Backers of the first major wind farm proposed in Sangamon County say they would like to start construction next year after sale of the project to one of the nation's largest wind-energy developers.
The project, first announced in 2008, is subject to local zoning approval.
American Wind Energy Management of Springfield announced Monday sale of the Sangamon Wind project -- current plans are for 60 to 70 turbines on approximately 10,000 acres in western Sangamon County -- to Apex Clean Energy, based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Apex has nearly 60 wind-energy developments in a dozen states, according to the company website, apexcleanenergy.com.
The privately owned companies did not disclose the sale price.
"Although we sold the assets, we have agreed to stay on as the boots-on-the-ground developer," said Chris Nickell, site manager for AWEM. "They are the biggest player in the nation right now."
A message left with Apex corporate headquarters was not immediately returned.
Plans are for a 130-megawatt project from turbines of nearly 500 feet in height to the top of the blades. The proposed site, said Nickell, generally is bounded by Interstate 72 on the south, Illinois 97/125 on the north, Farmingdale Road on the east and the Sangamon-Morgan County line on the west. AWEM will take on the same role in development of the Sugar Creek Wind Farm in Logan County that was sold to Apex last spring.
The sale includes land-rights options; wind data; an analysis of the power grid that would carry electricity generated, including possibly to City Water, Light and Power; environmental studies; and data on bird and bat populations in the area.
"Essentially, they're purchasing everything we've done on the project since 2008," said Nickell, who added that the goal is to submit an application to the Sangamon County Department of Zoning in the next few weeks and to begin construction in 2017.
Under rules adopted in 2006 by Sangamon County, wind turbines must be at last a mile-and-a-half from cities of 10,000 or more population and at least a half-mile from communities of fewer than 10,000. There also are minimum requirements for turbine setbacks, as well distance from existing utility lines and roadways. County zoning administrator Trustin Harrison said the wind farm would require the same approvals as any other major development.
"They have to go through the zoning process before getting a permit," said Harrison. "There are certain criteria they have to meet once they file a petition."
Public notices also are required, said Harrison, with final approval is up to the Sangamon County Board.
Sangamon County rules that exceeded state standards were among the reasons original plans for up to 200 turbines on 20,000 acres were scaled back, said Nickell, though he added that improvements in technology now allow the same power generation from fewer towers.
"Ten years ago, this area would have been very marginal, maybe you couldn't have done it," said Nickell. "Because the machines are much more efficient now, and they produce more power at lower wind speeds, the wind speeds in this area of the world are now more developable."
Illinois wind energy
Wind farms in Illinois are concentrated in the central and northern sections of the state. Here are the numbers as of 2015:
* Total projects: 46 with 2,348 turbines; fifth in the nation.
* Generation capacity: 3,842 megawatts.
* Generated 5.53 percent of state's electricity, or the equivalent of 982,000 households.
* Wind-capacity under construction: 184 megawatts.
* Equipment manufacturers: 36.
-- Source: American Wind Energy Association