URBANA – Champaign County’s first wind farm – as many as 30 turbines in a 10,913-acre area in the northeastern part of the county – will go before the county zoning board of appeals beginning Aug. 25.
The entire wind farm, known as the California Ridge project, includes 134 turbines, 104 of which would be in western Vermilion County.
The Champaign County part of the project would be located entirely on 62 farmland parcels in Compromise and Ogden townships, just north of Royal.
County zoning director John Hall said he has scheduled four public hearings – Aug. 25, and Sept. 1, 8 and 29 – on the request from Invenergy Wind LLC of Chicago for a special-use permit to build the wind turbines.
“We scheduled four hearings, based on what happened in other counties” where wind farm applications were filed, Hall said.
If all goes according to plan, he said, the issue could go to the county board as soon as Oct. 20. In addition to the ZBA, the project would be reviewed by the county board at a committee of the whole meeting in October.
“It’s going to be a significant public hearing just to go through all the evidence, and let anybody who wants to speak speak,” Hall said of the zoning board of appeals process. “I do know the zoning board will follow its bylaws in regards to minimizing redundant testimony. So my advice would be to keep it on target and talk about the wind farm that is proposed.”
The only public hearings in the process will be at the ZBA, Hall said.
“Normally in cases like this when the ZBA makes a recommendation to the county board, what people say at the committee of the whole and the county board is supposed to be nothing more than what they said at the public hearing, otherwise they’re trying to submit new evidence. And so if people want to be able to say things to the county board, they’d better come and say it at the public hearing.”
Hall said that based on similar hearings in other counties, he expects to hear from wind farm opponents on issues such as noise standards and environmental impacts.
“I think our wind ordinance (approved in May 2009) is one of the better ones in the state, it’s certainly better than most,” Hall said. “And yet people have the right to come and give testimony. I still believe we have adequate standards. But if somebody submits something during the public hearing and the zoning board asks about it, I’ll have to do my research and see if they have a point.”
Although the wind farm project is within an area of more than 10,000 acres, the land use taken up by the 30 328-foot-tall turbines and associated access roads would amount to 16.5 acres.
Each turbine, according to a press release from county board Chairman C. Pius Weibel, would provide about $14,400 in tax revenue each year, most of which would go to school districts in northeastern Champaign County, such as Armstrong Township High School, Rantoul Township High School, St. Joseph-Ogden High school and the Gifford and Prairieview-Ogden grade school districts.
Construction could begin in early 2012 and be completed by December, according to Invenergy’s special-use application. Construction would take nine to 12 months with the peak period lasting four to six months, the company said. During peak construction there would be 75 large truck trips per day and up to 200 small vehicle trips in the area. Of the 75 large truck trips, 20 would be wind turbine component deliveries.
The special-use permit application says that properly maintained wind turbines have a minimum life of 20 years, and can either be decommissioned and removed, or repowered with new components.
Although this is the first proposed wind farm in Champaign County, nearby McLean County has 340 turbines in operation.
, including the 240 turbines at the Twin Groves farm west of Gibson City and the White Oak farm northwest of Normal. Twin Groves went into operation in 2007.