Two firms proposing power-generating wind farms for Stephenson County have applied for special-use zoning permits, and public hearings for both projects have been scheduled for next month.
If the two proposals win county approval, as many as 100 wind turbines capable of generating 170 megawatts of clean electricity could soon be added to the local rural landscape. Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county, said it is welcome news for county officials, who have waited for the wind farm projects to come to fruition for at least two years.
County Board Vice Chairman Jim Graham said these wind farm projects – along with the proposed Blackhawk Biofuels biodiesel project, and the Adkins Energy ethanol plant – show the county is becoming an “alternative energy” corridor.
“It’s been a long wait,” Groves said. “I know (the companies) want to get going here.”
Both proposed wind farms are expected to generate significant revenue in fees and property taxes for the county.
Navitas Energy of Minneapolis, and Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group, each applied for a special-use zoning permit with the county earlier this month to establish wind farms. Navitas is proposing a farm with 35 wind towers to be located on about 3,800 acres outside Dakota. Officials say the wind towers will cover a very small percentage of the 3,800 acres.
The Navitas farm, which will be known as Lancaster Farm, will be bordered on the east by Fawver Road, on the south by Town Hall Road, on the west by Illinois 26, and on the north by Cedarville Road, Groves said. It has a total project size of 70 megawatts, said Kevin Lindquist, senior project developer for Navitas.
“We’re viewing it optimistically,” Lindquist said of the project. He added that his company’s Stephenson County project has not yet encountered any major, organized opposition. “There seems to be a good response from the people we’ve worked with.”
The EcoEnergy farm, which will be known as EcoGrove Wind LLC, plans to put up about 68 towers with a total project size of about 100 megawatts. Company officials say the total number of towers will depend on whether they use larger generators on the towers. If they do, the total number of towers will likely decrease to about 50.
EcoGrove will be located northwest of Lena. It will be bordered on the west by the Stephenson and Jo Daviess County Line, on the east by Christian Hollow Road, on the north by Blair Road, and on the south by Coomber Road, Groves said.
Shawn Gaffney, president of EcoEnergy, said his company hopes to expand its proposed wind farm in the future, if the project proves successful and is well received by the community. He said it is positive that such a progressive project is happening in Stephenson County, and that these wind farms may be the beginning of an even larger alternative energy initiative.
“In the years to come, (we’d like to) see energy produced from wind turbines benefit from new technology, new ways to store that energy,” Gaffney said. “Wind turbines are a seed. We’re hoping it will grow into an even bigger thing.”
The two projects have already generated more than $150,000 in application fee revenue for the county, some of which will be used to cover costs related to the initiative, Groves said. The wind farms are also expected to provide benefits such as additional property tax revenue, the possible construction of new roads, and permit fee revenue. Specific details on these benefits were not available.
“It will bring much-needed revenue into our general fund,” Graham said.
A special meeting of the Stephenson County Planning Commission/Planning and Development Committee will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 6 at the county courthouse. The meeting will allow the commission to hear presentations from Navitas and EcoEnergy about their proposed projects, Groves said. The commission will then send its recommendation regarding the special-use permits to the county Zoning Board of Appeals.
A public hearing for the Navitas wind farm will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at Highland Community College in Freeport. A similar hearing for the EcoEnergy farm will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Stephenson County Farm Bureau.
The third company which had expressed an interest in developing wind towers in the county – Horizon Wind Energy of Houston – has not yet applied for zoning, officials say.
By Travis Morse, The Journal-Standard
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