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Firm seeks to build wind farm in Vermilion, Champaign counties

DANVILLE – A Chicago-based energy company submitted to Vermilion County on Friday its application for a permit to build a wind farm with more than 100 turbines in west central Vermilion County and about 30 turbines in east central Champaign County.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said that Invenergy submitted its application Friday along with a $100,000 permit fee for the proposed 214-megawatt California Ridge Wind Energy Project.

John Hall, planning director and zoning administrator for Champaign County, said Champaign has not yet received an application from Invenergy, but the county’s engineer has been working with Invenergy officials for more than a year on a road-use agreement. Hall said he expected Invenergy to submit its application in Vermilion first and a separate application in Champaign second.

An Invenergy spokesman said Tuesday that the company will be submitting a separate application to Champaign County this summer.

Invenergy officials said in an emailed statement to The News-Gazette on Tuesday that the company believes the area in Vermilion and Champaign Counties is an optimal location for a successful wind project, with an excellent wind resource and strong community support.

“Invenergy looks forward to working closely with our host community, contributing to its economic development through job creation and investment, and providing a new supply of clean, renewable energy in our home state of Illinois,” according to the statement.

The proposed project area in Vermilion County, according to the Invenergy application, encompasses about 23,327 acres in Pilot Township, generally stretching from northeast of Kickapoo State Park and the Middlefork Wildlife Area west across Illinois 49 and into eastern Champaign County north of Royal and south of Gifford. The easternmost boundary of the project area is near Newtown Road in Vermilion and the southern boundary generally runs along county road 2100 North in Vermilion, with the northernmost boundary touching 2700 North Road in Vermilion.

Invenergy has about 19 wind farms throughout the United States, including two in Illinois, and two more under construction in Illinois.

According to the application, the California Ridge project could be operational by December 2012.

Hall said that when Invenergy submits an application to Champaign County, it would be the county’s first, but his office expects more in the future. Other wind developers have been considering projects that would stretch across the southern portions of Vermilion and Champaign counties.

It’s the second wind project application Vermilion County has received.

In January, developers of the 43-turbine Hoopeston Wind Project submitted their application and permit fee to Vermilion officials.

But in April, the developers delayed the project mostly because transmission lines need to be upgraded in the proposed project area that’s west of Rossville and south of Rankin.

According to county officials, an upgrade of transmission lines in that area is necessary to carry the amount of power generated from the Hoopeston Wind Project to its ultimate destination, and that upgrade, which developers had been negotiating with Ameren, could not be done for another two years.