Iberdrola, a Spanish company that purchased the 79-turbine Benson Wind Farm, will start the application process over to have taller towers.
Woodford County Administrator Greg Jackson said the company plans to request new special-use permits for the $260 million development, sending the project back to square one. The company wants to increase the tower size from 400 feet to 475 feet, Jackson said.
“It is more cost-effective for them in that the higher altitude will deal them more electrical production,” Jackson said.
While Woodford County once appeared to be a mecca for wind farm development with four to five farm proposals, it now finds itself with no active projects. The County Board also hesitates to approve any until tax questions are resolved.
The White Oak Wind Energy Center owned by Invenergy stretches into Woodford County with 10 to 15 turbines near Carlock. It faces a lawsuit by opponents from both sides of the McLean-Woodford county line.
The Benson project had been slated for construction in 2008. Restarting the process will include at least $80,000 in new permit fees.
Dirk Andrea, spokesman for Iberdrola, was not available for comment.
Navitas Energy began the project before selling it to Iberdrola. Two other Navitas projects, a 100-turbine farm near Minonk and a 40-turbine farm near El Paso, may pass the Zoning Board of Appeals but await an uncertain future with the County Board.
Until legislation is passed developing a statewide system for wind turbine tax assessments, the Woodford County Board is unlikely to consider any projects.
“The Zoning Board of Appeals may recommend approval of a special use, but the County Board has chosen not to move forward with any wind projects until we can determine if it is a solid economic development endeavor,” Jackson said.
Without a statewide system for assessments, counties will not know what tax revenue will be generated by projects, he said.
Two bills in the Illinois House and Senate have died without approval, and a third bill is being considered. It would set an assessment model without specifying how much companies will be taxed per megawatt of production.
“We are still at an impasse,” Jackson said. “We’re not opposed to wind development. What we are opposed to is not having the facts to make a solid economic development decision.”
Jackson said he hopes legislation can be passed this year, but until then, the developers of the Benson project “are in the same boat as any other project is in.”
By J.W. Shults
20 June 2007
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