Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Company considers wind farm

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 12:08 AM CDT
A Spanish energy company with a growing U.S. presence is studying the possibility of spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" to build a wind farm near Owensboro.

Heartland Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish wind-power company, has filed a request with the Owensboro Metropolitan Board of Adjustment for a conditional use permit to build a 197-foot meteorological tower at 11901 Kentucky 951.

That's about 4.1 miles northeast of Knottsville.

The tower would be used to measure wind speed, wind direction and vertical wind speed for 12 to 24 months.

an Johnson, spokeswoman at Iberdrola's U.S. headquarters in Portland, Ore., said Monday that if test results are positive, the company wants to build a wind farm near Owensboro.

"Kentucky does not have a commercial wind farm," she said. "We like to be an early entrant into a state."

Iberdrola currently has 38 wind farms in 20 states, she said.

The company is rated as one of the largest private electric utilities worldwide and the largest renewable energy operator in the world.

In July, the Wall Street Journal said "the U.S. is hugely important to Iberdrola: It accounts for 31 percent of the group's installed capacity, 38 percent of the group's wind-generated electricity, and 42 percent of the company's pipeline of future wind farms."

In the first half of 2009, the article said, "Iberdrola added 228 megawatts of wind power in the U.S., after warning that the credit crunch would curb its clean-energy expansion. Iberdrola's total capacity worldwide just topped 10,000 megawatts."

Johnson said the company now has 3,000 megawatts of wind power in the U.S.

"One megawatt will power 300 average American homes," she said. "We have the capacity to power 900,000 homes now."

Typical wind farms in this part of the country have 66 to 67 turbines, Johnson said.

Turbines, which can cost more than $1 million each, tower up to 250 or more feet above the ground with blades turning in circles up to 330 feet in diameter.

Land owners are paid for each turbine on their property or for the amount of power they produce, depending on how the contract is written, Johnson said.

"We like to control a lot of land to give us plenty of room for the turbines," she said.

Land owners can continue to grow crops up to the base of the turbines, Johnson said, and cattle can graze around them.

Each turbine operates at the same decibels as a residential refrigerator, she said.

"The sound has never been an issue," she said.

Wind farms, Johnson said, pay property taxes on the turbines as well as rent to the land owner.

"They're great for the economy of the communities," she said. "They create a lot of jobs when they're being built."

Iberdrola wants to collect data from the meteorological tower for at least one and possibly two years, Johnson said, before deciding whether the area is viable for a wind farm.

Construction usually takes between six months and a year, the company said.

Iberdrola has already qualified for $546 million in stimulus funds this year for eight wind farms it has built with an investment of $1.87 billion, the company said.

The board of adjustment is scheduled to consider the request for the meteorological tower at its Nov. 5 meeting.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com