By Fred Arnold Telescope Publisher
William Wilkins, project developer for NextEra Energy says you never know what kind of a response you’re going to run into at a public meeting. He said some people come in with no opinion and are just looking around. Some are 100% for what you’re doing and other times? Well, Wilkins says that other times people come in with a less than positive attitude.
“We’re not seeing that here tonight,” he chuckled to the Telescope. “We’ve got a really good group of people who are asking some very good questions.”
On Thursday NextEra held an open house in the community building in Cuba. Nearly 10 landowners and interested people attended. Project officials from NexTera were on hand to answer questions as they related to the proposed High Banks wind farm planned for Republic and Washington counties.
The success or flare of the project, according to the project developer, rests entirely with area landowners. Wilkins said that to date a number of owners have signed off on the project, which is slated to bring 201 600 megawatt turbines to the area landscape.
“So far, so good,” Wilkins said, “We’ve had a good reception as of right now and of course we’re still talking to more people.” The NextEra rep declined to say how many landowners have signed on but did say the energy group was actively involved with 150 landowners at present.
He further declined to say what “the magic number was” as far as being able to move ahead with the project. Wilkins added that NextEra is hoping to get all 201 mills put in place, but the reality is a minimum amount is needed for the project to be financially viable. “We’ll just have to see where all this falls into place,” he said.
The Telescope asked where transmission lines and substations would be placed if the project moved ahead. Again, Wilkins declined to say but said in-bound lines from the Bennington and Irish Creek wind farms would likely come in near the highest concentration of windmills.
“Again, that all depends on the number of mills,” he said. We would have at least one and maybe two fully staffed substations that is centrally located to the greatest concentration of windmills.”
When pressed for a more concrete answer Williams responded, “If you can tell me where the wind blows the most and most consistently I can give you a better idea.” ‘Right now we are doing a lot of studies for that and including environmental and ecological factors,” he said.
“That all has a bearing, we won’t recommend putting in a wind farm in a wetland or someplace that would affect an endangered species, you know.:
The NexTera official said he hopes the positive vibes being generated from local and area residents will continue. In addition to helping meet the need for increased “green power” int he future, economically local residents will see a benefit.
“First and foremost, we would create 12-15 full time good paying jobs.” Wilkins said, “And we want to be a player in your schools, organizations and civic clubs.” Wilkins said fruition of The High Banks wind farm would also add $100,000,000 to the tax base of the county, deliver landowner payments of approximately $115,000,000.
Wilkins said that Thursday’s meeting went well, his job is not done as NextEra had a similar meeting with Washington County residents.
“We’re going to keep talking to people and we are pretty confident we can get this done,” he said.
If all continues to go well the NextEra official said he hoped to have all land contracts signed by 2022 with construction starting sometime next year.