SEYMOUR, Wis. -- A long-planned wind energy project should finally become a reality next year.
As many as 49 wind turbines will be installed in Seymour Township in 2017. Project leaders say the effort will create around a dozen full-time jobs and support more than 200 temporary construction jobs in southwest Wisconsin.
Josh Bohach, project manager for global renewable energy company EDP Renewables, said the 98-megawatt project likely will involve the installation of nearly 50 2-megawatt towers.
"The most we would be looking at is 49, but there could be a couple different models or sizes we could look at that would change the size of the turbines and, as a result, affect the total number," he said.
Bohach said the turbines will be wholly contained within Seymour Township, stretching northeast from the southwest portion of the township.
Crews will spend the remainder of 2016 completing surveying, engineering and design work, and construction will begin in 2017, Bohach said. He estimated between 250 and 300 service providers and contractors would be needed during the construction process.
"Some of these positions will require out-of-town workers with a certain level of expertise on wind energy projects, but a lot of them will be local contractors and service providers," Bohach said.
Bohach said 10 to 15 full-time positions will be added to monitor and maintain the project once construction is complete.
Jack Sauer, chairman of the Lafayette County Board, is excited about the jobs the project will create.
"It should create a lot of jobs, especially during the period when they are building," Sauer said. "I know there is a lot of interest locally from companies looking to do the excavating work, the cement work that goes into the towers, or building some of the access roadways."
Discussions about this wind energy project have been ongoing for more than a decade, Sauer said. Along the way, some residents and elected officials began to question whether it would ever come to fruition, he said.
"It seems like with some of the bigger projects, you get your hopes up and they take a long time to come together or never get here at all," said Sauer. "I think a lot of people are a little surprised to see it finally coming together now."
Bohach said the lengthy timetable is the result of many factors, including the economic downturn.
"Right in the middle of 2009, the economy went into recession, and for years that really put a damper on wind energy," he said.
Bohach said it also took years to study "interconnection options" and to find a customer for the electricity. He declined to state which entity would be purchasing the power generated on-site.
Wisconsin currently ranks behind both Iowa and Illinois in terms of wind power capacity. But all three states have seen significant investment in wind energy.
The latest report from the American Wind Energy Association showed Iowa now ranks second in the country with 6,212 megawatts of total installed wind power capacity. Only Texas, which boasts nearly 18,000 megawatts, ranks ahead of Iowa.
Illinois ranks fifth in the country with 3,842 megawatts while Wisconsin is 22nd with 648 megawatts.
David Ward, director of public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, said the impact of wind energy is growing at a rapid rate throughout the U.S.
"In 2008, wind energy represented 1 percent of the county's total electricity," Ward said. "Now we are approaching 5 percent, and current projections show it can supply 10 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2030."
The latest, full-year report published by American Wind Energy Association estimates the wind industry generated between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs in Illinois in 2014. In that same year, the industry generated up to 7,000 jobs in Iowa and up to 1,000 jobs in Wisconsin.
"We like to think of wind as a drought-resistant and weather-resistant cash crop," Ward said. "It is something that provides economic benefits year-round -- not just with jobs, but also through capital investment and helping rural economies."