By Michael Vickerman
September 30, 2010
On September 23, Alex DePillis and I hopped on board a tour bus filled with natural resource professionals and gave an overview of wind development in Wisconsin as we headed to the 54 MW Butler Ridge Wind Facility. The project is located in the Town of Herman in southeast Dodge County, a few miles west of State Highway 175. Most of the project’s 36 turbines are located south of State Highway 33.
The project was developed by Midwest Wind, which also developed the Cedar Ridge project owned by Alliant Energy. The project was sold to Babcock & Brown’s U.S. division, which then constructed the facility. The general contractor for that project was RES Americas. Butler Ridge was placed in commercial operation in March 2009. Right now, it is the newest utility-scale wind project in Wisconsin, but that distinction will only late this year, when Shirley Wind comes on-line.
In December 2009, NextEra Energy (formerly FPL Energy) bought Butler Ridge from Babcock and Brown. NextEra is also the owner of the Montfort project in Iowa County.
It turned out to be an excellent day to see wind generation in action. Thanks to a strengthening low pressure system to the west, there was a steady southerly air flow sweeping over southern Wisconsin that morning. Every flag we saw that morning was stiff as could be and pointing due north. Wind speeds at hub height ranged between 20 and 25 mph. The GE turbines were producing at about 75% of their rated capacity.
We stopped at Butler Ridge’s operations and maintenance center on Illinois Road. From the vantage point of the facility, we could see wind turbines in every direction. The closest turbine, at about 1,100 feet away, was audible but barely so.
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