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Zoning board in El Paso for wind farm hearing

Plans for wind farm proposed for the El Paso area, which is seen as an economic asset to some and an eyesore to others, are in the hands of the Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals.

The board took testimony from wind farm supporters this week. Now, interested parties have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit requests to speak at the next hearing on Aug. 7. That hearing will be at 6 p.m. at El Paso’s Grace Fellowship Church.

Minnesota-based Navitas Energy wants to build a 42-turbine wind farm on 2,943 acres on the west side of El Paso. Construction is planned for 2009, but the company still needs governmental approvals and permits.

“The wind farm is compatible for both agriculture and commercial interests and will bring many benefits to the area,” said Navitas Energy spokeswoman Wanda Davies. “We’re incorporating setbacks (space around the turbine sites), which allow for home and business development and improve the tax base.”

She promised a payment of $600,000 to local taxing bodies in lieu of property taxes, and that could increase, depending on how the state sets wind farm taxing policy. The developer also will offer $10,000 to local fire districts for training and equipment purchases.

The El Paso City Council voted in June to oppose the wind farm. Addressing council concerns, Davies said the wind farm will not interrupt microwave, television, cell phone or radio transmissions, and it will take only 2 percent of the total acreage out of production.

She said it would have little effect on wildlife. She also said studies show bat and birds adapt to turbines as they do to other tall structures.

The board also heard from farmer Elmer Rhodes, who has five turbines on his property in Lee County.

“There are so many good things about the wind farms,” said Rhodes, noting township roads improved and the school district received $250,000 from the wind farm. “It is beyond your expectations.”

Real estate appraiser Michael Crowley said his study of home values in wind farm areas showed no measurable impact on home sales or appraisals.

The board allowed interested parties who petitioned to speak seven days prior to the meeting to cross-examine the witnesses. Many participants voiced concerns about potential noise problems and viewing the turbines.

“I can see the lights of the Ellsworth (wind farm) towers from my home, and I’m 22 miles away,” said Kim Schertz of rural Hudson. “I think it is safe to say that people in and around El Paso will be able to see the towers very easily.”

Wind farm projects

McLean County —The $500 million Twin Groves Wind Farm is among the nation’s largest wind farms. The project, by Texas-based Horizon Wind Energy, already includes 240 turbines, and may be expanded to add another 170 towers.

McLean/Woodford counties – Chicago-based Invenergy Wind plans to build the White Oak Wind Energy Center, a 100-turbine wind farm stretching from Carlock to Hudson. The estimated $250 million project faces a lawsuit from opponents.

Benson – Iberdrola, a Spanish company that purchased the 79-turbine Benson Wind Farm from Navitas Energy of Minneapolis, has restarted the application process for the $260 million project. The company wants to increase the tower size from 400 feet to 475 feet.

El Paso – Minnesota-based Navitas Energy wants to build a 42-turbine wind farm on the west side of El Paso. Construction is planned for 2009, but the company still needs governmental approvals and permits. A public hearing was held Wednesday. It is in the hands of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Minonk – Navitas Energy is planning a 100-turbine wind farm near Minonk in Woodford and Livingston counties. Construction would not begin until at least 2009.

Livingston County – Horizon Wind Energy is considering a 600-megawatt wind farm six miles north of Pontiac near Blackstone and Odell. The project calls for up to 200 towers on 25,000 acres of land. Pending approval, construction wouldn’t begin until 2008, and Horizon is in the preliminary planning stages.

Livingston County – Invenergy wants about 20,000 acres near Chatsworth and Forrest to build a 266-turbine wind farm to churn out 266 megawatts of power. The company plans to seek permits this year.

Livingston/LaSalle counties – PPM energy of Portland, Ore., operating as Heartland Wind, wants to build a project totaling 373-turbines in Livingston and LaSalle counties. The $1.5 billion Streator Cayuga Ridge wind farm is slated for two phases: Streator Cayuga Ridge South would have 154 turbines south of Interstate 55 and east of Odell. Streator Cayuga Ridge North would have 169 turbines west of Interstate 55 in Livingston County and 50 turbines north of Illinois 17 in LaSalle County.

By Dave Tompkins


27 July 2007