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First Wis. community wind farm up and spinning in Cashton

La Crosse Tribune

CASHTON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s first community wind project is now up and running in Cashton.

A joint project of Organic Valley and Gundersen Lutheran’s Envision program, the Cashton Greens Wind Farm features two wind turbines expected to generate nearly 5 megawatts of energy for Cashton’s power grid — enough to power 1,000 homes each year.

The energy produced with the $10.5 million project will more than offset electricity used at Organic Valley’s Cashton Distribution Center and its La Farge headquarters facilities, and it represents about 5 percent of Gundersen’s energy independence goal.

As developers and owners of the wind farm, Organic Valley and Gundersen will receive income per kilowatt hour generated. Organic Valley will buy back its portion of energy to offset its footprint through a renewable energy contract with the villages of Cashton and La Farge.

The renewable energy project ties to the hospital’s goal of improving health in local communities while lowering the cost of health care, said Jeff Rich, executive director of the hospital’s Envision program.

“I plan to be a more effective, less costly health system because of projects like this,” Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, Gundersen Lutheran CEO, told the La Crosse Tribune.

The two organizations held a grand opening July 18 for the project, which is next to Organic Valley’s distribution center off Hwy. 27 in Cashton.

It’s the first project of its kind in the state, said RENEW Wisconsin executive director Michael Vickerman.

Typically, similar wind projects are created by utility companies or an independent power provider.

“It shows that now other people can do it,” said Cecil Wright, Organic Valley’s director of local operations and sustainability. “It doesn’t need to be scary. It helps put a good pressure on utility (companies) to review renewable energy independence and develop their renewable energy portfolios.”

Thirty percent of the project cost will come from the U.S. Department of Energy and another 2.5 percent will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Focus on Energy grant. The rest was funded by the two partners.

The turbines, each standing 485 feet tall and weighing 2,000 tons, started operating June 1.

“It just brings awareness to the climate,” said George Siemon, Organic Valley CEO.

“It’s mind-blowing to see how much energy is developed here out of thin air,” he said.

Information from: La Crosse Tribune,

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