While corn, soybeans and wheat are common farm landscape fixtures here, there is another crop that is within about two years of sprouting.
The area known as Cabery Ridge will be home to 150 to 250 wind turbines that will grow about 380 feet higher than most corn stalks.
Some 200 Kankakee County landowners listened to a presentation from Cincinnati, Ohio-based Vision Energy at a recent community meeting in Herscher; many walked away impressed and are now signing up to be potential locations for a wind turbine.
Jeff Harris, Midwest development vice president for Vision Energy, said the company has been studying the area for about two years and believes the wind turbines could be constructed and be operational within another two years.
Law dictates that ComEd must purchase the energy produced by the turbines. Harris said each turbine site would consume about one-half to three-quarters of an acre. The company would rent that acreage from the landowner for an undisclosed amount.
Vision Energy is also associated with an Illinois wind farm in Camp Grove, about 20 miles north of Peoria. That farm is slated to be ready for operation by mid 2008. The company is also a co-developer of a 35-square-mile wind farm in Benton County, Indiana.
Wind power currently produces about 17 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity nationally, equivalent to powering about 1.6 million average American homes yearly. That figure represents less than 1 percent of electrical power consumed nationally.
By the year 2020, wind energy companies believe that 6 percent of power consumed could be generated by wind turbines.
Farmers can basically raise their crops around the towers. According to wind-power guidelines, no building can be within 1,000 feet of the tower.
“This has almost no impact on a farm,” Harris said. “We have been welcomed with open arms here. This is a project that is underway. We are well underway.”
The company has already worked out agreements with the necessary land owners in Livingston, Ford and Iroquois counties, Harris said. Harris said a tower can be placed every 80 acres and this four-county wind field would have about a quarter of the current 64-square-mile wind farm, which would be divided by the four counties.
The wind farm would consist of 15,000 to 30,000 acres. Less than 1 percent of this acreage would be removed from ag production.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Illinois is ranked as the 16th best state for wind-energy production. The top state is North Dakota and Texas is ranked as second.
Once tower sites are located, Harris said it will take nine to 12 months to construct the wind farm.
* One megawatt of wind capacity could bring electricity to an average of 250 homes.
* Wind farms offer “double cropping” to farmers. A single utility-scale turbine provides $3,000 a year or more in income to a landowner to lease his wind rights. Farmers can continue to grow crops up to the bases of the turbines on his fields.
* A wind turbine runs 60 percent to 80 percent of the time, and operates at full capacity only about 10 percent of the time. On an average day, a turbine generates from 30 percent to 35 percent of what it would generate if it ran at full power at all times.
* Out of the top 20 states for potential wind energy, Illinois ranks 16th, followed by California, Wisconsin, Maine and Missouri. North Dakota is first.
~ Source: American Wind Energy Association
By Lee Provost
17 November 2007
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