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Wind farm project gets break  

Zoning Board votes against ordinance change costing $18 million

The Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals decided Thursday not to recommend a change that could boost the cost of a proposed wind farm by $18 million.

At the board’s meeting, the Bureau Valley School District testified in favor of the 150-turbine Walnut Ridge Wind Farm.

School Superintendent Terry Gutshall asked the zoning board not to recommend a change in Section 3.41-4S of the zoning ordinance. The change would jeopardize the wind farm by adding $18 million in costs if it demanded that all transition lines must be buried.

Bureau County zoning officer Kristine Donarski said the zoning board decided not to recommend the change to the County Board.

She said the County Board may take the issue up again April 15.

If the project goes through, 131 turbines will be built in the Bureau Valley School District and another 19 turbines would be constructed in the Ohio School District.

It’s estimated $1.8 million dollars in tax revenues could be generated for the school, and an additional $330,000 in tax revenues could be generated for Bureau County.

“Fire departments and libraries in five townships (Bureau, Greenfield, Manlius, Ohio and Walnut) will also see an increase in new tax revenues without an increase in the tax rate,” said Gutshall. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

He said the County Board petitioned to change the ordinance because “they felt it was their intention all along for wind farm transition lines to be underground. But that change in the ordinance would not apply to the 90 miles of utility company transition lines that currently run throughout Bureau County. We didn’t feel that was fair.”

As it stands now, every transition line in the project will be underground as it runs to the substation and then run overhead to the power grid.

“It would cost $21 million to bury the lines entirely as opposed to $3 million to put them above ground,” Gutshall said. “No other county or state requires the lines to be buried underground. This would be new for the state of Illinois.”

Walnut Ridge Wind LLC is a subsidiary of Chicago-based Midwest Wind Energy.

Gutshall said the developers are pleased with Thursday’s decision and plan to proceed with the project.

They have until May to file conditional use permits.

By Catherine Hopkins

Peoria Journal Star

22 March 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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