Massive wind farm in works

FAIRMONT — The Martin County Planning Commission has recommended two conditional use permits for Fourmile Wind Project for section 18 of Jay Township and section 19 of Lake Fremont Township.

Martin County commissioners will consider granting the permits on Dec. 7.

Fourmile Wind Project, a subsidiary of Tradewind Energy, Inc., wants to build meteorological towers in an “A” agricultural district. The county requires a conditional use permit in an “A” agricultural district for any essential structures/meteorological towers.

The larger project covers eastern Jackson County and southwest Martin County, including Lake Belt, Fremont and Jay townships. The Fourmile wind project is expected to interconnect to a 138-kV (ITC Midwest) line at the Jackson North substation in Jackson. The proposed project size is up to 300 megawatts, and will involve 150 landowners and up to 60,000 acres.

The meteorological evaluation towers will stand 197 feet tall, with four sets of guidewires extending about 100 feet out from the base of the tower. They will be outfitted with several tiers of anemometers, wind vanes and other related equipment used to assess wind speed and other environmental conditions ahead of the project. The towers are self-sustaining, requiring no electricity and can be installed within a few days from the start of construction.

Jeff Hammond, senior development manager for Tradewind, presented the Planning Commission with a brief overview of the Fourmile project.

“It’s called the Fourmile project based on Fourmile Creek located in both Martin and Jackson County,” he said. “We plan to use 2 to 3 megawatt turbines, that hasn’t been decided yet. We’re looking at a footprint of about 60,000 acres, but we may slim that down some, and we’ll hopefully start construction in 2019.”

Hammond said the towers are meant to predict energy production from the eventual turbines, and they are not permanent structures.

In response to a question about warning lights for aircraft, Hammond noted the towers are under the 200-foot limit, so while they will be marked for aerial spray planes, there will be no need for lights.

Hammond also noted that the towers are not climbable, and landowners have agreed to forego fencing around the temporary structures.

Property owner Carl Munson from Jay Township voiced his concern about the number of towers.

“Why do you need so many of these towers?” he asked. You have one two miles away, and the wind isn’t going to change in two miles, I’ll guarantee it.”

Other questioners asked if there would be one tower per turbine, which Hammond said would not be the case.

“We’re not in the business of wasting money, so we put up as few as we need to,” he responded. “And the wind really does vary from several miles away. We actually need another one that we hope to get in the future because of how much the wind does vary over terrain, even miles apart.

“Winds in this area generally come from the north and southwest, and that will allow us to arrange our turbine array. We’ll want to be perpendicular to the wind, and the difference in how the wind blows and when it blows will determine what kind of turbine we use and the length of the blades to maximize production.”

“Another question I have is, around that tower, there are very few landowners that are interested in having towers,” Munson stated. “So if that’s the case, then why are you pursuing the wind information if you’re not going to be able to put towers there anyway?”

“I don’t know that what you’re saying is fact, but if, in fact, there is nobody around the area who wants that, then that wouldn’t be the best placement,” Hammond replied. “We’re in the early stages of the project, and that’s good to know. We’re not building on your property, and we wouldn’t unless we had a lease with you.”

According to information from Tradewind, the Fourmile project includes several key attributes:

o Once operational, the project is expected to produce enough power for 98,000 homes.

o Of the 60,000 acres included in the project area, the project will only take 1 percent to 2 percent of those acres out of service, including all land for roads and turbine foundations.

o The project is expected to have no material effect on any threatened and endangered species of birds or animals, based on third-party studies commissioned by Tradewind Energy.

o Participating landowners will collect lease payments from the project.

o The project will utilize significant local labor and materials for its construction and operations, and will generate significant economic benefits to the local community.