CRESTON — The irony of wind farm construction: Obviously, you want your wind farm location to be windy; however, you can’t erect a turbine with high winds blowing.
Not that Bluestem Energy Solutions project manager Adam Herink seemed worried. Herink said the biggest lag in construction was waiting for all necessary equipment, which has now arrived — towers from Michigan, nacelles (which connect the rotor and blades to the tower) from Florida and blades from Texas.
The project consists of four turbines, each able to generate 1.7 megawatts of electricity.
Herink is quick to point out the benefits of the project for the community. Bluestem, and Omaha-based company, will pay property taxes on the lot, they’ve hired some local residents for the construction project, and the wind farm’s energy will be sold to Loup Public Power District for local consumption, as opposed to wind farms that sell energy across state lines. Herink believes this model — smaller sites, fewer turbines and locally consumed energy — will become more prevalent.
“As the technology gets better and better, it’ll allow local groups to generate their own energy,” Herink said.
But Creston Ridge’s neighbors have mixed feelings on the project.
The most outspoken opponent is Paul Gronenthal, owner of Country Butcher south of Creston. The wind farm is practically in Gronenthal’s backyard, with a cornfield the size of two city blocks between the turbines and his newly constructed house. He’s concerned about property values.
“They’re going to be an eyesore,” Gronenthal said. “And with the lights flashing and the turbines whining, who’s going to want to move out here?”
Most of the site’s neighbors, who asked not to be named, are on the fence, waiting until construction is complete before deciding how they feel about it. Their concerns are the same as Gronenthal’s — whether there will be light and noise pollution and interference with phone, radio and television signals.
Gronenthal also is upset that the property owner, who could not be reached for comment for this story, did not disclose the plans for the site before construction began.
The project was openly discussed at Loup Public Power District’s board meetings. But neighbors said they wished the parties involved had contacted them directly regarding the project and addressed their questions and concerns.
LPPD President and CEO Neal Suess said at a board meeting Tuesday that Bluestem was interested in adding three more turbines to the site, pending board approval. The board said it's interested in seeing a proposal, which Herink said could possibly be submitted by the end of the year.
Herink estimated the turbines could be raised by the second week of November, and the farm should be fully operational and the construction crews cleared out the second week of December.