DANVILLE – Vermilion County’s newly-formed wind turbine regulatory committee unanimously recommended Wednesday granting the county’s first-ever permit to Chicago-based Invenergy for a 140-turbine wind farm.
Several residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, some in favor of the project and some against.
But committee member Bill Donahue said during the meeting that the structural safety committee is not a policy committee charged with deciding whether wind energy is good or bad.
In the absence of a countywide zoning system, the county board formed the seven-member committee of county officials and residents to review wind farm applications and make sure their plans are consistent with the requirements laid out in an wind ordinance the county adopted a few years ago.
Invenergy expects to start construction by the end of this year on a wind farm that will cover thousands of acres in west central Vermilion County and east central Champaign County, according to Greg Leuchtmann, business development manager with Invenergy, who attended Wednesday’s meeting and answered committee members’ questions. The committee went down a check list of items that its ordinance requires of a wind farm, including local road use agreements, decommissioning agreements and consultation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on potential impacts to environment and wildlife.
Invenergy is still in the process of completing several of the requirements, including a road-use agreement that will spell out exactly what the company will be responsible for in improving and maintaining local roads that will handle the increased traffic during construction and operation of the wind turbines.
Committee members brought to the attention of Invenergy officials that some of the maps in their application were not accurate. According to Donahue, the company submitted new maps on Wednesday and plans to correct other items later.
Despite the lack of a finished road agreement and other unfinished processes in other areas required of the county’s ordinance, the committee members believed they had enough information and enough questions answered by Invenergy officials at the meeting to recommend by a 7-0 vote that a permit be granted. Final approval will come from the full county board, which may vote on it at Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting.
However, the committee did attach some conditions to the permit.
According to those conditions, the permit will be good for two years and may be extended for one year with no additional cost if construction has started. If there is no construction activity within two years, the permit expires.
Other conditions attached to the permit include requirement of a completed road use agreement prior to construction, review of the decommissioning plan every five years and ongoing compliance with requirements of the county’s ordinance, which may be amended in the future.
Rankin-area residents Darrell and Kim Cambron have been asking the county for months to reconsider its ordinance in light of research they have done into potential safety hazards with wind turbines, including possible negative affects on nearby residents caused by noise and shadow flicker from the rotating blades.
The Cambrons spoke during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting and again asked the committee to slow down the permitting process and investigate the potential hazards. Darrell Cambron read accounts of residents who live near wind turbine who have complained of ill effects.
“Look beneath the surface and ask if the county is really being served by this industry,” he said.
Bill Ingram, a Danville-area resident, also spoke to the committee, questioning whether wind energy is a financially feasible energy alternative.
“If this is the energy of the future, why do we need to subsidize it?” he asked the committee.
Danville Area Community College President Alice Jacobs spoke in support of the permit and said that it would bring jobs and revenue to the area and benefit students who have been educated in the college’s program that trains them for jobs maintaining wind turbines.
One of those students, Danny Odum of Danville, said he wants to use his degree here, rather than moving out of the area to find a job.
“I think that Vermilion County could definitely use this. We need the jobs. You can find pros and cons with anything if you get on the Internet,” he said.