May 30, 2007

Twin Groves Wind Farm may add 170 towers

Already planned as one of the nation’s largest wind energy factories, Twin Groves Wind Farm may expand its reach in eastern McLean County.

Horizon Wind Energy may add another 170 towers to the 240 already planned, said project manager Bill Whitlock.

The addition would bring more money to eastern McLean County landowners and school districts.

Before committing, Horizon wants to build several test towers just north of its current project near Arrowsmith, Saybrook and Ellsworth and south of Illinois 9 between Old Town Township and Moraine View State Park to determine whether additional towers are warranted, he said.

“We won’t consider anything until we’ve seen the data,” Whitlock said.

The test towers would run for one to three years before Horizon determined whether to proceed or where to erect the towers, he said. The Houston-based developer will start negotiating land-use agreements next week for the test towers before seeking county permits, Whitlock said.

For the additional 170-tower development, Horizon would need county approval and land-use agreements with about 130 landowners, he said.

About 160 landowners have already leased land to Horizon for the first 240 towers, receiving an average $5,000 annually per turbine. Twin Groves covers 21,000 acres of land, but crop production will resume on all but 150 to 200 acres.

The Ridgeview School District, meanwhile, expects the wind farm to generate $300,000 in property tax revenue, said Superintendent Larry Dodds. The money will be available in fiscal year 2009, which starts in July 2008.

“I think the numbers I’ve been using are low,” he said.

The Tri-Valley School District expects to get from $200,000 to $250,000 from the wind farm, said Superintendent Brad Cox.

“I believe it’s a great benefit financially, but not only that, what a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn about our society and different sources of energy,” he said. The district also plans to erect a turbine on its campus, and the energy it would generate could power the district, he said.

The amount a Twin Groves expansion could add to the tax revenue is unknown.

Under current plans, Horizon is building Twin Groves in two phases, 120 towers per phase. The company flipped the switch on the first phase last week and started construction on the second phase, Whitlock said. The second phase is scheduled for completion in December.

The first two phases will generate 400 megawatts of energy, enough to power around 120,000 homes.

If Horizon proceeds with an expansion, a third phase with about 48 towers near Colfax and Anchor would produce 80 megawatts of power, Whitlock said.

A fourth phase west of Moraine View State Park near LeRoy would produce 200 megawatts through 120 towers.

Combining the four phases, Twin Groves would be churning out 680 megawatts of electricity.

The nation’s largest wind farm, Horse Hollow in Texas, produces 736 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The second-largest farm already in operation, Maple Ridge in New York, produces 322 megawatts.

By Scott Miller

30 May 2007

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