BUTTE COUNTY –– Although construction on the Willow Creek Wind Farm was slated to begin this month, that goal date is being delayed.
James Madson, manager of project development with Pattern Development, the company that purchased the Willow Creek Wind Farm in 2017, told the Butte County commissioners during their June 18 meeting that the company has not yet broken ground as anticipated.
“We were really kind if firing on all cylinders trying to close out a deal to bring in another part owner of the project,” Madson said referring to a January meeting when he and other Pattern official spoke to the commission about their 2019 plans. “Long story short, they (the potential partner company) pulled away from the project.”
The last minute unfortunate news, Madson said, caused Pattern Development to scramble and push off the start of construction.
“It’s a good project,” he added. “It’s basically fully permitted, developed, has a lot of great qualities to it.”
Located on approximately 20,000 acres of private ranch land, the $210 million wind farm, originally proposed by Wind Quarry Operations, LLC, of Colorado, is slated to be located approximately 10 miles northeast of Newell.
Madson said the energy company has since found another potential partner with whom it is working on a new deal.
Due to the delays, the construction phase has been pushed off until late August or early September. When construction commences, Madson said, it would initially consist of “civil work.”
“So it’d be the roads and the foundations,” he said. “So the foundations … rebar cages, pouring concrete, and getting those foundations done before the winter hits.”
Then, Madson said, the company would take a short winter break, depending on the severity of the winter, and resume as soon as the weather allows.
“Hopefully things dry up a little bit more in the April timeframe … not having all the blizzards and things in May like you guys had this year,” Madson added.
He said the company hopes to remobilize to perform some of the electrical work.
“Turbines will start showing up in probably June of 2020,” Madson said, adding the turbine assembly would likely take place over July and August next year.
If everything progresses as planned, Madson said that commercial operations would be expected to begin in October 2020.
“We’re excited,” he said.
The energy company has held, and continues to host, public meetings in the Newell area throughout the process to educate members of the public and minimize impacts construction and operations will have on the local residents.
The project involves the potential construction of an approximate 103.5-megawatts generating facility involving 14 private landowners, all located north of U.S. Highway 212.
Originally, Madson said, the project was designed to include 45 wind turbines. However, that number has been recently decreased to 38 due to advancement in technology since the permits were approved.
The project is proposed to produce up to 450,000-megawatt hours of electricity per year and would enter the grid through an interconnection with Western Area Power Administration’s Maurine to Rapid City transmission line inside the project area.
All major construction permits are complete, Madson said. Additionally, he said, the construction phase is expected to create 175 on-site construction jobs during peak construction activity and up to nine long-term operations and maintenance positions.
Madson said the company prides itself on hiring as much locally as possible.
Once operational, the project is expected to generate enough energy to power 40,000 homes.
Following the discussion, the commission approved four applications for occupancy on the county’s right of way to allow open trenching or boring underneath Double R Road, Old Twilight Road, Wahfeldt Road, and on section lines alongside wind farm access roads.
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