Invenergy, the firm now constructing the 66-turbine Grand Ridge wind farm south of Ottawa, wants to generate more electricity and more tax dollars in La Salle County.
Joel Link, Invenergy’s director of business development, Thursday told the La Salle County Board’s Development Committee his firm would like county regulations changed so another 167 turbines can eventually be added to the project.
Link said the expansion would boost tax revenue from the currently projected $1.4 million for the first year by an additional $4.2 million, most of which would go to local schools.
“So that;s $5.6 million in tax revenue for a facility that really requires pretty limited public services – it’s different than a subdivision,” Link said.
The project area covers nearly 6,000 acres in Brookfield, Allen and Grand Rapids townships – but only takes 40 acres of farm land out of production.
Link said he would like the current power generating limit of the 100 megawatts totally lifted so that a 350-megawatt capacity can be achieved.
Matt Stafford of the La Salle County Environmental Services and Development Office said his research showed other counties he had contacted with wind farm regulations have no power generating limit.
Link said the typical density for a wind farm is one turbine per 80 acres. It is not technically feasible to place turbines any closer than 1,500 to 2,000 feet from one another, he said.
The discussion came up during the committee’s review of preliminary changes in the county’s zoning ordinance being worked on by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The preliminary recommendation from the ZBA is to increase the power generating limit to 200 megawatts.
ZBA members’ preferences ranged from no change to no limit, said County Board Attorney Troy Holland. The 200-megawatt limit was a compromise and subject to more discussion, he said.
Members want time to study the current wind farm’s impact on the county, Holland said.
“I think the rationale is that there is this fear we’re gong to have towers all over the place.”
Board member Tom Ganiere, D-Ottawa, pointed out other wind farms could locate in the county and Invenergy could get around the power generating limit by setting up a separate project.
“Just because you have a megawatt limit, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to limit the number of towers that are going to be in that area,” Ganiere said.
Link said a separate wind farm project was possible, but financially unsound.
“We already have facilities built for expansion. There could be separate lines and substations, but it would be an unnecessary cost,” he said.
Link said even if the megawatt limit was lifted, ZBA members would still have control of the number of turbines and their location because expansion would require a special use approval.
“If I came in with a 167-turbine application they could, in essence, cut away as much of that as they wanted. So it’s a bit of give and take,” Link said.
Holland said the ZBA will continue to deliberate the issue and probably hold a public hearing next month before voting in May on its final recommendations to the County Board.
7 March 2008
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