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Opponents of wind farm speak at El Paso hearing

The Woodford County Zoning Board took testimony from opponents of a proposed 42-tower wind farm near El Paso Tuesday evening. At issue were the economic, environmental and safety for residents and businesses within the Rt. 24 and Interestate 39 corridor.

“The city is not opposed to wind farms, but 12 of the turbines in this development encroaches on the commercial development on the city’s west side, which will limit future growth,” said city attorney Greg Knapp.

Knapp presented the board with city records outlying the sales tax growth over the past 17 years which indicate

the city’s sales tax base has significantly grown due to business growth near the I-39 exchange.

He also asked the board to consider having the 12 turbines relocated outside of the development zone or relocate the six closest to the Rt. 24 and I-39 intersection if the wind farm is approved.

Last year, Minnesota-based Navitas Energy proposed constructing the wind farm on 2,943 acres on the west side of El Paso.

The company has requested a special use permit from the board to begin construction in 2009.

“Construction of these towers disrupt drain tiles and the soil which is then washed into nearby streams,” said Mary Jo Adams of the Illinois Watershed Association.

With the city’s continued growth, rural El Paso resident Sharon McDonald said fire and other safety concerns were of most importance, and she presented pictures from a German wind tower fire, which she believes could happen here as well.

“Lightning caused that fire and there were burning parts thrown from the turbine,” said McDonald.

“Imagine if this happened here. This could spread to crops or grass, then it would endanger homes.“

In addition to endangering homes, Robert Quandt, assistant professor at Illinois State University, doesn’t believe any local fire departments could stop a tower fire as they are over 300 feet high and require a foam retardant.

“For the wind farms to generate eight percent of the state’s power as the governor has mandated, we would need constant winds speeds of 38 mph 24-7,” said Quandt.

“Wind is not constant, so output varies from hour to hour, so the premise isn’t realistic.“

In addition to being unreliable, Quandt said wind farms have actually disrupted European power grids and increase lightning strikes within the area, but the biggest change could be the landscape.

Testimony will continue at 6 p.m. tonight at El Paso’s Grace Fellowship Church.

By Dave Tompkins

pantagraph.com

7 August 2007