The Bureau County Board has unanimously approved a $1.7 million decommissioning plan with the Big Sky wind farm developers.
At Tuesday’s special board meeting, Bureau County Engineer John Gross gave an overview of the decommission plan, which totals $1,760,800 for the county.
The Big Sky decommissioning plan details what it would cost the county in the event the county became responsible for decommissioning, or dismantling, the Big Sky wind farm. The $1.7 million total breaks down to about $30,891 per turbine for the 57-turbine Big Sky project in northern Bureau County.
Added to the decommissioning plan were line items of $150,000 for engineering/construction services, another $188,100 for the restoration of crane paths and wind generator areas, and an estimated $290,700 for the cost of scrapping and cutting up the structures on site.
Another significant addition to the decommissioning agreement was an escalator factor included for the Big Sky developers’ letter of credit, Gross said. The escalator factor takes into consideration inflation, based on the consumer price index. The letter of credit is renewed annually and will be increased each year as the inflation rate goes up, Gross said.
Several board members did question the wisdom of approving a letter of credit rather than requiring a cash escrow, as was done with Crescent Ridge 1 in southern Bureau County.
Bureau County Zoning Officer Kris Donarski gave an overview of the county board’s handling of previous wind farm projects. In July 2004, Crescent Ridge I with 34 turbines got cash escrow approval for $812,600. Eurus Crescent Ridge II, announced in October 2005, has no cash escrow or letter of credit because no building permits have been issued at this point. In March 2007, AgriWind with four turbines received a cash escrow approval of $79,516. In August 2007, Providence Heights with 36 turbines received a letter of credit approval for $749,550.
Referring to the questions about the Big Sky decommissioning plan, board member Jim Lilley said the county board should realize the Big Sky project is probably the largest project Bureau County has ever seen.
“If the board wants to run off this project, then I think everyone here should resign,” Lilley said.
Steve Sondgeroth, who had raised questions about the letter of credit, said he was not opposed to the wind farm project but just wanted to make sure the county residents were covered in the event decommissioning fell to the county.
The county board voted 20 to 1 to approve the letter of credit, with Butch Moran casting the only no vote.
Big Sky representative Tim Polz also attended Tuesday’s meeting and thanked the board for meeting in special session to address the decommissioning and letter of credit issues.
“I appreciate the board members calling this special meeting. It means a lot to our project to keep us on track, as far as our construction schedule,” Polz said. “I also thank John for working with us to reach a figure that was more mutually agreeable to both parties.”
Absent from Tuesday’s meeting were board members Bill Bennett, Bob McCook, Rob Pozzi, Joe Vasquez and Marc Wilt.
By Donna Barker
27 March 2008
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