Library from Illinois
Wind Farm rules gusted back into the McLean County Board room yesterday.
When the board meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday, it will consider approving a policy mandating specific setbacks, turbine heights, decommissioning requirements and wildlife impact studies for future wind projects.
In a letter sent to residents who agreed to lease farmland for wind turbines, Chicago-based Mainstream Renewable Power says a more-restrictive county ordinance approved last year makes it too difficult to move forward with the six-year project.
According to the zoning request, the project includes using existing land and infrastructure and will require expanding into neighboring land parcels to maintain sufficient spacing between turbines.
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 policy is intended to replace a vague ordinance, and “many of the things in our proposed text were imposed by the Zoning Board in previous special use permits," said Anna Ziegler, assistant manager at the McLean County Farm Bureau — which helped draft the rules.
Built in 2009, Minonk Wind Farm did not provide the county with an updated decommissioning report until this year. Last year, the county hired an independent engineering company to create an updated report, which the wind farm initially agreed to pay for. The company later changed its mind and provided a simplified report of its own.
As a result, the lawsuit alleges, the Haleys' farm was "subject to large amounts of debris and soil infiltration, degrading the effectiveness of the soil on much of the 160 acres."
Northeast McLean County is the site of unlikely turf war. In Chenoa, Lawndale, Lexington and Yates townships, two energy companies are vying to secure property that may be McLean County's next wind farm.
In a May 21 letter to the News-Press, NextEra manager Jeremy Ferrell encouraged residents to get the facts about wind energy rather than hearken to “myths and fears.” So, I have some facts to share.
"If our problem was isolated and was natural gas, then we'd be talking about retiring 11 units, not three," Dominguez said in an interview. "It is the combination of gas prices that have lowered wholesale energy prices, and the distortive effect of congestion caused by subsidized generation that overwhelms these areas, particularly in the off-peak hours." According to Exelon, nearly 10 percent of off-peak prices, which its Midwest nuclear fleet is subject to, trade below zero -- a fact that he attributes to the penetration of wind energy.
Senate Bill 2612 will renew the process by which wind energy devices are assessed for property taxes. The bill extends the law that was scheduled to sunset Dec. 31 for 5 years. Demmer said the bill is important for the wind industry and local taxing bodies.
Upgrades to the roads are required before work can be done on the turbines, according to the agreement. Among the work that needs to be done on the roads: strengthening them to allow for heavy loads, widening of lane corners for trucks and installation of of cabling and utility boxes.
Currently, its setback distance for wind turbines is at least 1,200 feet from homes. La Salle County's is the same. In Livingston County, officials are considering raising the setback to 1,600 feet. Some in the county's southern part are looking to increase it to 4,000. At nearly a mile, such a distance might effectively shut out wind farm development.
The plan has already been unanimously approved by the county’s finance and transportation committee. Potential road work is expected to be done despite a standing lawsuit against the county by residents who live near the proposed wind farm location.
For Springfield aldermen opposed to the 10-year-old Sierra Club deal that required the city to buy power from two wind farms, December 2018 can’t come fast enough. By then, both contracts will have expired, at which point City Water, Light and Power estimates it will have spent up to $150 million. So far, the utility has spent about $101 million. ...“There’s definitely a lesson for the future,” he said. “We have to be very, very careful when this contract comes back up. I don’t know how I could vote for it in most any form.”
But Robert Porter, a Rockford-based attorney representing the plaintiffs, repeated much of the initial criticism of the county, saying that notifications were not received before the legally required 15 days, while others say they received a notice with the wrong date of the meeting. Other plaintiffs claim they did not receive any notice at all of the hearing.
The path for the energy legislation is “straight uphill,” Harmon said, especially for issues such as a low carbon portfolio standard or rate redesign, which have the “real or political potential for raising rates on consumers.” In a state in the midst of a budget crisis that would be a tough sell.
A wind turbine at Lakeland College might have too many issues to keep it up and running. The school's president says fixing one of their wind turbines wouldn't be worth it. Monday night, he'll be making his case to the board.
Bullock said the southernmost wind turbine of Lake Land's two 160-foot-tall, 100-kilowatt turbines was damaged by a lightning strike last summer and has not functioned properly since then. He said the administration does not believe that making the nearly $100,000 in repairs estimated for the turbine would be cost effective.