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Project manager openly fields questions about wind farm, solar idea  

Credit:  Q&A: Learning more about Scout | By Craig Sterrett | News Tribune | www.newstrib.com ~~

GRANVILLE – The Scout Clean Energy office in Granville is open on weekdays when land agents are not out talking to landowners.

With a slogan, “Scouting Frontiers in Clean Energy,” Scout says it currently is working with 1,000 landowners in 10 states in hopes of completing 14 projects and producing 2308 megawatts of electricity.

Peter Erbes, project manager for Scout, recently fielded some questions about the company’s plans.

We’ve had a lot of wind farm developments on high ground around Mendota, Bureau County, Lee County. I know that people looked at this ground a decade or more ago. How long have you been involved in Putnam County and when did you put the office in in Granville?

“We’ve looked in the area at a potential project for several months now. A lot of that work happens starting at the desktop level before we even hit the ground. We’ve been exploring the potential of the project for several months. The office went in in Granville about two months ago. And we’ve had a presence there locally ever since.”

Have you been to government meetings yet?

“It’s far too early to present anything, for any sort of hearings or formal meetings. But we certainly intend to communicate with local officials and other local stakeholders to make sure everybody knows what’s going on.”

But, you probably can’t plan it all out until you have agreements worked out with landowners?

“We are in the very early stages of developing a project there. We are making sure that there’s sufficient interest from landowners; that’s kind of step No. 1. And we have a couple of full-time land agents locally who are working for the project and who work from that office in Granville. So we’re a ways away from presenting anything official to the county officials.”

Looking at wind or solar?

“We’re looking at both. We have a large wind farm that we’re working on there that spans both Putnam and La Salle counties. And then we have a large solar project that we’re working on in the area, too.”

Where is the possible feasible location for a wind farm near Granville?

“I’m not sure I can exactly comment on that. Our project area spans from approximately Granville to the southeast, towards McNabb and points east of there, in La Salle County as well, towards La Salle County as well.”

I was just out there recently and a family was harvesting corn northeast of McNabb that was flattened by a late-November windstorm. Sometimes it’s quite windy out there. When the wind blows, what’s the velocity where turbines shut down?

“The turbines have over-speed protection on them and when it gets too windy they do have to shut themselves down to protect the equipment. That amount varies by manufacturer, but it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 or 60 mph sustained winds.”

Do you have any projects completed in Illinois?

None in Illinois. “We have one under-construction 130 MW 52-turbine project in Indiana; and the Heart of Texas project going now. These projects, given where they are in the development stage, which is very early, most likely would be built in the 2022 to 2024 timeframe.”

I was here when we had the first wind farm proposed for Illinois (west of Tiskilwa) and there was enough resistance that it was delayed to the point it was not the first in Illinois. Are you seeing less resistance now?

“There are certainly still pockets of resistance and people who just believe that wind energy should not be built. But overall, I would say yes there’s less resistance in the industry. I think a lot of the concerns and people were afraid of, have had many years of experience to play out. You’ve got wind farms in the local area, they’re not that far away, and I think a lot of those concerns have been mitigated over time.”

Have you seen the ‘no-turbines’ signs in the Mount Palatine area and talked to the owners out there?

“Yes we have. We have reached out to dozens of landowners in that area, and again we have two full-time land agents available, and they are always available to speak with people, talk about their concerns or questions, etcetera. We realize some people will just be opposed to the project and they don’t want it there. We will do everything that we can to try to communicate with them, try to alleviate their concerns and make things the best we can for them.

“But there are also a lot of people who DO want this project. If we’re able to pull together sufficient land interest and to build the wind farm, the rights of those folks need to be respected as well.”

Have you put out maps or artwork showing the location of the turbines?

It’s still too early, he said. “We have a general area of interest, but that is subject to change based on who is willing to participate.”

Can you talk about the agreements that get worked out with landowners?

“Wind energy is a great source of supplemental income to farmers. And so is solar for that matter. but especially in the case of wind, a turbine on someone’s property only occupies between about 1 or 2 acres including everything you need to build the tower and the access road to get to the tower. And that leaves the rest of the farm available for what you would do normally.

“It’s diversification and supplemental income, which ultimately supports long-term farm revenue and property ownership.”

Early on, there was criticism of turbines not making much electricity or being inefficient. How much better are they now?

“Wind turbine technology has improved dramatically over the last 10 years. And that’s especially true of the more moderate wind resource. You folks there are blessed with a good wind resource. It’s not as strong as parts of the Plains or West Texas, for example, where there’s a lot of wind, but it is a good resource, and the newer turbine technology takes advantage of that resource in a way that the cheapest form of electricity (meaning new generation equipment) that we can put on the grid today, wind is basically the cheapest. And the only things that are really being built across the country really are wind, solar and natural gas.”

Is Scout a subsidiary of a larger entity or is this a startup?

“Scout Clean Energy has been in business since 2016. It was formed by a variety of people who had been in the industry a long time, and several of us even worked together at former companies, myself included. The CEO, Michael Rucker, … has been in the industry a long time, and just in a few short years the company has grown from about zero megawatts to about 900 mw of energy in operation or under construction. That’s a huge amount of achievement in a short period of time. We’re a portfolio company of Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, which is a private equity fund that invests high-volume capital in projects like these.”

Quinbrook is based in Houston and Scout is based in Boulder.

Why Boulder?

“Colorado’s actually sort of become a center for clean energy … it’s a combination of that as well as where most of the staff who knew each other from other lives decided to set up an office.”

Why did the group get together and go out on their own?

“There’s still an opportunity to build these projects around the company, and Scout positioned itself to do so.”

“— We’re part of a portfolio company that’s looking to deploy capital and Scout is the development arm for Quinbrook. Our job is to look for good projects around the country, and that’s how we landed here.”

Do you always open an office?

“We felt like there was going to be enough activity there with the amount of landowners that we will ultimately need to work with to bring this project together, we felt it was going to be helpful to have a presence there locally.”

How many turbines?

Scout is at the potential for a 200- to 300-megawatt project in the area. “I give you that range because, again, we are very early stage because there are a number of things that could impact the ultimate size. Turbine generator size has grown significantly. It’s now common to place in the neighborhood of 3-megawatt turbines on a project like this.” He said, however, advancements are coming quickly, and in two to three years generators on the turbines may be at 5 megawatts. When wind farms in Bureau County and near Mendota started out in the mid 2000s “your standard workhorse GE turbine was a 1.5 megawatt” unit.

Source:  Q&A: Learning more about Scout | By Craig Sterrett | News Tribune | www.newstrib.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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