After years of planning, the Twin Groves Wind Farm in eastern McLean County began churning out electricity this month. While the nation’s second largest wind farm is only about 13 percent operational, it’s the start of a burgeoning wind-energy industry in McLean and surrounding counties.
“It’s very gratifying,” said Bill Whitlock of developer Horizon Wind Energy.
Not everyone shares the joy. The landscape around Ellsworth, Arrowsmith and Saybrook is forever changed, and residents like Renee Taylor still wonder if their property values will suffer.
“I’ve been pulling out old pictures, and it’s amazing to me how much I forgot what things looked like around here a year ago,” said Taylor, of Ellsworth.
The noise is tougher to deal with than the changed scenery, she said, and it will likely get louder because many of the turbines under construction will be closer to her property than the ones operating now.
Taylor worries that the sound waves will create medical problems for her six children, one of which has a form of mild autism. She and her husband, Lawrence, filed suit against Horizon and McLean County last year to try to prevent construction. They claimed the two parties downplayed the dangers of the wind farm. A judge ruled against the Taylors, so the couple filed an appeal.
The appeal is pending, while the wind-energy industry marches on.
About 31 of the 240 planned towers are operational at Twin Groves, Whitlock said.
He wasn’t sure how much electricity the 31 towers were generating, saying output varies daily depending on weather conditions. Horizon is selling the energy via ComEd lines.
When complete, Twin Groves will have 240 towers pumping out 400 megawatts of power, enough to power 120,000 homes. That makes it the second largest in the country, trailing Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Texas.
The first phase of construction at Twin Groves should be complete at the end of April, with 120 turbines up and running, Whitlock said. About 96 are up, and about 24 have yet to be built, he said.
Site prep for the second phase begins in early May, and the massive blades and towers will start crawling into town in June for the remaining 120 towers to be built.
Twin Groves is part of a growing alternative-energy industry in Central Illinois. Wind-farm plans are sprouting up in the counties surrounding McLean County.
Most recently, Minnesota-based Navitas Energy announced intent to develop a 40-tower wind farm near El Paso, and the McLean County board approved Chicago-based Invenergy Wind’s request for a special-use permit for the 100-turbine White Oak Wind Energy Center in McLean and Woodford Counties.
White Oak would be the second wind farm in McLean County, but County Board Chairman Michael Sweeney didn’t rule out the possibility of more, particularly in adjoining counties.
The farms are attractive because they boost tax rolls and ease dependence on traditional nonrenewable sources of power, he said.
By Scott Miller
27 March 2007
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