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Offer made to turbine neighbors

NORMANDY – A wind energy company is making an offer to neighbors of a proposed project in Bureau County – $1,000 or more a year.

Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power has submitted its application for 19 turbines in Greenville Township in northwestern Bureau County.

The company has yet to turn in its applications to Lee and Whiteside counties, but it’s expected to do so in the coming months.

Residents in much of the area of the wind farm have railed against the project. The company plans 60 to 90 turbines in the first phase and a similar number in the second.

The majority of turbines are expected to be in Lee County.

Last year, the board for Hamilton Township in Lee County – ground zero for Mainstream’s Green River project – voted unanimously for a comprehensive plan that recommended against the construction of wind turbines.

In Whiteside County’s Deer Grove, near which Mainstream is planning turbines, the village board has voted to regulate wind energy development in the 1.5-mile area outside its limits. Its village president, Al Thompson, has criticized wind farms.

The company turned in its application to the Bureau County zoning office on Feb. 2, said Kristine Donarski, the county’s zoning enforcement officer. The application will go through the county’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals before ending up before the County Board.

The board may vote on the project as early as April, she said.

Shortly after turning in the application, Mainstream started sending its Good Neighbor Agreement offer to residents near the proposed project.

The offer acknowledged complaints about turbines such as noise, shadow flicker and interference with television reception.

“It is true that turbines are not silent; however, we plan carefully to ensure that our wind farms operate to acceptable levels,” the offer states. “In Illinois, noise regulations are set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board, and wind farms are bound by the same regulations as everyone else.”

Opponents say the state created the regulations before the advent of wind farms, though, and as such, the rules aren’t sufficient.

Mainstream also said wind turbines can affect TV reception, depending on the layout.

“If we cause problems with your television reception, we will work with you to sort it out at our expense,” the offer says.

The Good Neighbor agreement focuses mostly on shadow flicker. The offer is made to residents that receive 10 hours or more of flicker a year.

Keith Bolin of Mainstream said the company uses conservative modeling for the 10-hour-a-year standard.

“It assumes the turbine is always turning and facing the sun. We assume the house is 100 percent glass and there are no trees or shrubbery,” Bolin said. “We basically acknowledge that there are changes as far as the landscape. Shadow flicker annoys people.”

The Good Neighbor agreement doesn’t stop people from going through the complaint procedure on noise and TV reception, Bolin said.

Under the agreement, Mainstream would pay a resident affected by shadow flicker $1,000 the first year of the project. That amount goes up 2 percent annually for 20 years, with a cap of $24,297.

The company said it doesn’t seek to make the Good Neighbor agreements confidential.

“Our one request is that if ever you should have any complaints about the wind farm, you first come to us and give us the opportunity to make it right,” the offer states.

Stacy Gonigam, a Hamilton Township resident, said her family has rejected Mainstream’s offer to have turbines on their farm. She wasn’t impressed with the company’s offer of money to neighbors in Bureau County.

“It sounds like they’re bribing the neighbors to keep their mouths shut,” said Gonigam, the township’s supervisor. “I don’t think that’s a good neighbor.”

Link to Mainstream doc