Janesville67.1°

Wind developer continues plans for Magnolia

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GINA R. HEINE
July 23, 2008
— Planning for EcoEnergy’s 100 megawatt wind project in Magnolia Township will continue despite the town board’s approval of what the wind developer says is a “very prohibitive” ordinance and non-supportive town leadership.

“We’re certainly not giving up,” project developer Curt Bjurlin said.


But he said as a business looking to develop projects in towns that help developers, “Magnolia could have acted in a way that was more enabling to allow us to build this project in a more efficient way.”


Board supervisor and town spokesman Dave Olsen disagrees.


“I think that’s incorrect. We have to have rules for everything,” he said.


“We do now have an ordinance that very clearly has rules that they (wind developers) can work with. Now they know where they stand.”


The board on July 3 unanimously passed an ordinance with turbine setbacks of a half mile from homes and 1,000 feet from property lines. Willing homeowners can have turbines placed closer—1,000 feet minimum—to their homes.


While Bjurlin repeatedly said EcoEnergy wants to work with the town, he and Olsen traded jabs in separate interviews with The Janesville Gazette:


-- Olsen said the town approved an ordinance with “very reasonable setbacks.” He cited a July 8 article in The Daily Reporter, a Milwaukee business newspaper, that quoted Tim Le Monds, governmental and public affairs director for the state Public Service Commission, saying “That’s a pretty safe distance. It’s acceptable to us.”


-- Bjurlin said he has read only a draft of the town ordinance and will be reviewing the approved version and firming up plans through summer on how the company will proceed.


“As this stands with the EcoMagnolia project, the current regulatory environment is not particularly favorable for building a project,” Bjurlin said.


The message the ordinance sends, Bjurlin said, is that you need a half-mile setback to be safe.


“I think it’s clear that that’s not needed,” he said.


He cited other projects throughout the state with less-restrictive setbacks and no reports of health or safety issues.


-- Olsen pointed to the provision in the ordinance that allows willing homeowners to place turbines closer on their property.


-- Bjurlin said he’s still disappointed.


“For us to go to each landowner in each house and ask permission on a house-by-house basis to have a setback that is standard in other places is a really difficult hurdle to pass,” he said.


-- Olsen responded: “I’m sure the auto industry didn’t think seat belts were necessary either. I’m sure he (Bjurlin) would like to not have any rules.”


The town ordinance might become moot because the 100 MW project would go to the state’s Public Service Commission for permitting. That process could override the local regulations.


Timeline

Construction on EcoEnergy’s proposed 100 megawatt wind project in Magnolia Township wouldn’t start for about two years, project developer Curt Bjurlin said.


Plans haven’t changed, despite the town passing an ordinance that makes it “very difficult to build an economic wind energy project,” he said.


The company still is proposing a 100 MW project, or 67 turbines at 1.5 MW each, he said.


Changes always are possible, he said, but EcoEnergy has no plans for different turbines, such as 2 MW turbines that would reduce the number of turbines needed to reach 100 MW.


The project has not been mapped out yet, he said, but he noted the township has many scattered high ridges rather than a broad open plateau. He said he doesn’t think Spring Valley Township would be a part of the project.


Given the proposed size of the project, it is required to be permitted through the state Public Service Commission—a process that can take about a year, Bjurlin said.


The company has no plans to take down a tower that’s collecting wind data in the town, he said.


The average wind speed measured at 197 feet for a year starting April 18, 2007, is 14.27 mph, according to EcoEnergy’s data from the tower.


The data also shows the strongest average wind speed during a 10-minute interval was 42.7 mph on Feb. 6. The highest two-second reading was 64.2 mph, registered at 2 a.m. on Aug. 14.


EcoEnergy also commissioned modeling of the wind speed at about 262 feet to see how much a wind turbine would generate. The model estimated a wind turbine would operate about 80 percent of the time over the course of a year.



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