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'Wow!' Hastert says of wind farm

www.pjstar.com

BY Erinn Deshinsky
Of the Journal Star

COMPTON – U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert placed his hands Tuesday on a 285-foot-long windmill blade that will be flying high as part of a new wind farm in Lee and LaSalle counties.

“Wow, these are big,” the Yorkville Republican said as he looked at the turbine equipment during a ground-breaking ceremony for the GSG (God’s Sustaining Gifts) wind farm.

Hastert congratulated Bruce and Joyce Papiech, owners of the $100 million wind farm that should be running by early 2007.

Several state politicians and local government officials joined landowners and friends at the ground breaking for the 80-megawatt project.

“When you start talking about wind, it’s amazing how many politicians you can pull,” joked Hastert, whose speech focused mainly on the benefits of alternative energy and the need for the nation’s independence on foreign oil.

He said the more the United States spends on foreign oil, the more it spends on securing foreign oil fields. This is costly, he said, as oil money given to Iran is turned around to fund Hezbollah and billions spent on oil fields in Chad or other revolutionary countries is wasted when the nations kick out U.S. investors.

Hastert, citing ethanol plants, geothermal technology and wind farm investments in Illinois, said the state is working toward being a large energy contributor for the nation.

“All of a sudden we (could) become the energy capital of the world,” Hastert said. “We need to rely and depend on new energy resources.”

The GSG Wind Farm will be the first wind farm in LaSalle County, with 21 of the 40 turbines located near Mendota.

Officials at Tuesday’s ceremony included LaSalle County Board members Alan Erbrederis, Don Kaminky and Ron Johnson. Erbrederis said it is good for the county, not only because of the new energy source, but also because of the tax revenue available for the county’s schools and other taxing bodies.

Bruce Papiech estimated there would be about $650,000 in tax revenue annually, with about $500,000 going to local schools in Lee and LaSalle counties.

Bob Gates, president-elect of the American Wind Energy Association, commended the Papieches on their dedication to clean energy as well as devotion to helping the local economy.

“This is part of the beginning of a rural renaissance,” Gates said.

“We feel we should be good stewards and use everything that God gave us,” Bruce Papiech said.

Erinn Deshinsky can be reached at 686-3041 or state@pjstar.com.