With any new wind energy project, residents within the footprint want to know how wind turbines will affect the way they use their land. Particular concerns for landowners include the overall land consumption, the access roads and the collector lines. With community wind development projects, the development company works directly with landowners to ensure the location of the turbine and access road are in a location to both capture the strongest wind speeds and minimize disturbances to land or farming practices.
Each turbine including its access road consumes about ½-1 acre of crop land after construction. This is a surprisingly small amount of actual land consumption given the thousands of acres needed to permit a site and provide setbacks from homes. During construction, about 3-4 acres of land is disturbed for the turbine delivery and assembly. As with any foundation, a wider hole is dug than the foundation itself in order to slope the sides of the hole and to pour the concrete. Once the foundation cures, it is covered with enough topsoil so that most of the excavated area can be farmed. Similarly, large cranes are needed to handle the tower components and to raise the rotor assembly. During construction, they disturb a wider area than the eventual access road, but after construction, the road shoulders are restored to crop land. Typically wind developers provide crop damage payments that account for compaction and other effects of disturbed cropland.
Each turbine needs an access road so that maintenance crews can inspect and service the machine for optimum performance. The roads are typically 16 feet across, engineered to performance standards, and surfaced with gravel. Community wind companies, including Norfolk Wind, will coordinate with the landowner on road placement so that the access road is in a location preferable for farming. For example, the road is often along a property line and the farmer can enjoy the use of the road to unload a combine hopper.
The turbines in a wind project need to be electrically connected in order to deliver power to the grid. A collector line is trenched in about 4-6 feet below ground to provide this electrical connection. At the time of trenching, any drain tile disturbance is flagged. Landowners are offered the opportunity to walk the trench and inspect their tile lines. Either the landowner’s preferred contractor or the construction company’s drain tile specialist can be used for repairs at the expense of the developer. It is easiest to repair the lines while the trench is open, but the developer will also cover the expense if a problem is detected after construction.