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Winds of change?
Alan DeVoe stands on land he owns that could be the eventual site of a wind turbine as part of a proposed wind mill farm in Jefferson township. Plans are still in the beginning stages and DeVoe said he has not been made an offer yet. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP - Organizers of a proposed windmill farm in Green County have begun the earliest stages of planning for the project, which they hope to finish within the next three years.

OwnEnergy has wind farms throughout the United States. In a letter to local landowners, James Damon, a development manager for the company, said it is "exploring the feasibility of a wind project in Jefferson and Sylvester townships."

Damon would not comment further when contacted for this story.

But according to the letter, the company is working in conjunction with the Wisconsin Farms Union; the pair have had a partnership for about four years.

WFU President Darin Von Ruden emphasized that planning is in its initial stages, but that the group sees value in locally-sourced energy.

"Renewable energy has been a priority for us for quite a few years," Von Ruden said.

The proposed footprint encompasses land between County S and County K and includes the Twin Grove area. The partners are currently pursuing purchase agreements from 15 to 20 landowners in the area, a number of them farmers. The company does not specify the number of acres included in the plan and Von Ruden said at this time, the company will not share the amount it is willing to pay landowners.

Under the proposal, 25 to 30 windmills would be put in place with 30-year leases, with the option of an extension after the agreement had passed. The project itself could be completed in 2018.

"It's community wind," Von Ruden said. "If the project were to come to fruition, taxes would fund the county and school districts. Those dollars could be helpful."

Von Ruden acknowledged another company tried and failed to put a wind farm in place years ago. But he said the reason Horizon Energy was not successful in the endeavor was the size of the project. The proposed farm by OwnEnergy runs through a smaller line with less windmills, making it profitable and beneficial to the area.

As far as the success of the project, Von Ruden said it is too early to tell whether or not the company will realize its goal.

"We don't know for sure," he said. "We have been reaching out to landowners. Everything has been fairly favorable."

Larry Eakins, who owns land in the proposed area, said he isn't opposed to the addition of windmills around his home.

"It seems to be a likely source of power that doesn't involve oil or gas," Eakins said. "It's cleaner, it's easily available and won't cause pollution."

Eakins said the total amount of land needed per wind tower would be an acre. He has spoken with Von Ruden and Damon about the project and acknowledged that, from his understanding, planning is in its earliest steps. He said currently he hadn't been offered a contract to lease any land, but figured there would be a number of steps taken before that could happen.

Alan DeVoe, another local landowner, is in favor of the project generally, but expressed some hesitancy about the project.

"I am in favor of it as long as it's strategically placed so it doesn't ruin a field," DeVoe said. "You would hate to take up highly productive farmland."

DeVoe said he has spoken to managers through OwnEnergy and thinks the company could put up to four mills on his farmland, on which he raises corn, beans and alfalfa. DeVoe also operates a dairy farm in the proposed area. He said he knows everything is still "temporary," but he wants to make sure the windmills are placed correctly.

DeVoe said he favored a higher number of the structures on his land and was comfortable with four rather than one. The turbine needs road access and would require a road to cut through the field to do so. He said the cleaner energy is a good idea, but that if a road was to cut through his field, it would be most useful if there was more than one windmill connected to it.