DANVILLE – The company planning the Hoopeston Wind Project in northern Vermilion County has put off its plans to build more than 40 wind turbines mainly because transmission lines in the area need to be upgraded first, according to Vermilion County officials.
Earlier this year, Hoopeston Wind LLC, owned by London-based International Power America Inc., submitted its application to the county for a permit to proceed with construction of at least 43 wind turbines in the northwest part of the county.
The county’s structural safety committee was scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday (today) to hold a public hearing on the company’s application and consider issuing the permit. The county has no zoning, so the county board wrote a wind ordinance stipulating road agreements, setback distances and other requirements that must be met by wind farm developers before they can be issued a permit to build. Although there are at least three wind farm projects proposed in Vermilion County, the Hoopeston Wind Project is the first to initiate the permit process.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said he talked to company officials on Monday who told him that an upgrade of transmission lines in the area is necessary to carry the amount of power generated from the wind farm to its ultimate destination, and that upgrade, which it’s been negotiating with Ameren, cannot be completed for another two years.
McMahon said company officials said there could be a lot of changes in wind turbine technology in two years that would require them to reapply for the permit, so they would be better served by holding off on the permit process. The county was also in the process of negotiating road agreements with the company and that process also is now on hold, McMahon said.
“But there was no indication that they weren’t going to look to us in the future,” McMahon said.
Linda Bolton, director of business development and government relations with Vermilion Advantage, said project officials mentioned during their most recent site visit that a merger would slow down projects and mentioned that upgrading existing transmission lines would be necessary. In February, International Power America Inc. announced it was merging with another power generation company, GDF Suez based in France.
“There are other things involved in the project other than road agreements and property leases,” said Bolton, who added that the company has invested a lot in this project already, and company officials have given every indication that they will be moving forward with the project. It just may be at a slower pace, she added.
“That’s what happens with renewable energy,” she said. “It’s volatile, and it changes.”
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