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Wind farm generates pros and cons

TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kansas, has plans to build a wind farm near Marshall. According to company officials, the Star Mountain Wind Project will provide a cheap, clean source of electricity for thousands of homes and provide a much-needed economic shot in the arm for Searcy County. ...Joe McShane, who lives on Little Red River Road about a mile from both assessment towers, is not one of the gung-ho residents when it comes to the wind farms.

MARSHALL - The wind that has swept the timeless hills of Searcy County for centuries might finally be put to work.

TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kansas, has plans to build a wind farm near Marshall. According to company officials, the Star Mountain Wind Project will provide a cheap, clean source of electricity for thousands of homes and provide a much-needed economic shot in the arm for Searcy County.

"We've had overwhelming positive support," TradeWind Energy development manager Aaron Weigel said of the reaction from local residents. "A high percentage of the people are excited about it and are gung-ho."

According to Weigel, the proposed wind farm will consist of 100 1.5 megawatt towers each of which will stand 260 feet tall. The towers, at the tops of which will be wind turbines, will be located on about 15,000 acres southwest of Marshall along Little Red River Road and Little Oak Hill Road.

Weigel was quick to point out that the project was not a done deal. Although TradeWind Energy has committed to leasing land and doing engineering work, he said, the wind farm won't be built until it is certain that the resulting electricity can be sold. Presently, the electricity... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

MARSHALL - The wind that has swept the timeless hills of Searcy County for centuries might finally be put to work.

TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kansas, has plans to build a wind farm near Marshall. According to company officials, the Star Mountain Wind Project will provide a cheap, clean source of electricity for thousands of homes and provide a much-needed economic shot in the arm for Searcy County.

"We've had overwhelming positive support," TradeWind Energy development manager Aaron Weigel said of the reaction from local residents. "A high percentage of the people are excited about it and are gung-ho."

According to Weigel, the proposed wind farm will consist of 100 1.5 megawatt towers each of which will stand 260 feet tall. The towers, at the tops of which will be wind turbines, will be located on about 15,000 acres southwest of Marshall along Little Red River Road and Little Oak Hill Road.

Weigel was quick to point out that the project was not a done deal. Although TradeWind Energy has committed to leasing land and doing engineering work, he said, the wind farm won't be built until it is certain that the resulting electricity can be sold. Presently, the electricity is being marketed to local and regional utility companies.

"So, definite? No. Hopeful? Yes," Weigel said of the wind farm.

In 2008, TradeWind Energy erected three assessment towers in the area to gather data about the wind conditions. According to the firm's Web site, construction on the wind farm could begin by the fourth quarter of 2012.

Weigel said the company does a lot of wind "prospecting" throughout the Midwest. In explaining the decision to build in Searcy County, he said they looked for an area of low population density and good wind conditions.

"We feel it's a unique area and it has good wind resources," Weigel said.

Joe McShane, who lives on Little Red River Road about a mile from both assessment towers, is not one of the gung-ho residents when it comes to the wind farms. He was one of a group of people who attended the Monday, April 12, Searcy County Quorum Court meeting to voice his concerns over the project.

"I think we got a pretty good reaction," McShane said of the quorum court meeting.

He went on to say that his group would like to set up a meeting with TradeWind Energy to learn more about the project.

McShane had several concerns.

First of all, there was the issue of wells and springs. The water table in the area was very close to the tops of the mountains, he said. Some hand-dug wells are only 25 feet deep. The foundations for the wind turbines would have to be 6 to 30 feet deep.

McShane was also concerned about the effect of the wind turbines on wildlife. Migratory birds and bats were very susceptible to the rapidly spinning blades, which he said could attain speeds of 175 to 200 mph. The air currents caused by the blades could cause the bats' lungs to burst, according to McShane.

Weigel said that TradeWind Energy has been working with Arkansas wildlife officials to make sure the turbines are being built in the right way. He insisted that the turbines would not be in the path of migratory birds. He also cited studies that stated for every 10,000 birds killed by human activities, fewer than one death is caused by a wind turbine.

McShane's number one complaint about the wind farm was the noise. He said there was both a low frequency noise and an industrial-like noise that would be hard for people to get used to.

"You can hear them two miles away," McShane said.

There was also the strobe effect, he went on to say, caused when the sun is behind the rotating blade. It can be a really upsetting thing.

McShane said a wind farm was built next to the property of his sister's in-laws, who live in Germany. Because of the noise and the strobe effect, he reported, they didn't want to go outside.

TradeWind Energy's Web site says that modern wind farms, at a distance of 750 to 1,000 feet, are no noisier than a kitchen refrigerator. It did acknowledge, however, that an exception would be when a turbine is located in some types of hilly terrain. For people living in sheltered dips and hollows downwind from the turbine, the sounds may carry further and be more audible.

McShane said that wind power companies get 25 percent more in subsidies than companies of other types of energy. There is a lot of emphasis today on going "green," but he wasn't sure how much a wind farm would help the environment.

"For politicians, it's green tokenism to a lot of people," McShane said.

Searcy County judge Johnny Hinchey came out neither for nor against the wind farm. He said he has been studying about TradeWind Energy and its proposal. He, too, would like to meet with company officials and possibly have them give a presentation to the quorum court.

Hinchey said that the private land being leased for the wind farm was not his jurisdiction. He was mindful of the fact that Searcy County was one of the poorest counties in the state.

"I'm not going to tell some poor, old farmer who's struggled all his life that he can't put a wind farm on his land," Hinchey said.


Source: http://harrisondailytimes.c...

APR 20 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/25783-wind-farm-generates-pros-and-cons
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