Drawing a large and attentive crowd, the Stephenson County Zoning Board of Appeals heard testimony Monday on the proposed EcoGrove Wind LLC wind farm project slated for a site northwest of Lena.
The special public hearing was held to consider a special-use zoning application from Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group, which is proposing the EcoGrove farm.
A formal decision had not been made as of press time.
EcoEnergy is one of two firms proposing power-generating wind farms for Stephenson County. The other is Navitas Energy of Minneapolis. The Navitas application was denied by the zoning board during a public hearing last week. However, the full County
Board will have the final say on both projects at a special meeting scheduled for Nov. 30.
On Monday, Rick Porter, an attorney representing about 27 landowners, made a motion seeking “automatic disapproval” of EcoEnergy’s application. He argued the application did not meet the requirements of county zoning ordinances because, among other things, it does not include a “full and complete” legal description of the project.
“The application isn’t sufficient,” Porter said.
After hearing arguments from Porter and Dan Fishburn, an attorney representing EcoGrove Wind LLC, the zoning board voted down Porter’s request. Porter also made a motion to continue Monday’s hearing, an appeal that was also rejected by the board.
Fishburn said the project would bring many benefits to the area, including new jobs, property-tax revenue; and help the area position itself as an alternative energy leader.
“Stephenson County is at a crossroads and has an opportunity,” Fishburn said. “The opportunity is presenting itself now.”
Shawn Gaffney, president of EcoEnergy, gave detailed testimony surrounding the proposed project, providing information on various wind farm studies. The EcoGrove farm will include more than 60 towers with a total project size of about 100 megawatts. Officials say the number of towers will depend on whether the company uses larger generators. If they do choose bigger units, the total could decrease to about 50. Towers are expected to be about 264 feet tall, and generate enough energy to power 25,000 homes annually.
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, company officials said. Pending approval by the County Board, it is not yet clear when construction would take place at the EcoGrove site.
By Travis Morse
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