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Bent Tree shoots for spring finish

Published 9:18am Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Despite heavy rains and flooding in Freeborn County last month, officials with Alliant Energy reported that a significant portion of the Bent Tree Wind Farm construction is complete.

“Obviously, the wet conditions slowed us down,” said Ted Francois, project developer with Alliant Energy. “But by having the roads all in at that point, it was good to see how well our roads operate under those conditions.”

He said that except for some minor cases of roads washing out, most areas held up quite well.

When things were really wet in late September, crews kept busy with equipment maintenance and catching up on other work, Francois said.

He reported that the installation of all transmission lines and all 26 miles of access roads is complete. Construction is nearly finished on the 44-mile underground collector system.

He said he didn’t have an exact figure on the number of turbines erected, but he estimated fewer than half of the 122 turbines being constructed are completely up.

“It’s hard to predict the erection process of turbines, but we’ve made really good progress in past couple weeks,” Francois said.

Francois also said he had received no reports that construction has hindered harvest activities for landowners.

“There may have been minor inconveniences going around the new roads, but nothing was reported,” he said.

He said that activities to restore the landowner property around each turbine has begun.

The first week in October aerial photographs were taken. These will allow Alliant Energy officials to calculate the amount of farm acres affected by construction activities. He said digitizing and processing will take through the end of the year and possibly into January.

After that’s complete, Francois said Alliant Energy and farmers will calculate the farmland acres affected by construction.

“We want to make sure we don’t miss anything,” he said.

He expects settlement payments for crop loss to be made in spring 2011.

“We feel like we’ve been blessed with great landowners of the community in support of project despite challenges with weather and wind, and tornadoes,” said Francois. “It’s been a great experience for our group.”

Francois said the target date for completion is spring 2011. Each turbine will go through a series of tests before it is allowed to generate power.

He added that temporary construction headquarters are in Hartland and urges people with specific questions to stop by the Alliant Energy trailer nearest to Minnesota Highway 13.

When completed, Bent Tree Wind Farm is expected to produce enough energy to power about 50,000 homes.