Plans for a local wind farm have doubled in size to a goal of 532 turbines, which would be one of the largest land-based wind farms in the world if it is completed.
Chicago-based Invenergy said it now seeks to place 266 wind turbines each in Knox and Henry counties. The alternative energy venture, called Bishop Hill Wind Energy Center, would be complete in three to five years, generating 800 megawatts of electricity, said Joel Link, director of business development for Invenergy.
The project would be completed in phases, likely 66 to 100 turbines per year. Over time, the potential investment could be up to $1.6 billion, he said. Construction is to begin this year in Henry County. The Knox County side of the project is a year behind Henry County.
“It’s been one of the best projects for us in terms of local community, township official and landowner support,” said Link, whose 6-year-old company has wind farms in several states and in Poland. “If we don’t have a good partnership with the landowners, we don’t have a good project.”
Invenergy is one of three groups publicly talking about developing up to 650 wind turbines in a 30-mile radius of Galesburg. The projects in all are valued at just under $2 billion.
Wind farm developers are asking to lease local land to build wind turbines. The industry is paying between $4,000 and $8,000 per turbine annually to landowners, Link said. A wind turbine is a tower with a three-bladed assembly that reaches as high as 40 stories and captures the wind’s energy to create electricity. Some of the electricity would be used to power local homes, schools and businesses. Companies hope that much of it will be sold to utilities, such as Ameren and Commonwealth Edison, and would be sent through power lines to urban areas, such as Chicago.
Open land, adequate wind and a transmission infrastructure are attracting projects in this area of the state, while the wind industry’s growth is largely fueled by a federal tax credit, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
The Alexis Wind Farm Projects looks to put 100 turbines in the Alexis area. The Abingdon Wind Farm Project would like to put up to 15 turbines primarily in Knox County.
The third local project, led by Invenergy, first was proposed in early 2006 as a 266-turbine, 400-megawatt wind farm in Henry and Knox counties. The availability of land and willingness of landowners are the primary reasons the company is expanding its plans. Link added that Invenergy has enough space in the transmission lines to be larger.
Link declined to give locations or overall acreage of the Knox County project because of competitive reasons. He said the Henry County zoning office has a map of boundaries for that county’s side of the project, where permitting was complete in October. The turbines will be between Galva and Woodhull. Nothing has been submitted to Knox County’s zoning office yet, said Link, who predicted that permitting will be discussed within six months.
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On the Web:
Bishop Hill Wind Energy Center
Who: Invenergy, Chicago
Size: 532 turbines, 800 megawatts
Where: Southern Henry and Northern Knox counties
Cost: $1.6 billion
Status: The company is finalizing turbine locations, which then have to be studied to determine any environmental issues. The Henry County side of the project, known as “Bishop Hill 1” is a year ahead of the Knox County side, known as “Bishop Hill 2.” Invenergy plans to start construction in Henry County this year with the entire project taking three to five years to complete. Invenergy will be establishing an office in northern Knox County within the next couple weeks.
Alexis Wind Farm Project
Who: BP Alternative Energy (company bought Greenlight Energy, which started the project)
Where: Near Alexis, including Knox, Warren and Mercer counties
Size: 100 turbines
Cost: About $240 million (as of May 2006)
Status: The project is under way even with BP Alternative Energy’s buyout of Greenlight Energy, spokeswoman Sarah Howell said. The company is not giving other details until it is further into the process. As of May 2006, the company had secured more than 10,000 acres with 30 landowners and was talking to utility companies who will buy the power.
Abingdon Wind Farm Project
Who: School districts of Abingdon, Knoxville, ROWVA, Galesburg and Farmington; Carl Sandburg College, and the municipality of Abingdon
Size: 6 to 12 turbines, 12 to 15 megawatts
Where: Most turbines in Knox County, possibly some in Peoria County
Cost: Difficult to determine, earlier estimated at $20 to $30 million
Status: Phil Willis, science instructor at Abingdon High School, said the project is in waiting mode. The feasibility study showed this is a viable project, but they are watching legislation and whether power companies are regulated or deregulated. If deregulated, the project is more easily justified to the districts, who would like to produce their own electricity. “We’re still optimistic about it,” he said.
By Joanie Stiers
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