Two companies seeking to develop wind farms within La Salle County could soon begin moving forward with their plans.
This week, representatives of the companies, Chicago-based Invenergy and Portland, Ore.-based PPM Energy, confirmed that they are likely to formally present applications to La Salle County early next year to seek permission to install the first of more than 100 power-generating wind turbines.
“There are still some details that we’re working out,” said Joel Link, Invenergy’s director of business development. “But this is a wonderful site as far as wind speeds and other items key to this project.
“And we’re looking to proceed with submitting our permit applications in February.”
PPM spokeswoman Jan Johnson said her company had also been encouraged by the data it had collected from its meteorological test towers.
“We are continuing to work with landowners to get the agreements we need,” said Johnson. “But we think we will move forward with this, and could do so as soon as this winter.”
For almost three years, Invenergy and PPM have been among several companies studying the landscape and meteorological conditions in La Salle County to determine if the region is right for the construction of wind power generating sites.
Commonly known as wind farms, these developments would result in the erection of wind turbines centered roughly south and east of Grand Ridge and in the southeastern portion of La Salle County.
The Invenergy project, called the Grand Ridge Wind Energy Center, is planned to include 35 to 66 turbines along the ridgeline through Grand Rapids and Brookfield townships.
If completed, the turbines would combine to produce about 50-100 megawatts of power.
A megawatt of electricity is generally considered sufficient to power about 650 homes.
Johnson said PPM is laying plans to develop two wind farms in La SallCounty.
The first project is proposed to string 60 to 100 turbines through Bruce, Farm Ridge and Deer Park townships.
That project is still being studied, said Johnson.
But PPM is planning to move ahead with plans for its Cayuga Ridge project, which will result in a string of wind turbines south of Ransom running through Allen and Otter Creek townships and into northern Livingston County near Odell and Blackstone.
PPM said that project could generate 200 to 600 megawatts, translating into 133-400 turbines.
If completed, the wind farms would mark the first largescale development of wind power generation in La Salle County.
Earlier this year, Bruce and Joyce Papiech, owners of FPC Inc. of Sublette, began work on their wind farm, which would include 82 wind turbines – including 21 in La Salle County – running from Mendota to Lee County.
Other companies have also expressed an interest in potentially developing wind farm sites in the county.
But to date, only Invenergy and PPM appear poised to move their projects from planning to construction.
Link said Invenergy plans to meet with county zoning officials next week to begin answering county questions concerning zoning and land use questions.
“We think that over the next couple of months, we’d want to talk about their expectations for this project,” said Link.
He noted that since La Salle County enacted countywide zoning, the rules governing his company’s project have changed.
But Link said Invenergy is not struggling to obtain agreements with landowners.
Invenergy has secured enough land rent agreements to build 40 to 50 turbines.
“But we’re trying to work out a few more land agreements, so we can make the project slightly larger,” said Link.
PPM is also nearing the stage at which it will submit its permit applications to the county for the Cayuga Ridge project, Johnson said.
And she said her company is also continuing to negotiate with farmers and landowners for land use agreements.
Typically, landowners can expect to receive $5,000 or more per year in royalties for each wind turbine that is erected on their land.
Until the plans are submitted to the county for review, the companies did not disclose precise locations for the individual turbines.
If all goes well, Link said his company could begin work in 2007. Johnson did not indicate when PPM could begin work.
Mike Harsted, director of the La Salle County Environmental Services and Land Use Department, said he has not yet received any applications from any wind farm developers.
But he said he did expect them to come soon.
Harsted also said that, under county zoning rules, the developers will need to apply for a special use permit for each wind turbine they plan to erect.
And those permits will require a public hearing.
“How long those hearings might continue, or how many hearings we’ll have, I don’t know at this point,” said Harsted. “We’ve never been through this before.”
By Jonathan Bilyk
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