological tower on land 10 miles south of Meadow Grove on 540th Avenue.

Both permit applications will be forwarded to the Madison County board of commissioners for final consideration.

Three letters of opposition were expressed for the wind tower at the intersection of 832nd Road and 526th Avenue. Two were from outside of Madison County. The letters, in general, were against wind towers and expressed an opinion that other counties that had them were not pleased by the noise, aesthetics and that they could interfere with crop dusting.

Josh Framel, senior manager of renewable development for Invenergy, said the towers are temporary in nature. He said it usually takes at least two years worth of data to know whether winds are sufficient for a wind farm.

The “met structures” – as they are known – will be less than 200 feet in height, do not require a concrete foundation, power or lighting. He said the data collected by them is transmitted hourly to a collection point and powered by solar energy.

The towers are held in place by guy wires and generally can be put up and taken down in a day. The permits are for five years.

Framel said the tower sites generally require less than 1.5 acres of land. The company has secured lease arrangements with the landowners.

There also is little chance that a wind turbine could later be placed on the spot of the collection systems if they would determine a wind farm is feasible, Framel said. It is unusual for that to occur, he said.

The county also is in the process of updating its wind energy regulations, making them more stringent. When the last met towers were approved, for example, the county only required setbacks for towers to be 1,000 feet from the closest occupied dwelling.

The new proposed setbacks that were approved by the joint planning commission on Thursday increases it to 2,200 feet, which is similar to what other counties in the area have in place.