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County to hold hearings on wind farm regulations  

Credit:  By JOHN REYNOLDS, The State Journal-Register, www.sj-r.com 22 January 2012 ~~

Sangamon County’s zoning rules allow large wind turbines within 1,000 feet of a house.

For some people, that’s too close.

As a result, Sangamon County is considering a moratorium on wind turbines that could last up to nine months. County officials want to use that time to hold public hearings and find out what area residents want, and whether the zoning rules need to be changed.

Board member Tim Moore, chair of the county’s Public Health, Safety and Zoning Committee, said the county’s zoning code contains setbacks for wind turbines, which state how far away they have to be from a property line or house. The current rule calls for a large wind turbine to be at least 1,000 feet from a house or three times the diameter of the rotors, whichever is greater.

“Setbacks are probably the principal reason we are having the moratorium,” he said. “It gives us a chance to look at setbacks as they appear in the code right now, versus what some of the citizens have proposed.”

The county board is to vote on the moratorium Tuesday. If the issue passes, the county would then schedule a series of public hearings.

Wind turbines could be 480 feet tall

While no wind farm proposals are in front of the county board now, American Wind Energy Management is planning a wind farm in western Sangamon County.

The wind farm would be built in phases within an area bounded by the Morgan County line to the west, Illinois 125 to the north and Illinois 104 to the south. The eastern boundary would run from about a mile west of Farmingdale Road on the north and continue south along an approximate extension of that road to Illinois 104.

Chris Nickell, vice president for site establishment for American Wind Energy Management, said the company is in the process of closing the land sign-up process for property north of Old Jacksonville Road, which includes the first phase of the project.

“I’d estimate we have around 25,000 acres signed up for this project, which is plenty for us to move forward,” Nickell said.

The company hasn’t selected the exact turbines for the wind farm, but the most likely candidate is a model that is 480 to 490 feet tall.

“Essentially, they stay below 500 feet because of FAA regulations,” Nickell said. “The newest turbines on the market that are the most efficient for this kind of project are around 480 to 490 feet tall.”

Deeper setbacks

As far as the setbacks go, Nickell said the company planned to exceed the minimum 1,000 feet all along.

“We intend to use between 1,800 to 2,000 feet,” Nickell said. “Essentially, they could go from 1,000 feet to 1,800 or 2,000 feet and in our eyes, it wouldn’t change the way we are going to lay out the wind farm.”

American Wind energy doesn’t expect to have its application ready for the county during the nine months of the proposed moratorium, Nickell added. As long as there aren’t any dramatic changes in the county’s code, the company expects to submit an application by the end of the year.

“As long as the changes are minor, we don’t expect them to impact us,” Nickell said.

If everything goes smoothly, work could begin by late 2013 or early 2014.

While setbacks are expected to be the main issue during any public hearings, Moore said he also expects to hear from people concerned about wildlife, noise issues and the overall aesthetics of a possible wind farm.

Tuesday’s county board meeting begins at 7 p.m. It will be held in the board chamber on the second floor of the Sangamon County building at Ninth and Monroe streets.

Source:  By JOHN REYNOLDS, The State Journal-Register, www.sj-r.com 22 January 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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