Eau Claire County Wind Farm Fact Sheet
The fourth-largest renewable energy company in the world, RWE Renewables acquired E.ON Climate & Renewables’ North American operations in October, 2019. The company has built and operates 27 wind farms across the United States, including four here in the Midwest, keeping more than 2,600 turbines running to generate low-cost, homegrown electricity. RWE has a strong presence in the Midwest, with its North American headquarters based in Chicago and investments of more than $1 billion throughout the region. RWE began working with Eau Claire County in 2019 to explore bringing the benefits of wind energy to the area, and found strong support from local landowners and others. An owner-operator for nearly all of its projects, RWE has developed a reputation for being a committed, engaged, and honest community partner. A preliminary study of critical issues such as wildlife habitat and wetlands among others has been completed with no major issues discovered.
- 2019: RWE has been developing the Eau Claire County wind energy project.
- 2021: RWE expects to have enough land under lease to pursue developing the project.
- 2022: Initial turbine layout and placements are expected.
- Spring 2023: Construction can begin.
- End of 2023: Project becomes fully operational with an expected operational life of 30 years.
- The development site is primarily agricultural, consisting primarily of corn and soybeans with some diary pastures in the area.
- Turbines and the access road that leads to them typically only occupy less than a ½ an acre, each.
- The project site encompasses approximately 20,000 acres.
- 200 megawatts of clean, inexpensive, homegrown energy from 40 to 70 turbines – enough to power approximately 60,000 Wisconsin homes every year.
- Proposed completion in 2023 with an anticipated operational life of 30 years.
Estimated economic boost for the community (Figures based on currently proposed size of project):
- RWE overall investment of over $200 million in the local community.
- Over 150 construction jobs during the 6-12 month construction phase of the project. RWE expects to employ local labor whenever possible to further benefit the community.
- 8-12 permanent, full-time jobs created for the entirety of the operational life (30 years).
- At least $26 million in additional revenues provided to local government, schools, and public safety departments over approximately 30 years.
- More than $1 million in stable, yearly easement payments to Eau Claire family farmers and landowners over 30 years, all while using just 1% of their land. Much of this money would be spent locally, generating further economic activity in the community. It will also provide reliable income and much-needed stability for family farmers in the area.
- Many miles of local roads will be upgraded to meet the logistical needs for construction and operation of the wind farm AT NO COST TO TAXPAYERS.
Example of benefits Indiana’s Tipton County received from Wildcat Wind Farm:
- RWE’s Wildcat project was completed in 2012 in Tipton and Madison Counties. Its 125 GE 1.6 megawatt turbines produce 200 MW of power and have generated millions in revenue and landowner payments for the area, helping to sustain and boost the local economy.
- Tipton County has received more than $3.3 million from the wind farm since 2012. It will receive $560,000 in just 2019.
- The wind farm has a long-term, stabilizing influence on revenues that support the county budget.
- Property taxes are lower for EVERY property owner.
- RWE upgraded over 40 miles of roads at no cost to the county, which won’t need much maintenance or repair for many years – saving the county even more expense.
- Farmers can use the access roads to stage their equipment for planting and harvesting; a much safer and cleaner alternative to parking along the road.
- Over 500 landowners with turbines and leases are receiving taxable, steady income for 30 years.
* (Information provided by Tipton County Assessor Gregg Townsend.)
Key facts about Wisconsin energy:
- Coal is the leading fuel used for electricity generation in Wisconsin. In 2018, coal-fired power plants provided 49% of the state’s net generation.
- In 2018, 9% of Wisconsin’s utility-scale net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources, including hydroelectric power, wind, biomass, and solar.
- Eau Claire city council “…adopted carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy goals in 2018. These 2050 goals cover the city and municipality. While climate change is a pressing risk that affects livelihoods, property and infrastructure, it is also a great opportunity. Greater investments in clean energy, for example, are transforming the marketplace and reducing air and water pollution.” https://www.eauclairewi.gov/government/our-divisions/renewable-energy-action-plan
HOW RWE IS ADDRESSING:
|Insufficient setback distance||
RWE goes above and beyond in locating (siting) turbines in a responsible manner. We’ve committed to siting turbines no closer than 1,500 feet from all residences, both participating and non-participating. We also recognize that some landowners are very interested in hosting turbines. We will be flexible and work cooperatively with each participating landowner to address potential changes to the distance on a case by case basis.
