PRINCETON — A representative from Geronimo Energy — the new owner of Walnut Ridge wind farm — spoke about new prospects at Walnut Ridge during the public comment period at the Bureau County Board meeting on Tuesday.
Tom Swierczewski is a former employee of Midwest Wind Energy, who is the former owner of Walnut Ridge. Midwest Wind Energy sold the wind farm to Geronimo Energy in March. When the deal went through, Swierczewski explained he was offered to continue managing the wind farm under Geronimo Energy.
Geronimo Energy, which is based in Edina, Minn., sees a lot of value in Walnut Ridge, according to Swierczewski.
“I know there hasn’t been a lot of activity in public, but there has been a lot of behind the scenes work,” he said, noting they haven’t been in front of the Bureau County Board since 2011, when the wind farm was granted an extension for their conditional use permits. “We are still actively developing the project, and at the end of last year, we extended most of the land leases for another three years. We continue to monitor wind data; we’re doing field work, working bird and bat studies. All of those behind the scenes activities we still continue to do all that.”
Geronimo Energy has “big plans” for Walnut Ridge, which is aggressively being marketed for a power purchase agreement.
“We’re working to get the project construction ready, hopefully for 2015, but if not for 2016,” Swierczewski said.
He reminded board members their help will be needed when the company’s current set of conditional use permits expire in 2014, of which Geronimo Energy has intentions of re-applying.
“We received an extension back in 2011. That was a little bit of a Band-aid approach. This time I think it’s probably better off for everybody if we go all the way back through the process,” he said.
With some landowners not renewing their land lease agreements, it’s rerouted Geronimo to think about expanding the project area and inviting additional landowners to participate.
“We’ve now got different land involved in the project,” Swierczewski said.
Since Walnut Ridge was approved in 2008, the county has adopted new wind turbine zoning regulations.
“This is an opportunity for us to update the turbines that were approved for the project,” he said. “The current permits include the latest and greatest turbine technology in 2008, which are not all that competitive. So our application will include the most competitive modern turbines we can have, so we can ensure the project is competitive ... The whole point is to get this thing built and use the most competitive turbines available.”
Swierczewski ended by expressing his hopes to be talking about Walnut Ridge this time next year with a new set of conditional use permits and begin looking into Spring 2015 with project construction plans.
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