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Residents alarmed: hearings prompt few supporters of project; complaints and fears aired

Woodford County residents sounded off about a proposed wind farm near El Paso at two nights of hearings before the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

About 40 residents addressed the board Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Most opposed the El Paso Wind Farm, proposed by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis.

The wind farm is to include 40 wind turbines, 12 of them within El Paso city limits.

If Navitas receives a special use permit to build the turbines on land zoned for agriculture, the farm will cover 2,943 acres.

The board is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to recommend that the Woodford County Board grant the permit.

Three people spoke in favor of the project this week. Two own land that would be used for the project.

Opponents brought up such issues as the environment and safety concerns.

Janet Dressler of El Paso said the 400-foot-tall towers – some of which would be lighted at night to comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules – will destroy the landscape.

“When I look around at night, I want to see God’s creation of the stars, not a sea of red flashing lights,” Dressler said.

Sharon McDonald of Carlock said she believes the turbines could catch fire and spread to dry crops and grassland.

At a July 25 hearing, Navitas project developer Wanda Davies testified the turbines’ fiberglass blades and synthetic hydraulic lubricant would not create a significant fire hazard.

Carlock resident Robert Quandt, an associate professor of chemistry at Illinois State University, disputed Davies’ testimony about fire hazards.

“I told this to my wife, who has a degree in chemistry, a co-worker who has a Ph.D. in chemistry and the chair of the department at Illinois State University, and every single one of them laughed out loud at that statement. It is patently false,” he told the board.

“Anything is flammable at a high enough temperature,” Davies said, “but the blades and hydraulic fluid are not flammable in the conditions that are probable in this wind farm.”

By Fitzgerald M. Doubet

Peoria Journal Star

9 August 2007