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Several wind projects studied around county

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GINA R. HEINE
October 13, 2007

Magnolia and Union townships have been the target of publicized proposals by EcoEnergy Wind, but the company also is looking at other areas of Rock County.


Ridges around the La Prairie-Bradford township border could be suitable for a wind farm of up to 30 turbines, said Wes Slaymaker, vice president of wind development for EcoEnergy Wind.


The company is monitoring wind speeds there for a potential project. EcoEnergy has not approached the town board but is talking with landowners and owners of a radio tower to install wind-measuring equipment, Slaymaker said.


The area is attractive because of its elevation—ridges between 984 to 1,047 feet—and the open farm fields, he said.


Nearby Johnstown Township is higher in elevation, but the environment doesn’t bode well for turbines, Slaymaker said. Parts of the town reach 1,051 to 1,079 feet in elevation, but much of that area is wooded, he said. Aside from the physical obstructions, wooded areas bring more environmental concerns such as birds and bats, he said.


Town of La Prairie officials have not had formal discussion about writing a wind farm ordinance, but they know it’s coming, town Chairman Michael Saunders said.


“Unfortunately, in the town business we’ve got to know more and more about less and less,” he said. “This is one issue I’ve started to watch on the horizon.”


Wind developers look for windy places near transmission lines, Slaymaker said. Finding such locations, developers then drill into details: What is the land use in the area? Is there a high density of housing? Would there be wildlife issues?


“We usually look for farm fields,” Slaymaker said.


The southern and northeastern parts of Wisconsin provide enough wind for turbines, he said.


Here is an update on the proposals and progress in Magnolia and Union townships:


Magnolia Township

EcoEnergy is gathering wind data from a tower that went up in spring near the corner of County B and Highway 213 as the first step in constructing up to a 100 megawatt farm with 67 turbines.


“As it compares to other locations where we’re monitoring wind, the site is looking good,” Slaymaker said. “It’s looking to be a site that has a wind speed where a wind farm would be financially feasible.”


Developers anticipate the average annual wind speed to be about 15 to 16 mph at 200 feet, based on measurements this summer between 11 and 13 mph, he said. It’s less windy in summer, and September data already shows an increase to 14.8 mph.


The “EcoMagnolia Wind” proposal includes:


-- Turbines that would be 262 feet from the ground to the hub and 397 feet from the ground to the tip of a blade.


-- Each turbine would generate 1.5 megawatts annually, which powers an average of 380 homes.


-- Signing up landowners in 2008 and beginning the permitting process, obtain permits in 2009 and construction in 2010.


-- The power would be used generally within 100 miles. “All of Rock County would see some electrons from this project,” Slaymaker said. Much of it could be used in the Janesville/Evansville area.


-- EcoEnergy has committed to providing shared revenue to the county and town. The company would pay $4,000 for each installed megawatt. If the project develops into the full 100 megawatts, that would mean $400,000 annually, with 58 percent going to Rock County and 42 percent to Magnolia Township.


-- EcoEnergy has committed to getting permits through the state’s Public Service Commission.


In July, board members passed an ordinance to defer applications and stay construction of wind energy systems for six months while they study and draft a permanent ordinance.


Town chairwoman Fern McCoy said the town hasn’t started, yet, but the planning and zoning committee likely will start next month.


The town has been holding wind workshops, with another scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Evansville High School, 640 S. 5th St.


The town has received some model ordinances. If they’re not done by January, they will extend the moratorium, McCoy said.


Union Township

A three-turbine project in Union Township would be owned by EcoEnergy with a contract from Wisconsin Public Power to purchase the electricity to supply to Evansville Water and Light customers, Slaymaker said.


Project details include:


-- Three of the same type of turbines proposed for Magnolia Township


-- Locations would be west of Evansville near County C around Pleasant Prairie Road


-- The project could have permits as early as 2009, with construction starting later that year


-- All of the electricity produced would be purchased by WPPI and used by customers in Evansville and Union. There is the possibility some of the energy might spill onto the power grid if, for example, the wind was blowing late at night when local customers weren’t using all the power produced, said Eric Kostecki, renewable energy project coordinator with WPPI.


-- It’s estimated the three turbines would supply about 16 percent of Evansville’s load, Kostecki said.


The Union Township board passed a one-year moratorium in August on construction of wind energy systems.


The plan commission appointed a seven-member committee to research wind energy and recommend a draft ordinance to the plan commission by January. The committee meets at 7:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Village Square Family Restaurant, 5 W. Main St., Evansville. The public is welcome.


The committee is reviewing ordinances from other municipalities, gathering scientific peer-reviewed research and visiting wind farms, member Jim Bembinster said. Information gathered so far is on display at the Eager Free Public Library, 39 W. Main St., Evansville.



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