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Firm sets sights on large wind farm; Navitas' plan is biggest of its kind in Woodford  

A Minneapolis-based renewable energy company is developing plans to construct what would be the largest single wind farm in Woodford County.

The 100-turbine project slated to cover 7,000 to 8,000 acres of farmland east of Minonk would be the fourth proposed wind farm Navitas Energy has had its hand in.

Navitas submitted plans Thursday to construct a 197-foot meteorological tower southeast of Minonk to measure wind speeds – the precursor of any wind farm – along with boundaries the wind farm would cover.

“We’re pretty confident of the wind resources there (in Woodford County),” said Wanda Davies, a senior project manager for Navitas.

The leasing contracts are nearly complete and Navitas is now moving forward with the engineering aspects of the wind farm, Davies said of the $200 to $300 million project estimated to generate $1.7 million to $1.8 million in property tax revenue.

Each of the 400-foot turbines would create 100 to 200 megawatts of electricity annually, she said. About 250 megawatts of energy is enough to power 100,000 Illinois homes annually.

Woodford County Zoning Administrator John Hamann said the permit for the wind tower would go to the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals, likely next month, and then the County Board for ultimate approval.

If approved, this would be the fourth wind farm project proposed by Navitas.

Navitas was given the nod early this year to move ahead on a 79-turbine wind farm northeast of Benson before it was then sold to the Spanish utility Iberdrola, the largest owner of wind farms worldwide, which owns 30 percent of Navitas.

Iberdrola may seek to place taller poles or larger turbines, requiring the permitting process to begin anew. Dirk Andreas, vice president of Iberdrola Midwest, said Thursday the project may not get under way until at least 2009.

Davies added Navitas is planning a 50-turbine addition to the north of Iberdrola’s Benson project, to be a joint venture, and anticipates seeking those permits in 2008.

Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, is still moving on its proposed wind farm.

Of the 100 turbines set to go near Carlock, only 11 will be based in Woodford County, the vast majority to be placed in McLean County.

A McLean County judge last month dismissed members of the County Board and zoning board of appeals from a lawsuit filed by Information is Power, a not-for-profit group made up of residents who oppose the wind farm.

Both the McLean County ZBA and County Board have given approval, although Woodford County’s ZBA has yet to take up the issue.

To the east, another wind farm project is twisting.

A controversial wind farm development west of El Paso won approval from the county’s ZBA in August despite objections from dozens of area residents and a plea from the city of El Paso to keep the turbines a distance from its limits. Navitas is also at odds with road commissioners from El Paso and Palestine townships over road agreements.

The 40-turbine wind farm, also to be developed by Navitas on more than 2,900 acres of property west of Interstate 39, lies partly within the city’s future comprehensive land use plan.

El Paso Mayor Herb Arbuckle said a letter-writing campaign is underway requesting to move some of the project farther from town.

“Basically, that’s where El Paso grows – to the west – we’re kind of locked,” Arbuckle said. “It would really limit commercial development you can have.”

The Woodford County Board still must give its approval before any construction can begin.

But when or if the County Board gets to decide on the permits for any wind farm remains to be seen.

County Administrator Gregory Jackson said he’s recommended the County Board wait on pending legislation in Springfield before making any decisions.

House Bill 664, which is attached to legislation dealing with Cook County property assessments and now pending before the Senate, would standardize wind farm taxation statewide at a rate beginning at $9,000 per megawatt the first year and then decreasing for depreciation.

By Dave Haney
Of The Journal Star

Peoria Journal Star

12 October 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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