Commissioners give turbine project green light

The Public Service Commission is the next hurdle for Thunder Spirit Wind Corp. to overcome on its way to placing 75 wind turbines in Adams County.Posted September 13, 2013

 

By JAMIE SPAINHOWER

Record Editor

Wind Farm RGB

The Public Service Commission is the next hurdle for Thunder Spirit Wind Corp. to overcome on its way to placing 75 wind turbines in Adams County.

Monday evening the county zoning and planning commission held a second public hearing on the issue, and made its reccomendation of approval of the proposal to the county commissioners.

County Chair Chuck Christman told the audience he appreciated all the hours of effort, study and research put into the siting request by the zoning committee and others involved.

“I feel we have informed ourselves as much as we can be,” he said. The commissioners convened a special meeting and voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the zoning commission.

The issue of placing 75 wind turbines in the Duck Creek and Holt township has stirred some controversy by landowners in the area, one being there has not been enough information gathered and reviewed by officials. The project has been under review for four months, and duly noticed, in addition to media coverage. There has been information available for the public to review at the courthouse as well.

Other concerns dealt mainly with the change of landowners views, and the noise and “flicker” caused by sunlight going through the blades as  turn.

“Anybody can go out in the country and buy ag land, they can put up homes, barns, grain facilities, anything that is legal on that land,” board member Howard Nelson said. “I don’t know how we can tell farmers that they can’t use their land in a legal way.”

Opposed to the project were Nancy Secrest and Bill and Ellen Elder

“I would not have bought that property if those wind towers were there when we purchased our place,” Secrest said. “That is not what I moved out into the country for.”

The Elders were not in favor of the towers locations was based on both noise and the change in their view.

“We’re supposed to live with 45 decibels of sound, constantly,” Ellen Elders said. “We can hear the trains unhooking in Hettinger when it’s quiet. We can hear the noon whistle, we can hear the 10 o’clock whistle. Can you imagine what it’s like to have 75 wind towers around your home, humming, when it’s 45 decibels in our area?”

The noise emitted by the tower is 45 decibals, which is comparative to normal conversation, according to Industrial Noise Control, Inc.

“It’s of the utmost importance that we look at this as a plus, not only for taxation but for being sure we have a community that is viable,” Christman said.

In favor of the project was Larry Slater, who will be directly involved financially, receiving as landowner a portin of the $875,000 will be making in annual lease payments. Each of the towers will garner slightly more than $10,000.

Landowner Larry Slater said at the meeting he feels like he struck it rich with six possible towers and leases on his land.

“With those rocky hills, we feel like the Beverly Hillbillies struck oil,” Slater said.

Kim Marekegard also was in favor of the Thunder Spirit Wind’s proposal.

“Other communities around us are seeing progress, but I’m afraid if we don’t do something, I see us fading away,” she said.

Oil development is not in the immediate future for the area, nor is natural gas of which there is also an abundance. Wind, however, there is plenty of said Dan Albano Thunder Spirit Wind at the first meeting held last month.

“ Hettinger is a good location as far as wind consistency, in addition to meeting the harder qualification of being able to transmit the electricity out of the area,” he said. The company has been exploring the Hettinger area since 2006 for a possible location for a wind farm.

“Producing the electricity is not the problem, but the transmission of the power is – if there is enough capacity available on existing transmission lines and the cost to upgrade the existing or build new lines is not too prohibitive,” he said. “One of the greatest attributes is close to transmission lines and substations. We can do a 150 mega-watt project for just over $1 million. It’s not unusual for $20 million for same project. We have great wind and a solid and enthusiastic group of landowners. We think it’s a great place to build for those reasons.”

The project will cost $350 million to build. Included in the start up costs include some road work to be able to accommodate the size and weight of the trucks brining in the turbines. These roads will also be maintained by the company during the expected 25-year lifespan of the project.

It will also bring in $650,000 to the county’s tax base, along with an estimated

$800,000 – or slightly more than $10,000 per tower – in lease payments to the landowners.

The Public Service Commission will hold its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19 in Hettinger as the next step in the process. The public is invited to attend.