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Residents learn about wind turbine proposal

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GINA R. HEINE
January 29, 2008
— A proposal to erect three wind turbines in Union Township drew people from near and far to an open house Monday night.

Many had no direct stake in the Evansville/Wisconsin Public Power project. They just wanted to learn about renewable energy.


Officials from Rock County and neighboring townships attended on a fact-finding mission.


People at EcoEnergy’s open house at J.C. McKenna Middle School saw maps of the township where wind turbines could be sited based on open land more than 1,000 feet from homes and projected wind speeds based on a test wind tower gathering data in Magnolia Township.


The most favorable wind areas of the town are west of Evansville near County C between Highway 104 and Pleasant Prairie Road, where wind speed ranges from 15 to 16.2 mph, according to the maps.


No specific sites for turbines have been chosen and no contracts have been signed, said Curt Bjurlin, EcoEnergy Wisconsin project developer.


The 4.5-megawatt project proposes putting up three turbines for the Evansville municipal water and light utility.


The power generated would be sold to Wisconsin Public Power, a regional power company serving 49 customer-owned electric utilities, including Evansville. The three turbines would produce an estimated 12 million kilowatt hours annually. It’s estimated the three turbines would supply about 18 percent of Evansville’s load.


Rock County Board Chairman Richard Ott wanted to learn about the proposals, and said they need to be approached delicately.


He said he supports the wind turbines as a form of clean, renewable energy.


“As far as visual pollution, it’s in the eyes of the beholders,” he said.


He wondered how much money the county, town and landowners would receive.


EcoEnergy has committed to pay shared revenue for all its projects, regardless of size, Bjurlin said. That means for each 1.5 MW turbine, Rock County would receive about $3,500 and the town of Union would receive about $2,500 annually, he said.


EcoEnergy officials said contracts with landowners are confidential and declined to say how much they would receive. Company officials previously have said they would pay in the ballpark of the industry standard—$4,200 to $4,500 annually for each turbine.


Town of Union Plan Commission Chairman Alvin Francis is one landowner who has been offered an EcoEnergy contract to host one turbine at either of two possible locations.


“I don’t want to put it in if it’s as dangerous as the (Town of Union Wind) Study Committee says,” he said, referring to a committee that will present its findings at a plan commission meeting Thursday night.


But he said he didn’t hear any major concerns after talking with farmers who have turbines on their property.


They said it

Here are thoughts from some people at Monday’s open house:


-- Evansville resident Bill Alt said he supports the project. He said using only three turbines is a unique approach.


“I’m definitely in favor of the way they’re trying to do it on a small scale project,” he said.


-- “I don’t have a problem with it,” said Paul Maas, who lives on Evansville-Brooklyn Road near the proposed site.


Maas and his wife, Fern, said they first were introduced to wind turbines while visiting their son in Germany.


-- Porter Township Supervisor Phil Hamilton said he watched mile after mile of turbine construction sites on a recent trip of his to Sioux Falls, S.D.


“We need it,” he said of wind energy, because coal plants are not the future.


“(Officials) just need to develop sensible setbacks,” he said.


-- Rock County Supervisor Rich Bostwick said he was impressed with what he saw.


“It’s not in my backyard, so it’s easy for me to say, ‘Yes,’ but there’s a lot of people that live next to coal plants,” he said.


Nuclear plants aren’t the answer, either, he said.


-- “I like the idea. I think it’s something to help the environment,” said Evansville resident Harlin Miller.


Miller and his wife, Angie, said they came with a lot of questions.


“We learned quite a bit,” he said.


-- Karen and Herb Hanson, who live nearby but in Green County, wanted to learn more and said they support wind energy. The couple, also investors in Evansville’s biodiesel plant, said it seems silly not to take advantage of the wind.


“It would be leaving an incredibly valuable resource untapped,” he said.



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