Cindy Lorimor won’t have any of the proposed White Oak Wind Energy Center turbines on her rural Carlock property, but they will surround it.
“There will be two within 1Â½ miles and three within 2 miles,” she said.
The idea doesn’t thrill her. And, she’s not alone. Lorimor is among about 25 people who have joined forces in a grassroots group called Information is Power.
“We’ve contacted experts that lead us to believe this is not a good thing for our community,” she said.
Invenergy believes otherwise.
“Wind speeds are excellent (in the proposed area), the transmission system allows enough capacity and the rural farmers really wanted to participate,” said Joel Link, director of business development for Invenergy.
Sixty property owners have already signed contracts to have one or more of the turbines on their property. They will receive between $5,000 and $8,000 a year rent for each turbine, Link said. Invenergy leases the space for 35 years and the contract goes with the property and future owners.
“By adding a revenue stream, it increases the value of the property,” Link said. “It’s additional income; like having an oil well.”
The Information is Power group believes the opposite is true. They maintain property values will go down because of the turbines and the project will change the landscape of the farmland with access roads, concrete pads and power storage stations.
They’ve hired Bloomington attorney Melissa McGrath to help present their side during a Jan. 16 Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on Invenergy’s request for a special-use permit to allow the planned 100-turbine wind farm in McLean and Woodford counties.
The hearing will continue on Jan. 17 if needed.
“The purpose is to get both sides of the story,” said Bill Preller, who also is in the group. But, he admitted, “There’s no question but what the Information is Power group is opposed to the project.
“Not this company, not in this place,” said Preller, who lives in Normal Township.
Preller maintains Invenergy has misled the public about the project, only given information to a select few and has presented a map that is in error.
He said during hearings in Woodford County, Invenergy first said only turbines on the perimeter would have lights; then they said every third one would; and later said everyone would have lights.
“Either they don’t have a clue what they are doing or they didn’t answer right,” Preller said.
But Link said the lights are not up to Invenergy. “The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) determines which turbines have lights,” based on flight patterns and proximity to airports.
Typically, Link said, it’s about every third turbine but as the FAA is becoming more educated about wind farms, officials are leaning toward lights only on the perimeter.
Link – and McLean County Building and Zoning Director Phil Dick – said the company has followed all the required guidelines in its application and notification process.
As far as the map goes, Link said it shows probable locations. It includes spots for 139 turbines but only 100 will be installed.
“In talking with each county, it was important to provide as many alternatives as possible,” Link said.
The company has already eliminated eight locations after the John Wesley Powell Chapter of the National Audubon Society expressed concerns that some of the turbines could harm birds that live or migrate through the Mackinaw River valley.
Invenergy also will avoid placing turbines within 1 mile of the river, a half-mile of Evergreen Lake or 600 feet of any conservation reserve areas.
Link said the company also responded to concerns by the village of Carlock and agreed to stay 4,000 feet from its current municipal boundaries.
The Information is Power group also questions the limited liability group that was set up by Invenergy for the project.
“A limited liability company could fold at any time and leave the 139 turbines behind for McLean County to deal with,” said McGrath.
But Link said a limited liability company was formed to finance the $250 million project. “Lenders are lending to that specific project,” Link said. It’s a practice followed by all independent wind farm companies.
He said Invenergy won’t build the White Oak Center unless it has a long-term contract with a power company to buy the energy and provide a source of income to pay off the loan.
“Even if it folds, the lender assumes the project and will find someone to run it,” said Link. There also are provisions to remove all the turbines after the 35 years and a trust to pay for removal if the company did not do it, he said.
By Mary Ann Ford
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