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Economy slows wind projects

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GINA R. HEINE
March 11, 2009
— The slumping economy and financial crisis have temporarily claimed another victim: wind energy projects in Rock County.

Wind developer EcoEnergy—and other developers across the country—have slowed their projects in Magnolia and Union townships in light of the recession, said Wes Slaymaker, vice president of wind development.


"Overall, that project (Magnolia) and a number of others pretty much industry-wide have … slowed down on activity," he said.


He and other developers hope things pick up with the Obama administration's push for renewable energy.


"There's really no movement since October," he said of the Magnolia project. "Nobody's able to close any deals, a lot of belts are tightened."


The Magnolia Town Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved a one-year renewal for a conditional-use permit for the wind measurement tower at County B and Highway 213.


The 197-foot tower went up in April 2007 to collect wind data, and Slaymaker said company officials are pleased with the findings. Calculations using tower data show the average annual wind speed should be 15 mph at 264 feet, which would be the hub height of a wind turbine.


Gathering data from the tower is the first step in a proposed 100-megawatt project proposed for the township.


Just north in Union Township, EcoEnergy is working with Wisconsin Public Power on a three-turbine project. Another measurement tower went up late last year in the township at County C and Highway 104. Slaymaker said initial results show average wind speeds of about 15.5 mph extrapolated to 264 feet.


"It's providing more data to better characterize the whole area," he said.


Slaymaker said attention is focused on legislative reform for wind turbine siting rules. He called Union Township's ordinance "restrictive" but said he hopes the state can reach a compromise for statewide standards.


A bill proposed last year that would have overridden local ordinances was pulled from the Senate floor near the end of the session. Legislators plan to reintroduce the bill or similar legislation in coming weeks, Slaymaker said.



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