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Acciona ends plans for wind farm in Magnolia

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GINA R. HEINE
October 4, 2010
— Plans that once called for up to 67 wind turbines dotting the countryside of Magnolia Township have ended.

An official with Acciona, a global energy company, confirmed that it has decided not to develop the EcoMagnolia project.


“That’s a case where I think … it was not an adequate wind resource for us to commit our full development for the project area,” said Chip Readling, lead developer for projects in several states, including Wisconsin.


Data gathered from a meteorological tower that stood for about three years at County B and Highway 213 showed “the project did not align well with our business goals,” he said.


“(It was) just a matter of wind,” he said.


Acciona still owns the project rights.


Plans are not as certain to the north.


The met tower that’s been up for nearly two years in Union Township will be taken down after the corn surrounding it is harvested.


The company’s meteorological team will analyze the data gathered from that tower—at County C and Highway 103—and decide whether to pursue a project, Readling said.


“We think it’s certainly a site we want to continue to watch,” he said.


If the company decides to move forward, the next step would be putting up a taller met tower—262 feet tall—to record wind speeds at the height of a turbine hub.


Readling said the company had no timeline and was not to the point of having landowners sign contracts.


He also said he could not release any of the wind speeds from either of the met towers.


In 2008, EcoEnergy said the average wind speed was 14.7 mph, measured at 197 feet on the Magnolia tower. The average was for a year starting in April 2007.


EcoEnergy first started the development of the Union project to include three turbines west of Evansville with Wisconsin Public Power buying the power produced for sale to Evansville Water and Light customers.


Acciona bought the rights for the Union and Magnolia projects from EcoEnergy in 2007.


Lost in the shuffle of the sale was the town permit for the Union met tower. The permit expired last fall, and Acciona failed to renew it. The town and company settled on a $6,000 fine for being out of compliance. Acciona officials are finalizing paperwork to make the payment, Readling said.


Reaction

Tom Drew, the landowner who hosted the met tower in Magnolia, said he hadn’t heard anything from the company since spring.


The plan to end the project was news to him.


He had not signed any contracts beyond the met tower, he said, and wasn’t really disappointed about the project not moving forward.


“To me, it was just nice clean energy,” Drew said. “That part is what I looked at. I never thought it would be any big windfall for anybody.”


When the project first started, his wife, Laurie, worked part time for about 18 months for EcoEnergy, setting up the company booth at events. She said she did it “to get a pulse on the company.”


Spring Valley resident Lynda Kawula doesn’t find relief in Acciona’s plan for Magnolia. Kawula and her husband, Kevin, live on the township border and feared having to move if turbines went up too close to their house.


“I don’t think it’s over yet,” she said.


Her research about wind turbines led her to start a website, betterplan.squarespace .com, advocating against wind farms that are sited too close to residents.


“If they could get these things sited correctly, everybody would come out happy,” she said.


Since the development plans emerged, the Kawulas have become engrossed in local and state government, have followed and taped the meetings of the state wind siting council’s rule-making process and visited with residents living on wind farms.


She plans to write a book about the wind industry in Wisconsin.


She has spent 10 nights in three different locations among two wind projects in the state.


“The relief part is funny,” she said. “Because I’m so tied up with people who are living with the turbine (problems) now, even if it’s not coming here right now, I’m still concerned about them and the little help they’re getting.”



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