DEER GROVE – Facing the prospect of a nearby wind farm, the village of Deer Grove wants to regulate the areas surrounding its boundaries.
Last month, Deer Grove’s board of trustees voted unanimously to regulate wind turbines within 1.5 miles of its limits.
This was in response to the recent news that Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Energy planned to extend a proposed wind farm for Bureau and Lee counties into Whiteside County.
The farm would be north of Deer Grove, county officials say. The village, population 48, is 12 miles south of Rock Falls.
Mayor Al Thompson said the village mainly took the action to protect land values. He said residents also fear turbines’ noise and effects on TV reception.
“What would be nice is for the county to have a setback on all towns and villages in Whiteside County,” he said. “That would be in the best interest of the people.”
The county has an ordinance dealing with wind farms, but Thompson said he doesn’t believe the complaint resolution procedure is strong enough. He said it requires companies to “mitigate” problems when they receive complaints.
But he fears that the firms may take years to correct problems, which he said is happening in Bureau County.
“You have to get the word ‘mitigate’ out of there,” Thompson said. “Otherwise, they’ll take advantage of the small guy. The small guy doesn’t have the money to fight these wind farms.”
Matt Boss, Mainstream’s project manager, said his company needs to understand the Deer Grove residents’ concerns.
“I’m always preferring outreach, rather than legal discussions,” Boss said. “Wherever we go, we get a majority of people in favor, but a minority has concerns.”
County Administrator Joel Horn said wind companies must get special-use permits to set up farms in the county. He said the county would make its decisions on a case-by-case basis, entering separate agreements with firms.
He said the county hopes to learn from its neighbors in dealing with wind farms.
County Board member Karen Nelson, whose district includes Deer Grove, said she and others weren’t familiar with the wind ordinance when the issue came up more than a month ago.
She said she since has studied the issue, including attending the recent showing of the documentary, “Windfall,” in Dixon.
“We’re just getting started,” she said. “Whether we’re going to change a lot of stuff [in the ordinance], that’s the big question. I’m sure residents of Deer Grove are trying to protect their property. I don’t have a problem with that.”
Mainstream hasn’t turned in an application for its wind farm with either of the three counties involved. The company says it will do so in the coming months.
Whiteside County doesn’t have any industrial wind farms, but Lee and Bureau counties have had them for years.
Deer Grove’s push for regulation isn’t unique. In Lee County, the village of Ashton, population 972, last year passed a similar ordinance to regulate turbines within 1.5 miles of its boundaries.
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