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As wind energy developer adjusts project, Adams County Board unlikely to adjust setback ordinance  

Credit:  By MATT HOPF, Herald-Whig Staff Writer, www.whig.com 29 January 2011 ~~

Recent decisions in the communities of Clayton and Golden to adopt a 1.5-mile wind turbine setback from their boundaries likely won’t cause the Adams County Board to reconsider a countywide wind ordinance.

The $300 million Prairie Mills Wind Farm proposal calls for developers to build 96 1.5-megawatt wind turbines for a 144-megawatt wind farm in the Camp Point, Clayton and Golden area. The county wind ordinance requires a setback of 1,320 feet from the primary structure of a nonparticipating property, but there is no restriction from towns. The setback was increased from 1,000 feet to 1,320 feet in August by a vote of the board.

The 1.5-mile setback rule was approved in Golden in December and in Clayton in January.

Les Post, chairman of the County Board’s Transportation, Building and Technology Committee, said it is up to the communities to decide whether they want to set up a buffer around towns. Illinois law allows communities to enact a 1.5-mile buffer from their boundaries.

“I don’t see the county ordinance being changed,” Post said. “The ordinance we have now is considerably better than the original ordinance. I’m glad we looked at it and (amended) it, because it protects really everybody a lot better than the original one.

“If the villages want to do a mile-and-half, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Our ordinance can’t override theirs.”

County Board Chairman Mike McLaughlin said setbacks from communities were looked at during discussions of both the original and revised wind ordinance. However, additional setbacks weren’t typically applied for villages or municipalities with a population of less than 10,000.

Few counties in the state have specific restrictions on wind turbines within a certain distance from communities. Examples are:

º 1,500 feet from any platted community in Coles County.

º 1,500 feet from an incorporated area in Ford County.

º 1,500 feet from an incorporated area in Moultrie County.

º 1.5 miles from an incorporated area in Livingston County.

º 1.5-mile setback in Sangamon County in areas with a population greater than 10,000 and a half-mile from areas less than 10,000.

John Gebhardt, spokesman for the Advocates for Responsible Wind Energy, previously asked the Adams County Board to increase the setback from a primary residence from a quarter-mile to a half-mile and give every city, community and development in Adams County a 1.5-mile authority to limit the location of wind turbines unless it is waived.

New York-based Global Winds Harvest must now adjust its project after the setback changes in Clayton and Golden.

“We’re assessing the buffer impact and assessing a different permutation of a potential layout,” said Erich Bachmeyer, vice president for development for Global Winds Harvest.

The company has not submitted a permit application to Adams County to construct wind turbines in the county. Bachmeyer said Global Winds is in the pre-permitting phase, continuing with land rights work data collection and interconnect studies.

Global Winds is leading the project after it and Acciona Energy North America announced at the Great River Economic Development Foundation’s annual meeting earlier this month that Acciona was pulling out of the Prairie Mills project. Bill York, a wind energy consultant who worked with both Acciona and Global Winds, told The Herald-Whig that more than 20,000 acres have been signed up for the project.

Global Winds was formed in 1999 and currently operates two wind farms – one in Pennsylvania and one on the border of North and South Dakota – with three other wind farms in development, according to its website.

Source:  By MATT HOPF, Herald-Whig Staff Writer, www.whig.com 29 January 2011

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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