GALESBURG — A California renewable energy company is aspiring to create Knox County’s first wind farm.
Oakland-based Orion Renewable Energy Group plans to bring the farm to the land north of Galesburg but south of the Henry County line. The project would include a maximum of 100 to 150 wind towers generating up to 300 megawatts of power. Construction would start in 2021 at the earliest, if the Knox County Board approves necessary permits for the project without delays.
Michael Cressner, project development manager for Orion, said the project will generate millions of dollars in property tax revenues for Knox County over its lifetime. While the exact amount is yet to be determined, Orion’s Camp Grove Wind Farm project in Stark and Marshall counties generated more than $10 million in property taxes and $10 million in payments to local landowners, according to Orion’s website. Camp Grove Wind Farm operates at half the megawatts projected for the Knox County project.
Orion will also invest an estimated $300 million to $400 million in the county to create the project.
“At this point we have several thousand acres under agreement (with) multiple landowners,” Cressner said.
Orion representatives started asking landowners if they would be interested in the project in the summer of 2017. The company already was familiar with Knox from when it constructed Camp Grove Wind Farm in 2007. The company has also established a wind farm in Kankakee and Iroquois counties.
Cressner said the interest of Knox County residents in renewable energy made it a good place to develop a project, but the county also “ranks pretty highly” in terms of its wind resource.
“We think (the county’s) wind resource fits the bill in terms of being able to provide a very economical source of electricity,” Cressner said.
The company plans to gauge the precise wind resource by installing two temporary meteorological towers in the county this summer. One tower will be located in Henderson Township and the other will be in Ontario Township. Orion is seeking two conditional use permits for the towers, which will come before the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting on Wednesday, July 11.
“Orion is very excited to be working in Knox County,” Cressner said.
Ken Springer, president of the Knox County Area Partnership for Economic Development, said KCAPED supports the development of renewable energy in the county.
“Illinois will be seeing billions of dollars in renewable energy investment over the next decade and we want to make sure that Knox County claims our share of this investment,” Springer said. “Renewable energy projects bring huge fiscal benefits to communities in the form of long-term property tax revenues. Those revenues in turn support public services like police, fire protection, roadway maintenance and schools.”