Proposed wind farm in Elm Springs raises questions, concerns

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 393 views 

A town hall meeting slated for 6:30 p.m. on March 31 in Elm Springs aims to answer questions and concerns regarding a proposed wind farm just outside of Springdale. If built, it would be the first large wind energy project in Arkansas.

Elm Springs Mayor Harold Douthit has a few questions about a proposed 80-megawatt wind farm planned for development in unincorporated Washington County, about a mile west of this small city in Northwest Arkansas. That’s why the city administration has called meeting.

“The CEO of Dragonfly Industries International will be here to answer the concerns of folks around the site,” Douthit said. Some residents have said they are concerned about the project being harmful and unsafe.

Dragonfly officials told The City Wire they aren’t prepared to discuss specifics of the project until they complete preparations for the town meeting. The company is wanting Elm Springs to annex the 311 acres west of town for the wind farm. Published estimates are the project will cost about $100 million to develop. Dragonfly has not said how many jobs might be created in the construction and operation of the wind farm or the overall economic impact of the project.

“This is cutting edge technology, clean air, environmentally friendly,” Douthit said, “It’s what the green movement is all about.”

If developed as planned, it could be the first wind farm in Arkansas.

A spokesman at Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corp. in Fayetteville said the electricity generated by 80 megawatts could power about 20,000 homes, “if all conditions were right.” The land where the farm would be built is in the Ozarks service area.

But others have said it is likely Dragonfly would sell the electricity generated from the wind farm to American Electric Power, the parent company of SWEPCO, which has a distribution plant about a mile away as “the crow flies” in neighboring Tontitown, Douthit said.

Another option could be a partnership with Clean Line Energy Partners, a Houston-based company seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a 3,500-megawatt, direct current line that would transmit power generated on wind farms in western Oklahoma through Arkansas to Tennessee. This line would furnish electricity to the Tennessee Valley Authority for distribution in southern and southeastern states.

Opposition to the proposed wind farm has been organized around a Facebook page, named “Stop the Elm Springs Wind Farm.” The main opponent is Jonathon Hamby. Douthit said he is concerned opposition is coming from outside the Elm Springs community because there are only about a dozen residents who live around the property where the farm would be built.

If the property is annexed into the city, the benefits would include police and fire protection and a lower tax base but the company would still have to get the proper approvals from federal and state agencies. Dragonfly has not made an official request to the city for annexation of the property.

“The city’s voice is moot in the issue now,” Douthit said.

Douthit said the planned site is on a hill and according to what he has been told by Dragonfly officials, the site would be surrounded by a 25-foot berm with trees planted on top of the earth barrier.

Douthit said he has learned that the turbine itself looks like a jet engine without the visible blade of the traditional windmill-style turbine. A computer atop a 100-foot pole the turbine is on controls each turbine remotely. The computer can move the turbine to pick up the wind flow. As the wind passes through the enclosed turbine, it picks up speed. Each pole is designed to hold two turbines.

“It doesn’t make the ‘whoosh whoosh’ noise that the propellers make,” he said.

His information comes from a meeting he and other city officials had with Dragonfly in December. He said he also looked at the company’s website.

“It appears to me there will be a wind farm. The question is whether it will be in Elm Springs or Washington County,” Douthit said.