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Heartland board hears new wind turbine proposal

NORMAL – About a third of the 96 acres Heartland Community College acquired last year may become home to a power-generating wind turbine.

The college’s board heard Tuesday a proposal to locate a wind turbine on 35 acres on the north end of the new property and to the west of its current campus buildings at 1500 W. Raab Road, Normal.

“I know that looks like a big space,” said Rob Widmer, Heartland vice president of business services, as he showed the board a map of the proposed location.

Last month, as it was close to finalizing a purchase contract for a wind turbine, the board found out the tower couldn’t be located north of its current buildings as planned. Turbine supplier Vestas mandated perimeter of 250 meters from an interstate highway and 213 meters from any buildings or parking lots to protect against ice thrown by the turning blades.

Without the mandated ice-throw perimeter, the turbine would have to be shut down on days when the temperature is below 36 degrees, which Widmer said is not a viable solution.

“We could lose 100 days a year,” Widmer said.

Although buildings could not occupy the 35 acres, the space could be used for agriculture or other seasonal uses, he said.

Heartland President Allen Goben said development of the 96 acres likely would start at Raab Road, which is the southern boundary of the property, so the north end could remain untouched for years.

“It would likely be many years in the future before we looked at that back area for another purpose,” Goben said.

The project was not on the agenda Tuesday for a vote, but after the discussion board Chairman Gregg Chadwick said he thought there was a “fairly clear consensus” for Widmer to proceed.

“It’s a significant initiative for us,” Chadwick said.

Heartland expects the $4.7 million turbine to meet about half the energy needs of the campus, saving the college about $381,000 a year in power costs. Bonds and more than $1.4 million in federal and state grants would pay for the project.

In other business, the college’s trustees approved a 2011 property tax levy that is expected to generate about $553,000 more for the college in 2012 while leaving the tax rate unchanged.

The levy for taxes payable in 2012 seeks about $13.3 million for all funds, excluding bonds and interest. That is up slightly from about $12.8 million the district received in 2011.

Assuming the equalized assessed value of property in the Heartland district has grown by 2.5 percent, the tax rate associated with that levy is expected to remain constant at 47 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation. For a $150,000 home, the tax bill for Heartland would be about $235.