|Turbine Sound||Wind turbines, like any modern machinery, do create some sound from the rotation of the blades and from the generator and internal components themselves. However, thanks in large part to efficiencies in aerodynamics and engineering design, the sound produced by today’s advanced, state-of-the-art turbines is a fraction compared to that of older turbines. Nearly all complaints about noise come from these older models. We encourage everybody to come visit one of our operating wind farms and listen for yourself! You will be amazed how quiet the turbines are.|
Wind turbines are tall structures with moving parts and as such will cast a shadow. We understand this and locate turbines far from residences and hubs of activity to ensure that there is minimal shadow flicker. In fact, we complete a thorough analysis and modeling of potential shadow flicker, incorporating turbine and residence locations as well as local weather conditions. As it’s not always bright and sunny in central Wisconsin throughout the year, we aim to create a realistic expectation of when and how much shadow flicker will occur so that we can limit it to just a few minutes a day (at most) during particular times and weather conditions.
|Impact on property values||
There is no peer-reviewed evidence that wind turbines lower property values in communities where wind farms exist. In fact, many communities actually see property values around wind farms go up – which makes sense considering the significant guaranteed income associated with the property and the additional millions of dollars in tax revenue those communities have as a result of the wind farm.
|Medical access helicopter and other airspace use||
There are hundreds of wind farms operating around the country. Amongst all these projects, wind turbines and various airspace uses, including medial access helicopters, can and do coexist safely. We have very productive and transparent relationships with (aerial) EMS personnel to ensure continued service coverage for the project areas. Additionally, landowners can continue aerial spraying on their land in the wind farm.
|Decommissioning concerns||RWE is responsible for the safe and successful decommissioning of all of our operating wind farms. We understand that some people would like to have assurances that the wind farm can be decommissioned regardless of what happens in 30 years. To address this we have committed to setting aside financial resources – whether that be bonds, letters of credit, or similar instruments – to ensure decommissioning can happen. In addition, each turbine will have a substantial salvage value from the reusable steel in the tower and the sophisticated electrical and mechanical materials in the nacelle (the housing unit at the top of the turbine).|
|Stray voltage||Stray voltage refers to small voltage differences that can exist between two surfaces, which can induce a small electric current to flow if they’re connected. Most often, this stray voltage is the result of wiring on the farm or homestead that was installed incorrectly or has deteriorated over time without proper maintenance. A wind farm does not contribute to stray voltage for many reasons, chief among them is that the project is designed and constructed according to NEC, NESC, IEC, and IEEE standards and codes to ensure no risk of stray voltage. Additionally, testing before construction and after construction is required by the State of Wisconsin to prove this.|
Key RWE distinctions:
- Owner-operators – Unlike some developers, RWE typically stays deeply involved with each project from the start and for years to come. It identifies a site, works with the community to explain the benefits and address concerns, builds the project, and develops a presence to operate the project for its life (up to 30 years). RWE works hard to become part of the communities that host its projects and frequently supports the community via sponsorships and other activities.
- Good stewards of the land – RWE commits to restoring the land after decommissioning a project.
- Experienced, successful company – RWE has a strong track record and the resources and experience to not only develop and construct renewables sources of energy, but to operate these projects for their entire useful life.
- RWE ranks #8 for new U.S. wind capacity installed in 2018**
- RWE ranks #6 for Cumulative U.S. Wind Power Capacity Ownership Market Share as of 2018**
- RWE’s Roscoe Wind Farm ranks 5th as the largest wind farm project in the U.S., producing 782 megawatts of electricity with 627 turbines as of 2018.
- (From American Wind Energy Association’s 2017 report.)
- AWEA’s 2018 year-end market report. Executive summary: https://www.awea.org/Awea/media/Resources/Publications%20and%20Reports/Market%20Reports/AWEA_AMR2018_ExecutiveSummary.pdf
- RWE Development Manager: Eric Crawford, firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-708-1477.
- RWE Renewables Americas, 353 N. Clark St., 30th Floor, Chicago, IL 60654, 312-923-9463.
“If RWE were to come here today and say they’d like to put another wind turbine on my farm, I would say go for it. They’ve been very easy to work with.”
Greg Merida – Tipton County, Indiana