CLINTON — The next step for a proposed DeWitt County wind farm could begin next month when the Regional Planning Commission hears the company’s first pitch for the project.
Meanwhile, officials with the Alta Farms II project say they hope to work with a local manufacturer to build the planned 68 turbines.
Tom Swierczewski, development director for Tradewind Energy Inc., based in Lenexa, Kan., said the company has a “letter of cooperation” with Trinity Towers/Arcosa Inc., which manufactures wind turbines near Clinton.
“We have been in discussions with them for over a year about the project,” he said.
Swierczewski declined to elaborate on the letter of cooperation, but said Tradewind Energy would like to make a commitment to DeWitt County.
“We intend to use DeWitt County’s locally skilled labor force to assist with this project,” he added.
Previously, Tradewind Energy representatives told county officials turbines of the size called for in the project — each turbine is supposed to have a total height not to exceed 591 feet — are not manufactured at the Clinton plant. In its application for a special-use permit, officials said “towers from manufacturers such as General Electric, Vestas, Acciona/Nordex, Gamesa/Siemens-Gamesa or another suitable brand” would be used for the project.
Opponents of the proposed wind farm say the letter of cooperation doesn’t mean anything.
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“This announcement makes it sound like they have struck a partnership to manufacture the turbines for Alta Farms if the project moves forward,” said Andrea Rhoades, an opponent of the proposed project. “However, I clarified through Tradewind representatives that this letter of cooperation is nothing more than simply a promise to continue discussions.
"Nothing has been decided. We have always held that it would be a slap in the face for a wind project to be built in our county and not be manufactured at our local plant.”
Representatives at the plant declined comment.
More information is coming soon, though. The Regional Planning Commission is expected to discuss the project Jan. 15.
That panel will send a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which also will make a recommendation and forward it to the DeWitt County Board for a final vote.
Swierczewski said company representatives are anxious to take the next step in the process, but Rhoades said she will fight the process the entire way through.
“The RPC will be meeting to discuss whether the special-use permit application is in compliance with all aspects of the county’s comprehensive plan,” she said. “The number one goal in that plan is to celebrate and promote the rural landscape DeWitt County offers. It’s one of the biggest reasons people live and visit here, and I don’t feel an industrial wind turbine project meets that goal.”
The company hopes to begin construction on the $300 million project in the spring and have it online by 2020. It would create 354 jobs during construction and 21 permanent jobs during operation, the company said. It would also add $35 million in property tax revenue over its lifespan.