The Stephenson County Planning Commission recommended Monday that the county approve special-use zoning applications for a pair of wind farm projects. The actions followed presentations by the companies hoping to build as many as 113 turbine towers.
Although several concerns were raised Monday – primarily over wind-tower noise, lighting, and distances from residences – county officials appear confident the projects will greatly benefit the area, while not disturbing nearby farms.
“They’ve built these things before,” said Jeff Mikkelsen, chairman of the planning commission. “I think all the bases have been pretty much covered in other developments.”
The applications now go before the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which will hold two public hearings – one scheduled for today. After the zoning board makes its recommendation, the projects go before the full County Board at a special meeting Nov. 30.
The public hearing set for the Navitas farm proposal will be at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Highland Community College. A hearing for the EcoEnergy farm will be at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at Stephenson County Farm Bureau.
Navitas Energy of Minneapolis, and Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group, each applied for a special-use zoning permit in October. Navitas is proposing a farm with 35 wind towers on about 3,800 acres outside Dakota. Officials say the towers will cover less than 30 acres.
The Navitas farm, which will be called Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, 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, officials said. It has a total project size of 70 megawatts, according to Navitas officials.
Kevin Lindquist, senior project developer for Navitas, said the proposed towers will be about 256 feet high. Once operational, the farm will be capable of generating enough energy annually to power 21,000 homes.
The wind farm, he said, will also generate revenue for the region – more than $300,000 each year in property taxes, as well as 30 to 60 construction jobs, and three to five permanent jobs. The farm will also be a source of revenue for local businesses and landowners, and will reduce fossil fuel consumption, Lindquist said.
The EcoEnergy farm, which will be known as EcoGrove Wind LLC, will include about 68 towers with a total project size of about 100 megawatts. Officials say the total number of towers will depend on whether the company uses larger generators. If they do, the total number could decrease to about 50. Towers are expected to be about 264 feet tall, and generate enough energy to power 25,000 homes annually. EcoEnergy reported figures similar to Navitas regarding the number of jobs created by the project.
EcoGrove’s site is northwest of Lena, bordered on the west by the Stephenson County and Jo Daviess County border, on the east by Christian Hollow Road, on the north by Blair Road; and on the south by Coomber Road, officials said. EcoGrove could be expanded in the future.
After each presentation Monday, representatives from the two firms answered questions from commission members and from the public.
In the case of Navitas, its towers will be more than 500 feet away from residences, and in some cases, up to 1,000 feet away. EcoEnergy’s towers will be at least 800 feet away from residences. Lindquist said the towers are far enough away from residences not to cause problems with noise.
“I thought the questions were very good,” said Shawn Gaffney, EcoEnergy’s president. “I’ve thought from the very beginning that the county has been very well-prepared for this process.”
Navitas officials would like to begin construction on their farm in 2007. Once it begins, construction will take about nine months to complete. EcoEnergy officials did not have a firm time frame for their project.
By Travis Morse
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