Representatives with a wind energy company were questioned for over an hour Tuesday over a potential wind farm in Jasper and Pulaski counties. Matt Boys with Renewable Energy Systems (RES) discussed the project, during Tuesday’s Pulaski County Advisory Plan Commission meeting.
“I would say about 30 percent of it would be in Pulaski,” he said. “That’s totally dependent on landowner participation and if the rules set forth here, whether they change or remain the same, allow for wind development. So we’re thinking 20 to 30 turbines in this county. That would have a financial impact of about $600,000 every year for 30 years for the county.”
Compared to the existing wind farms in White and Benton counties, Boys said that the new wind turbines would be more than twice as efficient, with longer blades and taller towers. He said that while the company’s FAA permits would allow for turbines up to 660 feet tall, the actual height may be a bit lower, depending on a variety of factors.
Boys said the wind farm is currently about halfway through the development phase, and RES has already spent about three years and over $1 million on it. Now, the company is reaching out to landowners about leasing farmland. Boys said that a significant number of leases have already been signed in Jasper County, but no written commitments have been secured in Pulaski County.
He said that RES typically oversees the construction, development, and engineering of a wind farm and then sells it to a utility company or independent power producer. That sale often takes place before construction actually begins, according to Boys, with RES working on the project as a contractor from that point on.
He said the wind farm would bring several benefits for landowners and local communities. “If you add in the total payments to the county in additional dollars and the landowner payments, between Jasper and Pulaski, over 30 years, this would be about $130 million that would be coming into these communities, and most of that into the pockets of the landowners here,” Boys said. “It’s a pretty great thing.”
Boys also said a number of local contractors would be hired for the construction process, while the wind farm would create eight to 15 full-time jobs. Once it’s done, the wind farm would be able to power up to 180,000 homes.
But whether the project moves ahead at all depends on a few things. Enough adjoining landowners would have to agree to partner with RES to make the project viable. Boys said it also depends on the possible zoning changes that are currently being considered by the plan commission. “As the ordinances they propose now, they would not allow for a wind development,” he said. “At four times tip height at property lines would mean that there’s barely one turbine per 640-acre section, and that just exceeds any reasonable mitigation that you’re trying to have, in terms of noise, shadow flicker.”
Boys spent much of Tuesday’s meeting answering questions from county officials and a packed room of local residents. In a moment of irony, Boys’ presentation on the proposed wind farm was briefly interrupted when the Pulaski County Highway Garage lost power. That caused several of those in attendance to joke that the wind had stopped blowing.