MONROE — A project that has been years in the making may become a reality within the next year if organizers of a wind farm to be located in the Town of Jefferson can finalize arrangements for sale of the energy and permits.
That’s what P.J. Saliterman, development director for EDF Renewable Energy Inc., informed 29 members of the Green County Board of Supervisors during their meeting Tuesday. The company is a power production and service provider with its parent company based in France. According to the company website, it hosts nearly 50 wind farm projects throughout the U.S. and Canada, and even three in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Representatives of the company gave a presentation, outlining the plan for a project first introduced to residents in 2015. Saliterman said the goal would be to begin construction in late 2019, but negotiations with energy customers are still ongoing, which could slightly delay the timeline.
The plan for Sugar River Wind Project would be to install 24 wind turbines on land leased from owners throughout the township to create 65 megawatts of energy. Jim Seibert, operations manager of an Illinois-based, 100-unit wind park, said 1.5 megawatts is enough to power 100 homes.
Through agreements with landowners, a majority of the structures will be placed on sites throughout Jefferson township south of County KS to County K and east from Five Corner Road to County S. The plan also includes three just north of the state border between Brunkow Road and Freeport Road south of Theiler Road. The substation, a structure put in place to collect all of the energy generated by the turbines, would be built at the intersection of Brunkow and Jordan Road and the transmission line will run right by it before jutting north and crossing County K before running along Blumer Road and farther west.
Lifelong Green County resident Dan Kundert has reservations about the plan.
“This whole process has been kind of under the radar and not really brought up with the neighbors,” Kundert said. “The whole process has seemed kind of hush-hush.”
As the owner of a 158-acre dairy farm along Fairfield Road where he helps his son run the operation roughly 2,500 feet from the site of four turbines, Kundert said he feels uneasy about the project because it feels like the company has been trying to keep landowners from speaking to others about their contracts.
“I have a problem with a few landowners deciding what we have to look at for the rest of our lives,” Kundert said.
On Tuesday, during the meeting at the newly constructed government services building, EDF Development Director Ian Kryowski said after 25 years the company decommissions the park by taking down the turbines.
“It’s our responsibility to sort of pick up our toys and go home,” he said in response to a question from the board.
Saliterman said the reason the company has been looking to put a wind farm in place in Green County is due to a number of reasons, from it being “a good wind resource” to a “workable permitting environment.”
Currently, Green County does not have language regulating wind farms. Without enacting its own ordinance, the county is unable to have any wind energy siting laws. However, after state restrictions were passed in March 2012, most power over projects defaults to the state level.
Wind projects under 100 megawatts can be approved by local governments, but must adhere to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission rules, per the restrictions. Act 40 instructed the PSC to create restrictions that a municipality may impose on an incoming wind farm.
After the state removed county oversight for wind energy siting, Green County Zoning Administrator Adam Wiegel had said officials decided not to adopt an ordinance because of the lack of interest in any type of project within the area.
When considering an ordinance after supervisors found a company had been looking to lease land for a park in Jefferson Township, they looked to pass a law, but were stalled when supervisors raised concerns over the need for language specific to Green County during a public hearing in December. It was meant to be discussed during the December meeting of the Green County Board of Supervisors, but was referred back to the Board of Adjustment, which oversees zoning issues, instead.
Green County Corporation Counsel Brian Bucholtz said Tuesday that members of the board have been working on drafting an ordinance regarding wind farm siting.
Saliterman said that the wind farm would create over $258,000 in annual tax revenue. Of that, the county would acquire more than $150,000 and the Town of Jefferson would take in over $107,000. The project would create 150 temporary jobs during construction for up to nine months and create five long-term, permanent positions. Seibert said the annual salary for those workers would be roughly $60,000.
Currently, project organizers are in the process of negotiating a road use agreement. They expect to file a permit application with Green County by the end of the year.