An area of northwest Hancock County is suitable for a wind power farm. Representatives from EcoEnergy LLC presented information to landowners in the area at a dinner meeting last week.
“We did wind monitoring on the radio tower by Dallas City and the Tom Scheetz farm,” explained Wes Slaymaker, vice president of development for EcoEnergy. The company determined that the area in northwest Hancock County was suitable for setting up wind power turbines.
The company is looking for a site for a 100 megawatt wind power farm, that would require 67 towers. An area was platted in Hancock County for prime sites for the towers. Since the meeting, sales representatives are beginning to talk with land owners.
“We have targeted landowners in the core area, where a current power line is located and on the highest elevation. They will slowly expand from there. The project takes its shape based on the local participation,” Slaymaker said. Once the land agreements are made, they work with the landowners to settle on an acceptable site. That depends in part on whether neighboring landowners participate.
“It is a juggling act to locate the towers. They try to place the roads as conveniently and economically as possible, parallel to field edges to minimize taking land out of crops,” Slaymaker said.
“Acciona has a stringent setback of 1,150 feet from roads. We like to see 110 percent of the tower height between towers, which is about 440 feet.”
The towers are supported by a 50 by 50 by 5 foot concrete foundation that is covered with two to three feet of top soil, which can still be farmed. Each turbine takes abut a half acre of land out of production for the base and roads to the tower.
The towers are 14 feet wide at the base and about eight feet in diameter at the top. They are about 200 feet high (60-80m). The turbine that powers the blades is the size of a small bus, and the blades are about 100 feet long (34-40m). The entire project would be spaced out over approximately 6,000 acres, Slaymaker said. All wires would be underground leading to the substation. There would be no new power poles.
EcoEnergy is the builder and developer for the project. Acciona Windpower, manufacturer of the wind turbines, would be the owner and operator of the wind farm. Landowners are asked to sign a 30 year lease for use of their land.
“They are paid a fixed rate of $3,000 per installed megawatt, which would be $4,500 per year for these 1.5 megawatt turbines. There is a 2 percent increase per year per turbine,” Slaymaker said.
“You would want to look at the long term, which would be $180,000 per turbine for the life of the 30 year agreement. That can be used as collateral because it is a guaranteed payment.”
EcoEnergy is looking at several potential locations for their next wind farm, which makes it competitive between Hancock County and other areas. If it were located in this area, Slaymaker said they would work with landowners during winter of 2008, begin electrical studies in 2009, so the earliest to begin building would be 2010.
“We are still in the planning stage. When we take out a contract we agree to do it in five years. It usually takes four,” Slaymaker said.
The farm should employee 10 people full time after it is set up, in addition to jobs created by the construction of the towers. Acciona would pay the property tax on the land leased for the towers. No estimate was made on the increase in value to the land, but it would be a benefit to the county general fund and the taxing bodies drawing money from those locations.
To see a similar project, Slaymaker said the nearest one is in Bradford near Peoria.
Acceptance of the farms has been favorable. The problem is assumed to be noise, but the key complaint is ‘shadow-flicker’ caused by the blades briefly blocking sunlight, according to Slaymaker.
For information on the farms, go to www.EcoEnergyLLC.com, or call Tom Scheetz, 217/453-6490.
By Joy Swearingen, Managing Editor
28 November 2007
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