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Wind farm advances to next stage  

A controversial wind farm proposal has been recommended to the McLean County Board.

The county’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday voted unanimously, with one absent, to send the request for a special-use permit to the County Board. That board will meet March 20.

The vote capped 12 days of hearings on the White Oak Wind Energy Center, a 100-wind turbine project along the Woodford-McLean county line.

Attorney Melissa McGrath told the zoning board Thursday the wind farm will benefit only a few at the expense of a majority.

“Noise is a very significant issue for my clients and likely others,” said McGrath, who represents several opponents of the proposed wind farm.

But Raymond Roder, a Wisconsin attorney representing Chicago-based Invenergy Wind LLC, said the wind farm is well-suited to the area and will provide a benefit to farmers, residents who aren’t farmers and the community.

The attorneys and about a dozen people got their last chance to comment at Thursday night’s meeting.

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals determined the project met all seven standards to qualify for the special-use permit. It proposed some stipulations for the permit.

McGrath maintained the wind “factory” will interfere with the “quiet enjoyment” of residents’ properties. She said it also will create safety concerns because turbine placement will not allow easy access to aerial crop dusters.

McGrath also said the required setback – a 1,500-foot buffer between each turbine and homes on property without turbines – will not allow some residents to use their entire property as they see fit.

But Roder said while Invenergy presented experts to discuss such things as property values and noise levels, the opponents only expressed their concerns.

Roder said the turbines will meet Illinois noise regulations at 1,200 feet, 300 feet within the 1,500-foot setback.

He said some opponents concerned about property values don’t even live in the immediate area.

White Oak Wind Energy Center would be scattered across more than 12,200 acres west of Interstate 39 and north and east of Interstate 74. The project, which could cost $250 million, could produce enough energy for 40,000 homes, said Joel Link, Midwest director of business development for Invenergy.

Testimony began last month with Invenergy giving its side.

Link said the proposed site is “a 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.

Alice Ruegsegger, whose family farm would be the site of two turbines, called wind energy “conscientious” and a “tough-buy healthy choice.”

Supporter Mark Judd said the project would help farmers stay in the business of farming. Invenergy will pay landowners about $6,000 a year for each turbine on their property.

But opponents argued the turbines would be noisy, bring down property values, disrupt their view of the landscape and interrupt television service.

Opponent Denise Preller voiced concern that the turbines would not be able to withstand the force of a tornado and “bring debris toward me.”

Her husband, Bill Preller, argued the wind turbines also could hinder crop-dusting efforts. Preller maintained the area likely will be hit by soybean rust and the turbines would cause problems for the crop-dusting airplanes.

Carlock resident Sharon MacDonald said the light flicker from the rotating blades passing through the sunlight “could destroy our evening.”

By Mary Ann Ford
mford@pantagraph.com

pantagraph.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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