DANVILLE – An international company interested in building a 40-turbine wind farm west of Rossville has resubmitted its request to the Vermilion County board for a building permit.
About a year ago, International Power America Inc., which merged with France-based GDF Suez, submitted its application to the county for a wind farm but pulled it from consideration just before the county’s structural safety committee made a decision on the permit.
According to county officials, the company pulled its request because an upgrade of power transmission lines is necessary for the project, and such improvements would not be possible for a couple of years. The company was negotiating with Ameren on those upgrades, according to county officials.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said the company still does not have an interconnect with the power company.
“But it is a positive sign that they want to move forward,” he said.
The company’s plan is to build about 43 turbines across about 8,000 acres of mostly farmland stretching west and north from a starting point more than a mile west of Rossville’s village limits.
International Power GDF Suez was the first wind developer to apply for a permit in Vermilion County. Since then, Chicago-based Invenergy applied for a permit, received it and started construction late last year. That will be a farm with more than 130 turbines stretching from west central Vermilion County in the Newtown area to east central Champaign County.
Also in the last year, the county board has made some changes to its wind turbine ordinance, but McMahon said he’s recommending that the county board grandfather in International Power, because its original permit request was made prior to the changes. The county now requires a higher permit fee and longer distance between wind turbines and nearby building structures.
The prior permit fee was $1,000 per turbine, and the new one is $3,000 per turbine. International Power America Inc. already paid its $40,000 permit fee last year at the original fee level. McMahon said the county could enforce the new permit fee, but he’s recommending that the county not do that.
Also, McMahon said, he’s going to recommend that the building permit have a time limitation of one year with the possibility of a one-year extension upon a written request from the company. He said the company shouldn’t be able to lock up all that land and not move forward when there could be another company interested.
McMahon said he also has no intention of considering any additional changes to the wind ordinance for at least a year.
Unlike other counties in Illinois that already have wind turbines, Vermilion County does not have countywide zoning. In 2008, when local economic development officials began working with wind farm developers interested in the area, the county wrote and approved a new ordinance regulating the development of wind farms.
The ordinance specifically addresses placement and construction issues to protect the rights of residents and landowners and to stipulate expectations of the developers before their investment in the county. According to the ordinance, the developer must submit to the committee comprehensive information, including a project summary, a site plan, studies, reports, certifications and money.
Darrell and Kim Cambron live in a rural area near Rankin in northern Vermilion County and were instrumental in getting the county to consider changes in its original wind turbine ordinance. The Cambrons, who have concerns with the structural safety of turbines and their impact on wildlife and humans, are continuing to ask county board members to make more changes to the ordinance.
But McMahon said the county won’t put that issue on the agenda again for at least another year.
“We have established an ordinance. We tweaked it to satisfy some constituents, so we’re done. It’s going no further,” he said.
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