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Lease for wind farm on agenda

MONMOUTH – The Warren County Board will be asked Wednesday to approve a long-term lease with a Moline-based company that plans to build a wind farm on the Warren County farm, south of here on U.S. 67.

The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Warren County Courthouse, on the square.

Diana Winterhalter, president of Clean Energy Concepts, said the company will ask to lease 186 acres but most of that will continue to be farmed.

Winterhalter said the turbines “have to be spaced a certain distance apart. … If you don’t set them appropriately, they don’t catch the wind.”

Clean Energy Concepts will handle construction, Red Rock Financial of New York City will own the turbines. Max Engineering, Houston, will do the design work.

Jolene Willis, executive director of the Western Illinois Economic Development Partnership, said presentations were made to County Board committees in May and June about the need for a special type of tower to measure wind speed.

Winterhalter said “we have some indications the wind is good in that area,” but, the company must be sure before it orders the first three turbines. So few companies manufacture the wind devices, at least a year lead time is expected.

“The hope is it will expand to eight turbines,” she said. Each turbine produces 2.5 megawatts of electricity.

McDonough Power has a substation at the county farm. Winterhalter said there have been preliminary meetings with the utility.

Winterhalter is not yet sure how many people will be hired. Many will be needed for construction, although Willis said jobs should be created at other companies as a result of the project.

However, “It’s not like bringing in a huge plant to town, with hundreds of jobs,” Winterhalter said.

Clean Energy may open a Monmouth office. Willis said that could mean about 30 jobs.

Winterhalter said it is too early to estimate total project cost.

“Suffice it to say, it’s in the millions,” she said.

If the county approves the lease, Winterhalter said the wind farm could begin operations in three years.

“We’re hoping for January of 2010,” she said. “We’re very pleased that the county itself wants to participate. We feel that it’s a good step for the area.”

By John R. Pulliam

The Register-Mail

18 September 2007