Wind farm official says they hope to break ground ‘as fast as possible’

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

When looking for a place to set up their wind farm startup, Abundant Energy was blown away by what they saw in Clovis.

The company, which has agreed to start subsidiary Vert-I-Go Energy in Clovis on 6 acres of land south of the city landfill, said the area’s excitement over the project was one of many factors in its decision.

“Ever since we made the first call, we worked with the folks at the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation,” Abundant CEO Kurt Knapton said. “It seemed like they bent over backwards to act on our requests and return our calls.

“What was especially differentiating (on a preliminary trip) was the proactiveness and friendliness of everyone we dealt with.”

A release sent over the weekend said the company would plan to break ground on a wind energy plant and manufacturing facility in the first half of 2010. Knapton said while there are many factors that go into wind farm development, the company is optimistic it can break ground early in the second quarter of the year.

“We’ve accomplished a lot,” he said. “We’re motivated to do it as fast as possible.”

Jim Burns, president of Abundant Energy, based in Plano, Texas, said the company’s turbine is unique to other vertical-axis turbines, which have generators and gearboxes closer to the ground.

The company’s turbines, Burns said, are about 20 feet in height and would be stacked on each other. A complete Vert-I-Go turbine, Burns said, would be 80-100 feet tall, compared to horizontal-axis turbines with 90-foot turbine blades on the top of 300-foot towers.

“Its wings operate like airplane wings,” Burns said, who compared it to ventilation on a roof. “They swing in the breeze.”

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield doesn’t think Vert-I-Go’s will be an isolated foray into the renewable energy market in the Clovis area.

She added the impact of Vert-I-Go will be greater because of the manufacturing component.

“We’re getting it two-fold,” Brumfield said. “I think the manufacturing is really important, because that’s what we’re trying to get in here.”

Knapton said the turbines will be manufactured with a mix of parts fabricated on site and ordered parts.

Company officials said Clovis was chosen for its proximity to the railroad and to the nation’s energy grids, which could be combined through the proposed Tres Amigas project.

“I think Tres Amigas put us on the map as well,” Brumfield said. “If that truly goes through, that’s going to join the grids and open up a new market.

“There have been groups looking, but the problem has been the transmission (of energy).”

Burns said in addition to the initial 6 acres, the company has rights to purchase up to 58 additional acres of land — available in a 34-acre property and a separate 24-acre property.

“We’d like to use not only the space we’ve got,” Burns said, “but move on the optional land within (the two-year deadline).”