A Florida-based company is breathing new life into a failed 2003 attempt to locate a wind farm along the DeKalb-Lee county line, a company spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
Steve Stengel of Florida Power and Light, or FPL, said the company is talking to landowners in the area about erecting electricity-generating wind turbines on their properties. The initial project, proposed in 2002, would have put up to 34 wind turbines in Milan and Shabbona townships, with 30 more turbines on the Lee County side of the line. After much debate, it received approval from both the DeKalb and Lee county boards but fizzled in October 2003 when FPL couldn’t find a buyer for the electricity the turbines would generate.
“We had looked in Illinois several years ago, and were not able to secure a power purchaser,” Stengel said. “This is very much an active development project. Nothing is imminent, but we are somewhat familiar with the area, and if the economics work out, we’d love to be there.”
Stengel said there are no estimates yet at how big the proposed wind farm would be or when the company will try to get county approval.
“I could throw out all sorts of numbers, but until you know how much land you have and how much energy you can sell, it’s purely speculative,” he said. “We are talking to landowners, we are monitoring wind resources, we are continuing discussions with a number of potential (energy buyers). This is still very early in the process.”
DeKalb County Board member Larry Anderson, R-Malta, said he’s heard rumblings about the FPL proposal, but it’s far too soon for the board to weigh in.
“It’s just in the beginning stages,” he said. “I’ve gotten a few phone calls, and there are mixed emotions. It could be a good idea, but only if it’s done right.”
The previous plan generated public outcry from landowners who claimed the 215-foot-tall, 16-foot-wide windmills would drive down property values. Shabbona resident and real estate agent Beth Einsele was an outspoken critic of the initial plan, and said she’s still opposed.
Einsele speculated the company will have difficulty finding farmers willing to put the turbines on their land.
“Some farmers will sign up, but not enough to make it worthwhile,” she said. “Farmers recognize the fact that their land values will plummet.”
The company pays rent to farmers for the land the turbines sit on, but Einsele said the land is more valuable if it is developable. She said a farm in Lee County near Lee sold for nearly $10,000 an acre in 2005 for a 26-home development nearing completion.
“Land is valuable for housing,” she said. “Why would you want to impair that with something as unstable as turbine companies?”
FPL denied that the turbines lower property values, and offered examples of other Midwestern towns, like Montfort, Wis., that have seen little negative impact from FPL facilities.
By Dana Herra – Staff Writer
5 July 2007
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