PEKIN – Horizon Wind Energy has applied for permits to bring 38 wind towers to Tazewell County, and construction of the county’s first commercial wind farm could begin by June.
“It’s a major milestone for the project,” said Bill Whitlock, project development manager for the proposed Rail Splitter Wind Farm.
The project would cover more than 11,000 acres of farmland straddling Tazewell and Logan counties just east of Interstate 155.
Once estimated at $120 million, the total cost of the project is now expected to be between $175 million and $200 million, Whitlock said Monday.
The project would be the second central Illinois wind farm development for Horizon, which operates the Twin Groves wind farm just east of Bloomington.
The Houston-based renewable energy company will apply for permits for 29 towers in Logan County later this week.
The Tazewell County Zoning Board of Appeals will hold public hearings at 6 p.m. April 1, 9 and 15 in the Tazewell County Justice Center and has the final say on whether or not the 38 wind towers will come to Tazewell.
“That’s probably the largest piece of the puzzle, to go through the hearing process,” said Kristal Deininger, Tazewell County’s community development administrator.
Horizon representatives will present their case to the board, explaining why it should approve the permits and allow the towers. The board will consider if there are any adverse affects of the towers and if they meet the county’s zoning standards, Deininger said.
“It’s a chance for all of the stakeholders to ask questions about the project, how it will work, etc.,” Whitlock said.
Construction of the actual towers could begin by June and the project is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
The wind farm will sell energy to AmerenCILCO and will power about 30,000 homes in Illinois.
The 67-tower project will also have to get permit approval from the Army Corps of Engineers because it could have an impact on area wetlands, Whitlock said.
If all the proper permits are acquired, a temporary operation base will be constructed in May in Logan County, where construction crews will be based.
“We’ve experienced some delays weather-wise,” he said. “It’s been a pretty tough winter.”
One weather-related setback has come for the company-hired archeologist who examines the ground where future towers could be placed, making sure they won’t impact historically important areas, Whitlock said.
A noise study has shifted some of the potential towers from the east side of I-155 to the west side.
“The project had been consolidated on the east side,” he said. “Instead of having the towers so (condensed) we have them spread out now.”
By Kevin Sampier
Of The Journal Star
4 March 2008
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