Plans for a $2 billion alternative energy wind farm in south Lake County blew away this week when the company that would have built the nearly 200-turbine wind park east of Lowell pulled out.
Steve Arwood, U.S. regional director for Windlab, a wind energy development company with offices in Australia, South Africa, Canada and Michigan, confirmed the company had withdrawn its plans for Eagle Creek Wind Park.
“We are still in the process of properly notifying landowners,” Arwood said.
Two reasons spelled the demise of the plan – the Kankakee River drainage system and residential growth in the area, Arwood said,
“The Kankakee River drainage system is very involved and upon internal reviews we decided that being able to construct a successful wind farm is probably not feasible,” Arwood said. “We’d be potentially disruptive to that drainage. That’s really it.”
The southern tip of the 23,000-acre wind farm would have stopped a mile north of the river.
Arwood said extremely detailed engineering necessary for land and drainage, ditching and piling necessary to install the huge 225-feet turbines, along with growth in residential areas to the north, led Windlab to determine the project, as it originally envisioned, “was not something we wanted to pursue.”
The wind park, which would have involved nearly 100 property owners, would have extended from south of Indiana 2 to north of U.S. 231 and 153rd Avenue, from the Lake/Porter county line west to Interstate 65 to Cedar Creek Township east of Indiana 55.
“It’s a great community with wonderful people,” Arwood said. “We just have to move on.”
Dan Blaney, a Morocco-based attorney specializing in wind farms, who represented the property owners on whose land the turbines would have been located, confirmed that Windlab had contacted him Tuesday with the news.
“Our boys are backing out,” Blaney said. “I was disappointed to hear that, but I haven’t gotten the letter yet.”
Blaney said Windlab officials had contacted him several weeks ago saying they were re-evaluating the Lake County project.
He said Windlab held off for several weeks after he said he would contact another wind company. Blaney said another company might be interested in the project.
“There are a lot of them out there,” he said.
John Bryant Jr., who was on a three-member committee representing property owners, said landowners had committed several thousand acres to the project.
“They had signed up some property owners already and paid them, and they paid our attorney (Blaney),” Bryant said.
Bryant, who would have hosted seven of the turbines on his property at a minimum of $12,500 a year each, took the news in stride.
“We’re not soliciting anybody, but if they come knocking on our door we’ll talk to them,” Bryant said.
Arwood said Windlab, which is just beginning to expand into North America, has projects under development in Canada and the Western United States and is moving into the Midwest, including an interest in Star City, Ind.
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