May 6, 2011

Lancaster Wind Farm project on hold; Zoning officials say project likely won't come to fruition

By Travis Morse, The Journal-Standard, 6 May 2011

Stephenson County officials say it’s unlikely that the Lancaster Wind Farm proposed for just north of Freeport will be built, and that the project is currently on hold.
Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county, said there are a number of reasons why the farm seems unlikely at this point. For one thing, a recently settled lawsuit changed the parameters of the project and Gamesa USA, the wind farm company, would likely have to relocate at least 20 proposed turbines and hold an additional public hearing, Groves said.
Also, there are issues with the farm being located near a small rural airport and timing is a factor for Gamesa, Groves said.
“At this point in time, it doesn’t appear to be likely,” Groves said of the Lancaster farm.
The Lancaster Wind Farm LLC project would have established roughly 40 turbines at a site north of Freeport and east of Illinois 26, bordered by Cedarville Road and Dakota Road.
Gamesa was granted a special-use permit for the farm in 2007, but a lawsuit filed by Charles Muscarello led to changes in the project’s parameters. At one point, it was thought that Gamesa would apply for a new permit to encompass alterations made in the original farm’s design, but that may not be feasible now, Groves said. Gamesa officials were unavailable for comment.
According to Groves, Stephenson County’s general fund stood to gain about $60,000 to $70,000 in revenue from the Lancaster project. This total includes permitting and hearing fees for the proposed wind farm, and does not take into account future property tax revenue generated by the project, Groves said. The Dakota School District and local enterprise zone also would have gained revenue from the farm, he said.
Tri-County Farm
Despite the likely loss of the Lancaster project, Stephenson County is still hoping to realize the benefits from a proposed tri-county wind farm in this area.
At this point, the tri-county farm is projected to locate nine to 12 turbines in Stephenson County. If it comes to fruition, the farm would stretch across Stephenson, Ogle, and Winnebago counties on property southeast of German Valley. It would likely include a total of nearly 100 turbines.
A lawsuit seeking an injunction against the proposed tri-county farm remains unresolved, but Groves said he is optimistic the project will move forward. There is another public hearing planned for the project in June, related to the special-use permit issued for the farm in Winnebago County, Groves said.
“They could be courting Stephenson County for (about nine) towers,” Groves said.
Stephenson County Board Chairman John Blum said county officials are still looking to wind power as a major development opportunity for this region. The county does not develop these farms, however, but merely serves as a facilitator for the projects, he said.
“We think Lancaster is still valuable, but that’s up to the developers to figure out,” Blum said. “We’re still positive about wind power.”

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