Green energy producer looking into wind farm 10 miles east of Huntsville on … – The Huntsville Times

March 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

MADISON COUNTY, Alabama — Three hundred-foot high wind turbines could be producing clean energy in the near future 10 miles east of Huntsville.

An energy company has expressed interest to landowners to
erect turbines along ridge lines of Sharp, Bingham and Bice
mountains. It basically follows the border between Madison and Jackson counties starting a few miles north of Gurley.

Horace Clemmons, a retired high-tech entrepreneur and
Alabama District 8 Senate candidate, said he was contacted by NextEra Energy about putting turbines in his Sharp Mountain property. It’s still in initial stages and has some complex issues to
overcome to make it a reality, he said.

“Just the remoteness of the area and the problems associated
with getting anything to the top of the mountain,” he said. “Only off-road
vehicles like four-wheelers can get there.”

Wind energy providers have proposed wind farms in eight different
Alabama counties recently. A company called Pioneer Green seeks to build eight wind turbines in
Cherokee County, at a new facility called the Shinbone Wind Energy Center.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, is
pending in the Legislature to give the state jurisdiction in governing wind
farms. It awaits a vote in the house of representatives after already being approved by the senate.

Sharp Mountain wind farm (1).jpgView full sizeAverage wind speeds in Alabama at 80 meters above ground. (U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Lab)

Though known for powerful tornadoes, North Alabama hardly
has the same reputation for sustained high winds as do parts of the Midwest and
across the Great Plains. The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable
Energy Laboratory’s Wind Resource Map shows nothing in the state
other than off the gulf coast suitable for wind power. But that is the case
at ground level up to 50 meters. The situation improves dramatically at 80 meters, especially
along mountain ridge lines.

Clemmons said NextEra told him that it’s interested in building turbines
along ridge lines of the mountains that rise 1,600 to 1,700 feet above sea

It was clear NextEra had done its research about the
sustainability of a wind farm on Sharp Mountain, he said, and if the company
has a market for the energy then the plan makes sense.

Clemmons, who made a bargain sale donation of 2,200 acres on Sharp Mountain
next to his home to The Nature Conservancy, has previously shown interest in clean energy. After selling his company, Post
Software International, he built a 6,500-square foot green home in Paint Rock
in 2001. He lived off the electric grid for years by generating his own power
with solar panels and small hydroelectric generator powered by a cave creek.

“Given all the alternatives we have to generate energy,
other than hydro that TVA uses in this area, I believe wind energy would be better
than things like Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and Widows Creek (coal-fired) plant,”
Clemmons said.

“Wind has its drawbacks as it relates to birds and that kind
of thing. To me it seems the least harmful to our environment than anything
other than hydro. I pick it as the lesser of the evils,” he said.

Sharp Mountain wind farm (9).jpgView full sizeAverage wind speeds at 80 meters height across United States. (U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Lab)

Another property owner, Herndon Elliott of Madison, also said NextEra Energy contacted him to inquire about his interest in wind

said NextEra indicated it would begin the project as soon as it can get a critical mass of
landowners to commit their land.

was told that there are two options. One is a fixed fee or $7,000 per year per
turbine; the other is 6 percent of profits per year per turbine,” he said.

contracted representative for NextEra told him the 6-percent option would generate
the most revenue, but could fluctuate significantly, Elliott said.

representative said she couldn’t answer media questions and passed on the
request to NextEra, which is based in Juno Beach, Fla. contacted
the company and was told a media representative would call back. That did not
occur before as of Wednesday.

NextEra Energy reported it was one of the largest generators
of wind-powered electricity in North America in 2011 with 8,569 megawatts of
capacity at 88 facilities in 17 states and three Canadian provinces. That’s enough
emissions-free energy to power more than 2 million homes. NextEra Energy also said in stockholder’s reports that it is
the largest generator of utility-scale solar power in the United States.

NextEra was named No. 1 overall among electric
and gas utilities on Fortune magazine’s 2014 list of the ‘World’s Most Admired
In addition to being
named No. 1 overall in the energy sector, it
also was ranked first for innovation, first for
social responsibility and first for quality of

Also earlier this year,
NextEra was one of 144 companies
worldwide ranked as a  World’s Most Ethical Company by the
Ethisphere Institute
. It was the seventh straight year NextEra received the

Sharp Mountain overlooks a rural valley fed by Hurricane Creek on the Madison County side.

A Killingsworth Cove Road resident, whose back yard looks out over Smith Lake and the west side of Sharp Mountain, said he’s opposed to a wind farm for two reasons: Construction crews can only access the mountain from Killingsworth Cove Road, and he does not want the heavy equipment traffic; and giant turbines would ruin the tranquil view of mountain.

The resident, who declined to give in name, said his family has lived there for more than 40 years, and most of his neighbors chose the location because of its quiet, natural setting.

The location of the possible wind farm could put it at odds
with The Nature Conservancy of Alabama. It manages the 3,000-acre
Sharps-Bingham Mountain Preserve along the Madison-Jackson counties border.
its protection interests are “high concentrations of rare or declining
neotropical migratory breeding birds such as the worm eating warbler, wood
thrush and Kentucky warbler,” its Website shows.

Nature Conservancy staff members at the state office in
Birmingham were expected to be unavailable until Monday.

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