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Testing the wind: Colorado company eyeing potential for renewable energy farm near Albany

ALBANY – A Colorado company is testing the wind in this rural Mississippi River town, in anticipation of building a 200-megawatt wind farm.

Scout Clean Power LLC, a renewable energy development company based in Boulder, built the 198-foot-tall “temporary meteorological tower” in Garden Plain Township in mid-December.

It will test the speed, direction and general quality of the wind at the site for a minimum of a year, Cara Gunderson, a project manager with Scout, said in an email Friday.

If the tests prove fruitful, the company plans to seek approval to build Gipper Wind Farm, which likely would require about 75 to 100 turbines to achieve an output of 200 megawatts a year.

The $40,000 tower at 12967 Kennedy Road is on about 11 of 225.6 acres the company is leasing from Eric P. and Deidre L. Smith of Fulton. The acreage is bordered by Stone, Archer, Bensen, and Kennedy roads and is in the Spring Creek flood plain.

Because it is temporary, it does not have a foundation, but is anchored by guy wires and screw-in ground anchors.

Scout, which has no project under construction in Illinois yet, already has passed this phase in Putnam and Lasalle counties, where it is in the process of gauging landowner support to build a 200- to 300-megawatt wind and solar farm that would span both counties.

It opened an office in Granville in October, but likely won’t approach county officials or seek permits unless and until it finds that support.

The Albany test tower’s installation came as a surprise to some nearby landowners. One, Arlene Considine, said she learned of the tower when she looked outside her living room window and saw it going up.

Considine said she opposes wind farms because they are noisy, kill birds and bring down property values.

Public notification of a test tower is not required, however – its installation does not require county or zoning board approval, only a building permit, which Scout obtained on Oct. 31.

That’s not to say no landowners were contacted, said Gunderson, who is new to the project and did not have the names of those who were readily available when reached late Friday for comment.

“We engage with a variety of landowners in the area,” Gunderson said. “It’s very difficult to engage with all landowners at the same time, so we’re in that process right now. It’s a process that takes time.”

Even though it’s only a test tower, with no guarantee a wind farm even will materialize, Smith said he’s already has been fielding negative comments from some neighbors.

“They [Scout] approached me; I didn’t go looking for this,” Smith said. “For me, I’m a young farmer, I’m 37 years old with a small family farm, and I’m doing everything I can to keep our small family farm together ... especially after 2019.”

Gunderson, too, emphasized how early in the process it is – so early that it’s too soon to speculate how big the ultimate project might be, or how many turbines might be needed.

In the mid-2000s, a standard turbine would generate 1.5 megawatts of power a year, but improvements in technology since means 3-megawatt turbines are more common, and in 2 to 3 years, generators on the turbines may produce 5 megawatts, Peter Erbes, project manager for Scout in Putnam County, told Shaw Media Illinois in an interview in late December.

If the company decides to go ahead with Gipper, it will need to go through a lengthy permitting and approval process involving the village and Whiteside County, through various public meetings; notification requirements will kick in then.

In the meantime, Gunderson said the company will be happy to answer any questions or to reach out to neighbors to discuss their concerns.

A few wind turbines already have been erected in Whiteside County.

Four turbines that are part of the 14,000-acre, 210-megawatt Walnut Ridge Wind Farm, based in Bureau County, recently were finished near Deer Grove.

Developer Geronimo Energy is planning up to 132 turbines at Walnut Ridge; about 70 landowners are participating in that project.

 

ABOUT SCOUT

Scout Clean Energy is an owner-operator with wind, solar and energy storage projects in 12 states.

It claims expertise "in all aspects of renewable power project development, permitting, power marketing, finance, construction and asset management."

Go to www.scoutcleanenergy.com or call 303-284-7566 to learn more.

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