ZBA OKs northern McLean County wind farm

BLOOMINGTON — A proposal for McLean County's next wind farm still is on track — but with some minor changes.

The county's Zoning Board of Appeals signed off Tuesday night on a plan from Invenergy, a Chicago-based alternative energy company, to build its McLean County Wind Energy Center in Chenoa, Gridley, Lawndale, Lexington and Money Creek townships, but the ZBA added caveats to protect residents.

The company would need to follow more stringent requirements related to the amount of turbine noise that can reach a residence, making contact information available for resident complaints, locating turbines near streams  and preventing erosion on access roads as conditions of a special-use permit.

"They said they'll lose a turbine because they have to move it 500 feet from the center of a stream, and they may lose a turbine or two with that sound evaluation, but otherwise, I don't think they'll lose any," said Phil Dick, the county's building and zoning director.

The proposal now goes to the McLean County Board, which could consider it during its next meeting 9 a.m. Feb. 20 in room 400 at the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington.

Tuesday's was the eighth ZBA hearing for the development, a $300 million project to include about 100 turbines and related infrastructure.

"The project will power approximately 69,000 homes (with a 250-megawatt capacity)," according to the company's permit application. "The project will likely commence construction in 2018 or 2019 with the goal of being operational in 2019 or 2020."

The project could create 35 long-term jobs and at least $2.3 million in new annual taxes in the county, according to a study by David Loomis, an Illinois State University economics professor who directs its renewable energy center.

Hearings begin Feb. 6 for another wind farm, Houston-based EDP Renewables North America's Bright Stalk Wind Farm, in Chenoa, Lawndale and Yates townships. That farm would generate about 200 megawatts from 58 turbines and could be operational as soon as next year but as late as 2022.

"The project is anticipated to generate approximately $2.5 million in tax revenue in its first full year of operation and approximately $42.7 million in its first 20 years," according to the application. "Up to 300 people may be hired for construction-related work, and an estimated 13 full-time positions will be needed to operate the wind farm."

Last year, county officials added more regulations for future wind development, including specific setbacks, turbine heights, decommissioning requirements and wildlife impact studies, in anticipation of permit applications from one or both companies.

Wind farms currently operating in the county include Twin Groves Wind Farm, a pair of 198-megawatt farms near Ellsworth, and White Oak Energy Center, a 150-megawatt farm near Carlock.


JAN 31 2018
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