Invenergy representatives got a chance Tuesday to talk about the company and tell why they want to build a 100-turbine wind farm in McLean and Woodford counties.
They spoke at the first in a series of public hearings before the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals.
Meanwhile, Melissa McGrath, an attorney representing several opponents of the project, questioned a McLean County Building and Zoning Department recommendation for the wind farm.
Kevin Smith, senior vice president of Chicago-based Invenergy Wind LLC, said the company is one of the top five wind farm developers in North America, based on construction over the past seven years, and is considered the largest independent developer.
It has $1.1 billion in projects in operation or in the late stage of development.
“Wind energy is expected to meet more than 80 percent of energy needs in future years,” Smith said.
While it won’t totally eliminate the need for other energy sources during peak times, Smith said it will allow fuel-burning plants to run less and will reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
Each of the turbines planned at White Oak Energy Center – on more than 12,200 acres west of Interstate 39 and north and east of I-74 – could produce enough energy for 40,000 homes, said Joel Link, Midwest director of business director for Invenergy.
“It’s renewable energy,” Link said, unlike coal, gas and nuclear energy.
Link said the company did a statewide wind resource study when considering a place for the proposed project and said it became clear that the proposed site would be “very favorable spot in terms of wind conditions.”
Only 83 acres of farmland would be permanently removed from production for the turbines and access roads, he said.
Eighty property owners in the two counties already have signed contracts with the company to have turbines on their land.
Dick said three property owners have asked the county to allow turbines to be placed closer to their property than the required 1,500-foot setback.
But McGrath said Invenergy required the homeowners to request the setback waivers or they wouldn’t get a turbine and the rent income from it. She also maintained the company failed to follow state law and contact the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency about the project as early as possible.
McGrath also objected to the building and zoning department’s recommendation of the project without input from her clients.
“Our zoning director has made a recommendation without hearing all of the information,” she said.
Sally Rudolph, chairwoman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, said getting a recommendation from the office before the public hearing was the accepted practice. The board does not have to accept the recommendation.
Rudolph also criticized McGrath’s attacks on Dick’s office.
“Attempts to discredit the office are not well-received,” she said.
The hearing will continue at 6 p.m. today and Thursday at Heartland Community College.
By Mary Ann Ford
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