Developers of the Cayuga Ridge Wind Farm gave their reasons why its 155 turbines would benefit agriculture, the community and the energy supply, in a two-and-a-half-hour presentation at a public hearing Monday. The public will get a chance to comment and ask questions tonight and Wednesday.
In a PowerPoint presentation attended by about 100 in the auditorium at Pontiac Township High School, PPM Energy had several of its employees or consultants act as sworn witnesses in support of its request for a special use permit to build and operate the wind farm, its 280-foot-tall towers scattered across 15,000 acres in Odell, Union and Saunemin townships. The hearing, continued to tonight at 7, is being held by the Livingston County Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Livingston County Board will decide whether to approve the permit. The Livingston County Planning Commission has found the special use request “generally consistent” with the county’s comprehensive plan, including preservation of farmland.
Board of Appeals member Steve Walters conducted Monday’s hearing, as Chairman Gibs Nielsen had recused himself. Because of the length of the presentation, Walters noted at the start of the hearing, it would stop at 10 p.m. and resume Tuesday. No time limits will be placed on public comment tonight or Wednesday, except if it becomes repetitious and holds up the hearing process, he said.
Mike Massie, a member of the legal team for the project, said that Livingston County is the right place, Heartland Wind is the right company and 2008 is the right year for the wind farm to benefit the community. Heartland is the applicant for the permit. Noting that the County Board is on record as promoting the supply of wind energy, Massie said the towers are a special use allowed in agricultural area and provide a safe and multiple use of that land. They also are consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan that goes to the year 2020.
The 90 families who have agreed to have towers on their land have determined this “will not adversely affect their farming operations,” he said, and they will receive lease payments and continue farming 99 percent of their land, while the towers generate enough electricity to supply 97,000 households, almost seven times the number of households in Livingston County.
Project Manager Jesper Michaelsen, who has worked in communities in the wind-farm area for three years, said that as of May 1 there will be no PPM, as it is being taken over by Iberdrola Renewables, a Spain-based company with a market capitalization of $30 billion and with a “people and the environment first” policy. Iberdrola is the world’s largest company in wind power, with 7.36 megawatts of installed capacity, with 23 projects in operation in the United States, with a 36-turbine one in Bureau County ready to go online soon.
Each turbine in Cayuga Ridge would take less than an acre, including an access road, and farming will continue to the edge of the access road. Foundation work could begin this fall, and the farm could be online in the fall of 2009, if the special use permit is approved.
Benefits for the community include 300 construction jobs, 15 to 23 permanent local jobs, the majority from local labor, $1.5 million in landowner payments, and $3.1 million to $4 million in first-year property tax revenue. Michaelsen said the wind farm would generate $52 million to $70 million in property taxes over 24 years.
One projection of first-year property taxes of $3.5 million showed the Odell Grade School district, with 65 turbines, receiving $540,000. The 15,000 acres are bordered by roads 2700 and 2000 North and 2200 to 3000 East.
The director of wind plan operations for Portland, Ore.-based PPM, Scott Winneguth, said the 280-foot tower would have a three-blade rotor diameter of about 300 feet, the length of a football field. The “raft” style, concrete foundation is 60 feet in diameter and eight feet deep. Underground collector cables would be laid four feet deep in trenches one foot wide. A transformer at the collector substation would increase voltage from 34,000 to 345,000, for more efficient transmission on the energy grid.
Most turbines, Winneguth said, are designed to provide their rated power at a wind speed of about 28 mph, and the 2008-vintage models are almost like aircraft wings, with the 95-meter diameter ones turning at 13 revolutions per minute. Iberdrola Renewables buys only turbines certified by one of two agencies that use international standards for wind-turbine technology.
The company will pay all costs of and do all work on public road upgrades needed during construction, with county oversight and review. Widened turns will be reclaimed to original condition after construction.
Obligations for decommissioning of the towers includes removal all material, including below ground, and restoration of soil and vegetation. The county will receive an update every three years on decommissioning costs.
No water is consumed or discharged, no odors are produced and no hazardous waste is generated. An operations and maintenance building would be built.
Other information presented as testimony at Monday’s session of the public hearing included:
# The turbines would not affect reception of AM-FM radio and wireless Internet, or interfere with commercial microwave signals. There could be an effect on some antenna-based television signals, but if so mitigation is available.
# In January, five houses in the wind-farm area were on the market. A survey of brokers showed three saying the proposed wind farm had no impact on the homes being for sale, one said it was “at least a partial factor,” and one said it was “an important factor.” A study updated in 2008 involving 26 counties in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin showed wind farms did not adversely affect property values.
# Noise studies show that the turbines comply with Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations, described as among the strictest in the United States. Daytime noise standards will be met for participating residents, even though those standards are not applicable in those cases. Turbines were eliminated at locations near non-participating residents where they did not meet nighttime noise regulations, where standards include preventing loss of sleep from noise.
# Studies showed “no substantial impact on birds likely and no data was found to show there would likely be an impact on bats.
By John Faddoul, Staff Reporter
29 April 2008
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