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Tri-county wind farm still on hold; Lawsuit filed in federal court has not been resolved

Freeport, Ill. – A lawsuit seeking an injunction against a proposed tri-county wind farm in this area remains unresolved, and a follow-up hearing has been set for April 29 in Rockford federal court, attorneys say.

Meanwhile, planning efforts continue for the wind farm, which would stretch across Stephenson, Ogle, and Winnebago counties on property southeast of German Valley. The proposed farm may include between 12 to 16 turbines in Stephenson County, and the entire facility would likely have close to 100 turbines.

“There’s activity going on with the project, but they haven’t applied for zoning in Stephenson County,” said Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for Stephenson County. “They might be doing some engineering work, but (the lawsuit) is delaying things.”

Because the farm would straddle three counties, the wind farm company, Gamesa USA, would have to obtain permits from each county. Gamesa is the parent company of the Minnesota-based Navitas Energy.

The lawsuit in question was filed in Rockford federal court by Patricia Muscarello, who owns property near the proposed farm site. Among other things, the lawsuit seeks an injunction against the project. The suit was filed on Jan. 21, 2010.

John Rearden, an attorney for Patricia Muscarello, said there are two motions to dismiss that have been filed in this case, but they have not yet been ruled on. The motions were filed by Gamesa USA, Winnebago County, and the other defendants in the suit.

Rearden declined to comment at length on the status of the case.

“Those haven’t been ruled on yet,” Rearden said of the motions to dismiss. “It’s supposed to be up in court again on April 29.”

Lancaster Project

Patricia Muscarello is the mother of Charles Muscarello, an attorney who filed a lawsuit against Gamesa’s Lancaster Wind Farm LLC project in 2007. That suit was settled in 2009. Officials with Gamesa USA were unavailable for comment.

The Lancaster Wind Farm project would likely include about 40 turbines located just north of Freeport and east of Illinois 26, bordered by Cedarville Road and Dakota Road.

According to Groves, Gamesa was granted a special-use permit for the Lancaster Wind Farm in 2007, but the lawsuit filed by Charles Muscarello led to changes in the parameters of the project. Gamesa will likely apply for a new permit to encompass alterations that were made in the original farm’s design, Groves said.

The first special-use permit expires on Oct. 19, 2011. If it expires, Gamesa will have to start the process over again, Groves said.

Groves said there may be some hesitancy on Gamesa’s part to move forward with the Lancaster project at this time.

“With the economy and the cost of electricity, the price is not compatible with profits,” Groves said.