Wind farm work to start next month

Construction on Mower County’s latest wind farm is almost underway.

Renewable Energy Systems Americas is set to start construction on the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm in June, according to Sean Flannery, a permitting specialist with the wind developer.

It’s an exciting step for project organizer’s who’ve worked through permitting, delays, land agreements and other parts of the project for several years.

“It’s fun to kind of see it finally turning over some dirt,” Flannery said.

The project will consist of 100, 2-MW Vestas wind turbines over 35,000 acres — 88 wind turbines in Mower County near Dexter and Sergeant and 12 in Dodge County.

The county approved conditional use permits for the project’s transmission line and substation in March. The county had approved permitting for the project in 2010, but the project stalled because RES couldn’t find a buyer for the energy — in part because of uncertainty about whether Congress would renew the federal wind production tax credit, a key subsidy for wind energy. Eventually, Congress extended the credit for a year and Excel Energy announced its intentions to buy the wind farm once it’s built.

Work will be spread over two construction seasons. This year is planned for prep work to install access roads and foundations to ready the sites for the wind turbines, which will then be erected in 2015 starting in May or June.

Residents near the project area — Dexter, Sargeant and into Dodge County — should receive information about the project.

“They’ll see some construction traffic,” Flannery said.

Flannery noted there will be a lot of concrete and gravel hauled in the construction area, and a construction office will be located outside Sergeant.

Earlier this month, the county and RES reached an agreement for the county to receive $198,000 to offset road maintenance costs during construction. Flannery promised RES will take steps to mitigate dust and other effects for residents.

Plans call for turbines to start producing energy by October of 2015, but Flannery said that may be pushed back to that December.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, the county board approved two minor motions to move the project forward: one to let RES work in county right-of-ways and another stipulating that the county wouldn’t use its authority to take ownership of a wind turbine should a property owner’s land foreclose.

Flannery admitted there are many complexities to getting such a project off the ground.

“It’s a lot to come together for any one of these projects, obviously,” Flannery said.