DELAVAN – A Houston-based renewable energy company has plans to build what would be Tazewell County’s first commercial wind farm.
The $120 million project is estimated to produce enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes annually, covering more than 11,000 acres of farm land straddling Tazewell and Logan counties just east of Interstate 155. It also would be the second central Illinois wind farm development for Horizon Wind Energy, which operates the Twin Groves wind farm just east of Bloomington.
“Obviously, we knew that with the wind patterns and a lot of open, rural farmland in southern Tazewell, we were anticipating somebody coming forward with a (wind) project,” Tazewell County Administrator David Jones said.
Jones said Horizon has held a special use permit with the county for a test site over the past three years collecting wind data. County staffers and Horizon representatives only just recently began meeting on what is being called the Rail Splitter Wind Farm.
While no permits for the wind farm have been sought, initial plans for the Rail Splitter call for 67 wind turbines, each producing 1.5 megawatts of electricity for a combined 100 megawatts annually.
Bill Whitlock, project development manager for the wind farm, said it plans to seek special use permits with both counties at the start of 2008, which will require a series of public hearings. Provided the project gets the approval, Whitlock said construction could begin in the spring.
He said boundaries of the wind farm follow a natural ridge east of Interstate 155 called the Union Ridge, moving northwest near the small town of Union about seven miles to just south of Market Road.
“The big factor is the wind data, which has shown to be very favorable,” he said, “and Illinois is a very attractive market to sell electricity.”
As part of the $1 billion electric rate relief package worked out this year between the state and power companies, utilities are required to include a growing percentage of renewable energy in their power portfolio each year.
Whitlock said the wind farm, which will take less than 100 acres of farmland out of production, will create six to 10 permanent full-time jobs and 100 to 150 temporary jobs to put up the turbines.
Under the new standardization property tax legislation passed in October, wind farm value assessment was set at $9,000 per megawatt in its first year of operation, dropping slightly each year because of physical depreciation. Based on that, Rail Splitter would produce an estimated $900,000 in property tax dollars to the local schools, townships and the county at the start.
Horizon is nearly complete with Phase II of its 240-turbine Twin Groves Wind Farm project just east of Bloomington. McLean County Supervisor of Assessments Bob Kahman said the two townships where the wind farm went in saw their assessed value climb more than $17 million this year specifically because of the project. At completion, that wind farm is estimated to add some $40 million in assessed value.
The Rail Splitter project is about a quarter the size of Twin Groves.
Horizon has a third, much larger proposed wind farm project possibly headed to Livingston and LaSalle counties. While still about two years out, the 100- to 200-turbine wind farm is expected to generate 600 megawatts annually.
By Dave Haney
7 December 2007
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