Wind farm’s roads appear

Published 10:25 am Friday, June 11, 2010

The Bent Tree Wind Farm project near Manchester in Freeborn County is on schedule and on budget so far.

About 35 gravel access roads are completed. Though there will be 122 turbines, some will share access roads, and there will be 67 roads total. Work has already begun on pouring the cement pads on the roads that are completed.

“Construction is well on the way,” said Ted Francois, project developer with Alliant Energy.

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On any given day presently, there are about 150 people working at the various sites near Manchester, but in July there will be about 400. The cement plant on County Road 14 has been producing cement and work is just starting on pouring the cement pads at completed access roads. Crews have lofty goals for completing the large project.

“The first turbine will be in production by the end of the year,” Francois said.

Alliant Energy hopes to have all 122 turbines running by the end of March 2011. Landowners will start to see gravel roads being widened towards the end of June, because the trucks hauling the pieces of the turbines need more room to turn on the narrow gravel roads. In early July there will be about 1,000 trucks hauling the pieces of the turbines to each site. Francois said the goal is to get all the pieces to each access road before the Minnesota Department of Transportation starts resurfacing State Highway 13.

Work started early on culvert replacement on Highway 13, instead of July 12 as planned. A portion of the highway has been closed since Monday and will be closed until the week of June 21, weather permitting. The actual resurfacing of the road will start around Aug. 16 and last until early October. Highway 13 will be resurfaced from Interstate 90 to New Richland. Drivers should be aware that there will be single-lane traffic, and they will need to add more travel time to their commute.

“We will have most of the wear and tear on the old road,” Francois said. “MnDOT and the Ulland Bros. have been very helpful working with us in making this have less impact on Highway 13.”

Two substations have to be built before power can get to the grid, and one is well under way. The Bent Tree substation is located on County Road 29 right off Highway 13. All the power from the turbines will go to this substation, and then will be transported on a 161-kilovolt power line to an ITC Midwest substation southeast of Manchester. At the ITC substation the power will join the grid.

The turbines are Vestas V82 and 1.65 megawatts. This wind farm project will amount to 200 megawatts, which can power approximately 50,000 homes. The total weight of each turbine is more than 350,000 pounds. There will be 26 miles of access roads built in the county. Alliant Energy is investing more than $400 million in the first phase of this project, and Freeborn County will get about $1 million in tax dollars each year from this wind farm project. The second phase — another 200 megawatts — has no start date yet as they are waiting for approval from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Anyone with questions about the project is encouraged to call Alliant Energy at (800) 545-3122.

People are welcome to stop at the laydown site in Hartland with questions. There will be someone there during regular business hours to help people with questions and concerns. The Alliant Energy trailer is the one closest to the highway, and there will be security at the site at all times.