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Wind farm developer has no agreement to sell power yet

URBANA – The developer of a proposed 30-turbine wind farm in Champaign County does not yet have a deal with a utility to buy the output of the project, an attorney for Invenergy LLC admitted Thursday.

But “an agreement is in fairly advanced stage of negotiation” with an unnamed utility, Invenergy attorney Michael Blazer told the Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals.

“It’s going to happen. We just can’t tell you exactly when or with whom yet,” he said.

Blazer said the entire 134-turbine California Ridge Wind Energy project – most of which would be in Vermilion County – would not be built without a purchase power agreement with a utility such as Ameren or Exelon.

The 30 turbines planned for Champaign County would be erected in a rural area north of Royal in the northeast quadrant of the county. County Zoning and Planning Director John Hall said the land taken in the proposed development would cover about 22 acres and is not best prime farmland.

Also Thursday, Greg Leuchtmann, Invenergy’s business development manager, said the project would yield approximately $548,000 in property taxes in its first year, about $300,000 of which would go to local school districts.

Leuchtmann also said that a draft road agreement to upgrade rural roads maintained by Champaign County and Compromise and Ogden townships was being reviewed and that he hoped the agreement would be signed in a few weeks.

Another proposed draft agreement, this one dealing with the eventual decommissioning of the structures and turbines, was submitted by Invenergy to the county earlier this week, Leuchtmann said.

It calls for removal of all structures and turbines, the elimination of the tower foundations down to 4 1/2 feet, full site grading, and repair and maintenance of all public roads used in demolishing the towers, he said.

Leuchtmann also said that Invenergy forecasts that the wind farm would have an annual output between 38 percent and 44 percent of its full rated capacity.

Thursday’s hearing was continued to Sept. 8. Hall said at least one more hearing on the wind farm proposal would be needed in September.

A much smaller crowd – about 25 people – was on hand for Thursday’s meeting than attended the opening session a week earlier. Among those present were five county board members – Democrats C. Pius Weibel, Ralph Langenheim and Pattsi Petrie, and Republicans Steve Moser and Alan Nudo.