CLINTON — The developers of a proposed wind farm near Clinton plan to submit a formal proposal to DeWitt County in the late spring, but members of a group opposing the project are already airing their concerns.
Officials with Trade Winds Energy of Lenexa, Kan., have been meeting with DeWitt County leaders over the past several months and have opened an office in downtown Clinton in the former Magill Hotel.
Tom Swierczewski, a Trade Winds development director, said that if the county grants a special-use permit, construction could start in 2019 and the project could go online in 2020.
“We have been very active in the last nine months with leasing land and finalizing our project footprint,” he said.
Trade Winds said on its website the project, centered about 5 miles northwest of Clinton, would stretch across about 24,000 acres and involve about 200 individual landowners. The company said the project could power about 60,000 homes and yield an estimated $3 million per year in new property taxes.
But several DeWitt County residents are launching a campaign to stop the project before it even gets started.
Andrea Rhoades of rural Kenney said she is concerned about the potential property value loss for homes near turbines, the noise and shadow flicker from turbine blades, the decommissioning process for when the turbines are no longer operational, the impact on wildlife and the industrial feel that the machines bring to a rural setting.
“A lot has been learned through the experiences of counties who have lived with wind turbines and the policies that have been put in place that help protect the safety, well-being and quality of life of their residences,” she said.
Waynesville resident Ken Shaffer appeared before the county’s land use committee in December to request the county to revisit the current zoning ordinances for wind farms. Shaffer said the county should require shadow flicker studies, mandate setbacks from structures at a distance of six times the structure height and reduce the tower height limit.
But that doesn’t go far enough, Rhoades said, who lives directly south of the heart of the proposed wind farm.
“We just built our dream home and had no idea that this wind farm project had been proposed,” she said. “We may have reconsidered had we known ahead of time.”
Swierczewski said he understands that residents have concerns and encourages anyone with questions to visit him at the Clinton office.
“One of our real focal points is community involvement,” he said.
“Northern DeWitt County is a great location for a wind farm, one of the best I’ve seen in Illinois. It is windy and relatively flat with few water features, trees or other natural areas that would affect wildlife.”
He said that the rural setting also is ideal for a wind farm, and transmission lines running north and east are available to generate electricity to Chicago and eastern locations.
Still, Rhoades said there are many more negatives than positives for DeWitt County and vows to fight the proposed project. She started a Facebook group that already has more than 1,000 members, most of whom oppose the wind farm.
“This project has been in the works for quite a while, yet most DeWitt County residents, even those that live close to the footprint of the project, are unaware,” she said.