• Last modified 214 days ago (Oct. 25, 2023)


Sunflower Wind wants
to expand

Staff writer

The specter of further development of Orsted’s Sunflower Wind farm in the southern portion of the county already has brought one opponent to talk to county commissioners.

Speaking Monday, Clarke Dirks, 1173 Indigo Rd., said representatives of the Orsted company were contacting landowners with 80 or more acres of property to discuss leases for turbines.

They have spoken to landowners in Menno, Liberty, East Branch, and West Branch townships as far north as 170th Rd., he said.

“I’m working with a group of concerned citizens,” Dirks said. “We’re putting together some information for landowners.”

He told commissioners he wanted information on what happened in the project’s past.

“They’re not approaching the people who are affected the most,” Dirks said, adding that most of the landowners lived elsewhere.

Orsted spokeswoman Stephanie Francoeur confirmed that the company hoped to develop more turbines near Sunflower Wind and was talking to landowners.

Dirks gets up every morning, looks out his window, and sees 30 to 40 blinking red lights, he said.

Francoeur, however, said Sunflower’s turbines had implemented an aircraft detection lighting system installed during construction.

The system uses surveillance radar to track aircraft operating near the wind project. Lights are activated when aircraft enter the area and deactivated when they depart.

The system, she said, “provides nighttime conspicuity on an as-needed basis, reducing the amount of time that obstruction lights are illuminated.”

The official opening of Sunflower Wind was last month. At that time, the company announced it had added $13 million to the local economy by buying equipment, materials, and supplies from local businesses. In addition, it invested $3 million into permanent infrastructure improvements for the county, including public road upgrades, during the project’s development.

Plans for Sunflower Wind were originally developed by a predecessor company, National Renewable Solutions, which called the project Expedition Wind.

A slate of wind farm opponents filed three lawsuits against NRS and Expedition Wind. The suits began in 2019.

Emotions ran so high that at one point an opponent fired a gun toward the ground in front of surveyors working for the wind farm. She later was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault.

Lawsuits came to a halt after NRS sued the opponents for $35 million that property owners lost from delays in issuing production tax credits.

Last modified Oct. 25, 2023