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Wind farm plan gets green light in Vermilion County

DANVILLE – The Vermilion County Board authorized construction of the first wind turbine farm in the county Tuesday night despite objections from several local residents and incomplete information in the developer’s application.

The 27-member board voted 21-1, with four members absent and one seat vacant, to grant Chicago-based Invenergy a building permit to construct 104 wind turbines in west central Vermilion County.

Invenergy also submitted on July 1 its application to the Champaign County zoning board for a special-use permit to build 30 wind turbines as part of the same project in east central Champaign County. Invenergy officials said they hope construction in Vermilion County can start by the end of the year.

The lone no vote at Tuesday’s Vermilion County Board meeting came from member Terry Stal, D-District 4, who said after the meeting that he voted that way because the county should have all its agreements with Invenergy in place before the permit is issued. He said his vote reflected a procedural objection.

Although he voted “yes,” board member John Alexander also took issue with the fact that some parts of the application were not complete or that information, such as maps showing transmission lines, was provided by the company only the day before the meeting. Alexander asked that the board delay the process to allow time for gathering the additional information and the public to review that information, which is required by the county’s ordinance.

Invenergy still does not have road agreements in place with local governmental bodies that will stipulate exactly what the company is responsible for in regard to either upgrading or maintaining local roads that will be affected by the increased traffic and heavy loads during construction and operation of the wind turbines. Also, the ordinance requires that the turbines receive design certification, but Invenergy officials explained that it’s a lengthy, ongoing process that’s not yet finished.

Bill Donahue, corporate counsel for the county, explained that the county’s permit has several conditions attached that require Invenergy to have a completed road agreement and turbine design certification in place before any construction can begin, and the county’s structural safety committee felt that it had enough information from Invenergy to recommend issuing the permit. The committee vote 7-0 last week that the permit be issued by the county.

Residents who objected to the project during the structural safety committee hearing last week again expressed their objections and opinions to the full county board Tuesday night during the public comment portion of the meeting. Several residents spoke, some in favor and some against, including Darrell and Kim Cambron of rural Rankin, who asked that the board take more time to investigate potential safety concerns of wind turbines, including noise pollution, shadow flicker and effects on wildlife. Other members of the public expressed their objection to wind energy in general, including Bill Ingram of Danville, who told the board that wind is more costly than other forms of energy, partly due to government subsidies.

Kirstin Replogle of Urbana spoke as a member of the Sierra Club and told the board the club is in favor of the project, not only because it is a move toward cleaner energy but also because it will create jobs and government revenue. She said it won’t completely replace other forms of energy, but wind energy needs to be a part of the future.

“We think this is a good idea,” she said.