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Wind farm plan met with concern
Open house reveals questions, uncertainty for local residents
wind farm meeting
Jim Seibert, operations manager for wind turbine company EDF Renewables, explains the process of building a turbine in a field to attendees during the company’s open house at the Juda Community Center Oct. 2 to highlight the facets of an incoming wind farm in the Town of Jefferson. - photo by Bridget Cooke

JUDA — Neighbors and residents had a number of questions for experts from energy company EDF Renewables during an open house Oct. 2 during which representatives noted about 100 registrants walked through the door of the Jefferson Township Community Center to learn more about the project slated for early 2020.

Diane Bauman-Nelson, a resident of Fairfield Road, will be one of the people living near more than one wind turbine. 

“I’m mostly worried about the water table,” she said, noting that the addition of concrete to the ground may lower the level of water beneath the soil near her home.

Blumer Road resident Marcia Simler had a number of concerns to discuss with company representatives during the open house. She said house values may be lowered, and cited data she had brought to the event showing a correlation between the proximity of wind turbines and higher rates of cancer and neurodegenerative disease. 

“The farmland’s going to be ruined,” Simler said.

In addition to health risks, Simler said there are cases she discovered which highlight the impact of the noise of the turbines like incessant dog barking and the interruption of technological devices.

Construction of the turbines includes a foundation 10 feet into the soil. Concrete spans roughly 500 yards in a 60-foot diameter. However, once the structure is in place, observers will only be able to see a 16-foot ring above the ground, according to plans outlined at the open house. Once standing, the turbines reach heights of over 500 feet tall.

The plan for Sugar River Wind Project would be to install 24 wind turbines on land leased from owners throughout the township. Each one has the maximum potential of creating 65 MW at any given time, though Ian Krygowski, director of development for EDF’s north region, said “they’re not producing their maximum rate very much. They’re producing some energy, some of the time.”

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.

“These will produce enough power every year to power about 18,000 homes, if you’re taking an average Wisconsin power consumer,” Krygowski said. 

Contracts with local landowners specify EDF pay a quarterly rent for use of the field. Krygowski refused to provide an amount due to concerns over competition and renters’ privacy. 

While the company has its land contracts in place, Krygowski said agreements with energy buyers are still not finalized. Ideally, the companies purchasing energy created by the wind farm would be local or state providers, but that isn’t a guarantee, he said. 

“We’ve hit a point where it makes sense with us to sort of broadly share with a wider group of people that this is feasible, take feedback, seek questions and give people a chance to think about it and understand what we’re proposing here,” Krygowski said. “We don’t have firm and final words right now.”

The expected useful life of a turbine is 25 years. Krygowski said typically, the company’s contracts span two decades. After their use, the company will remove the structure from the field and replace lost soil to attempt to leave the space as it was before the turbine was installed with its joined roads.

“We haven’t decommissioned any projects in the Midwest, but based on what I’ve seen in following the construction of the projects, I would not expect it to have long-term negative effects on crop production,” Krygowski said.

Despite the opinion of company representatives, local farmers remain concerned over their soil.

Julie Hale, a resident along Twin Grove Road within the township, runs a farm with her husband. The couple turned down a contract to have a turbine on their own land, but Hale said some of the land they rent has been rented to EDF for turbines. Hale said her “big concern” is low pressure waves, which she believes will negatively affect the health of their animals. She said the decommission plans will not fix soil compaction.

Kathy Lincicum, who lives at the edge of the projected area along County S at Jordan Road, said only the people who have signed leases with EDF will benefit from the project.

“The only people who will make money from it are the landowners, yet the whole community suffers the repercussions,” Lincicum said.

Bauman-Nelson, Hale and Simler all echoed one another as they expressed a wish that Green County had more control over the siting of the incoming project. Due to state restrictions passed in March 2012 through Act 40 by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, the regional municipality can only adopt an ordinance no more stringent than the state allows.

Concerns over health, the regional environment and other assorted complaints are not new for the company, Krygowski said. 

Concerns vary based on the region, too, he added. In places where wind turbines are common, concerns are mainly over the impact to roads and fields. Krygowski said those complaints, in addition to questions about the health impact of turbines and environmentally-based concerns, are more prevalent in places like Jefferson, where a wind farm is new to residents.

“They’re more comfortable with proximity,” Krygowski said. “But when we come into a place like this where there aren’t a lot of wind farms in the area, you get more of the other concerns.”

The proposal touts over $258,000 of annual tax revenue, with roughly $151,000 benefitting the county and almost $108,000 in revenue going to the township.