DIXON – A proposed three-county wind farm project will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, its project manager said Tuesday.
Each turbine would cost about $2 million, said John Martin of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power. Fifty-three are planned for southwestern Lee County.
One issue is Mainstream’s plan for the possibility that it later decommissions the project.
In its decommissioning plan, Mainstream said it would set aside about $13,000 for such a process in Lee County. That compares to the more than $6 million the company’s expert said it would cost to bring down the wind farm. But that expert’s report maintains that the salvage value of the turbines would cover nearly that entire cost, an assertion others dispute.
Some residents are pushing for wind energy companies to put up far more money beforehand for instances when they abandon wind farms. They say they don’t want decaying albatrosses marring the landscape.
Martin was asked about the $13,000 during Tuesday’s hearing of the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals, which is considering Mainstream’s proposal.
“That’s for discussion purposes,” he said, adding that the decommissioning plan was a draft.
Ultimately, he said, the County Board would approve the final plan shortly before building permits are issued. That would be after the public hearing process has ended.
Attorney Rick Porter, who is representing Hamilton Township and landowners near the proposed turbines, questioned whether a public hearing would be held on the plan.
Martin said that would be up to the County Board.
“The County Board is well-suited to handle the issue,” he said.
Porter also cross-examined Martin on studies on the effects of noise and shadow flicker on neighbors. He said the company said in its application that it would get third-party experts to examine those issues and submit their resumes and work experience to the county beforehand.
Porter said that wasn’t done and asked Martin why.
“I don’t have an answer for that,” he said.
Minutes later, Porter brought up the application’s promise again. Mainstream’s attorney, Doug Lee, protested, saying that pledge applied to later studies on noise and shadow flicker.
“You’re making stuff up,” Porter told Lee.
The hearing’s facilitator, Tim Slavin, a retired judge, chastised the attorneys.
Porter said one of the experts belonged to wind energy trade groups, including Women of Wind Energy.
“Would you agree the scientist is not neutral?” Porter asked Martin.
Lee objected, and Slavin stopped that line of questioning.
For 2 1/2 hours, Porter cross-examined Martin. Because it is a public hearing, all those attending – more than 30 did Tuesday – have the right to ask questions as well.
The hearing process likely will continue for months. The next one is Sept. 18.
Last month, the Whiteside County Board approved nine turbines in the far southeastern area of the county. Bureau County is still holding hearings.
The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon. The meeting is expected to last 2 1/2 hours.
The board will resume its public hearing for Mainstream Renewable Power’s application for turbines in the southwestern area of the county.
For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings, or more information, go to www.leecountyil.com or call 815-288-5676.
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