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Wind firm sticks with project

ASHTON – A wind energy company planning turbines for northern Lee County and southern Ogle County closed its office in downtown Ashton this week.

Some residents are speculating that RES Americas is giving up on its plans for the wind farm near Ashton and Franklin Grove.

The company says that’s far from the case.

SDLqThere is no status change with the project. Our land acquisition activities are complete. We don’t need the office,” said Joe DeVito, a Minnesota-based vice president of development.

The company moved out of its 902 Main St. office Wednesday after being there for about a year, landlord Ray J. Forney said.

The company has been watching how Lee County has been handling its wind regulations, DeVito said. A committee has been reviewing the county’s wind farm ordinance and considering whether to recommend changes.

The county enacted a moratorium on new wind farm applications in September, but it expired last month. While County Board Chairman Jim Seeberg, an Ashton resident, strongly opposes extending the moratorium, a number of his colleagues are calling for just that. The board is expected to take up the issue Tuesday.

“RES has always tried to bring wind farms to communities that support them. We’re seeing which way the community is going to go. We’re looking for the county to tell us what they want to do,” DeVito said.

Ireland-based MainStream Renewable Power also is watching to see what Lee County does next. It is planning a wind farm for the southern part of Lee County – a project that also would include turbines in Whiteside and Bureau counties.

Franklin Grove and Ashton have been resistant to wind farms. Ashton last year enacted an ordinance requiring wind farm developers to ask the village board for special permission to install industrial turbines within 1.5 miles of Ashton’s boundaries.

Franklin Grove is considering such a move.

“We’re investigating the impact of turbines,” Mayor Bob Logan said. “I am not anti-wind farm. There is a definite place for them. I’m committed to giving [developers] a fair hearing.”

He said he will ask the village board to extend its moratorium on new wind farm applications, enacted in September, for another 6 months.

RES, a Colorado-based subsidiary of British energy conglomerate RES Group, hasn’t turned in applications for its farm to either Lee or Ogle counties.

Mike Reibel, Ogle County’s planning and zoning administrator, said he is not privy to the company’s plans.