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Expansive wind farm project unveiled; Oregon company makes tax-exemption appeal

STREATOR – An energy company based in Portland, Ore., wants to build 375 wind turbines in LaSalle and Livingston counties.

PPM Energy Inc. representatives discussed the proposed Streator-Cayuga Ridge wind farm at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

City Manager Paul Nicholson said the council must decide whether to extend the city enterprise zone, which will provide PPM Energy with a sales tax exemption in Streator on materials needed for construction. Nicholson said that if the proposal is approved, the city would receive compensation as well.

Nicholson said agreement may be reached in time for the council’s July 18 meeting.

PPM Energy plans to spread the turbines over a 34,000-acre area that will begin east of Streator and south of Ransom down to about six miles north of Pontiac, west of Odell near Interstate 55. PPM Energy has wind farms in several Midwestern states, such as Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas.

The Streator-Cayuga Ridge project will require an investment of $380 million to $1.5 billion from PPM Energy and its parent company, Scottish Power, said project developer Jesper Michaelsen.

The first construction phase would begin in 2008. Company officials say the 375 turbines could generate as much as 800 megawatts and supply energy to 185,000 homes. Other benefits of the wind farm project are an estimated 800 temporary construction jobs and more than 40 permanent operating positions. Company officials said the farm would be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, generators of property tax in that area.

Michaelsen said the Cayuga Ridge area is one of the best wind resources areas in the state.

“The area is well located for transmission lines,” Michaelsen said. “We will connect to the existing lines and distribute them through the grid system.”

While the project will cover 34,000 acres of land, Michaelsen said only 1 percent, or 300 to 400 acres, of the land will be made up of the gravel access roads, turbines and the operating infrastructures. Landowners would continue to farm the rest.

“Because the wind farm takes up only 1 percent of the farmland, it results in a very strong transmission line still in place,” Michaelsen said. “Wind energy can be reused to provide a second crop for landowners to harvest. Overall, the project can generate several million dollars for the landowners each year.”

The wind farm project will be built mostly in Livingston County, but about 45 turbines will be built in LaSalle County. At the beginning of June, PPM Energy applied for two site permits in Livingston County and will apply for permits in LaSalle County at the end of July.

The turbines have an expected lifespan of 20 to 25 years. After that, Michaelsen said, PPM Energy can continue to maintain and operate the turbines or take them down and put in new equipment.

By Tara Becker
Of The Journal Star

Peoria Journal Star

29 June 2007