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2nd wind farm eyed east of Paxton

PAXTON – Up to 49 more wind turbines could be built east of Paxton within the next year, bringing the number of turbines along a 10-mile stretch of Illinois 9 to 143.

The Ford County zoning office received a special-use permit application on Jan. 18 for the Dogtown Wind Project, a proposed 100-megawatt wind farm that would comprise 6,136 acres of farmland immediately south of the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm.

Along with the application, the zoning office received permit fees totaling $4,900 – $100 for each turbine that could be built.

The Dogtown Wind Project is being jointly developed by Stewardship Energy LLC, based in Bureau County, and Akuo Energy USA, a subsidiary of France-based Akuo Energy that is headquartered in Chicago.

In 2010, the two companies partnered to form a limited liability company, Dogtown Wind LLC, that would own and operate the proposed wind farm. Stewardship Energy started working with local landowners to organize the project in 2008.

“I would say that we’re definitely excited” that the permitting process is finally under way, said Doug Krause, project manager for Akuo Energy. “We would like to start construction the day after we get the permit.”

All of the proposed turbines would be located in Ford County, in Patton and Button townships. About 35 landowners have signed leases to allow their land to be used for the wind farm.

Ford County Supervisor of Assessments Candice Short said she is working to set up a meeting of the county’s planning commission for March 14 to review the special-use permit application and decide whether the project meets the county’s ordinance requirements. By law, the commission is required to meet on or before that date if it intends to review the application.

The Ford County Board of Appeals will then hold a public hearing to consider the permit. The hearing is tentatively scheduled for April 2, Short said.

If the special-use permit were to be approved, Dogtown Wind LLC would then need to apply for building permits – along with paying a $5,000 building-permit fee for each turbine – prior to construction starting. The building permit process, however, does not involve the planning commission or zoning board.

The Dogtown Wind Project would have a nameplate generating capacity of about 100 megawatts, although it could be as large as 117 megawatts if a larger turbine is used. Three turbine sizes are being considered: 1.7, 2.4 and 2.7 megawatts.

“The most likely scenario is between 80 and 100 MW production capacity,” the special-use permit says.

The power generated would be connected to the utility electric grid at a substation in Paxton. Dogtown Wind LLC is still negotiating a power-purchase agreement to have the power bought over the course of the wind farm’s 20-year lifespan, Krause said.

Meanwhile, the project has already been registered in the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) interconnection queue, the permit application says.

The project is expected to involve a $200 million capital investment, the permit application says. The wind farm would produce an estimated $10 million to $20 million over 20 years in local property tax revenue and millions of dollars in payments to landowners leasing their farmground. It would also create eight long-term jobs and provide enough electricity to power 30,000 homes.

Krause said his company wants to build its wind farm this year in order to take advantage of a production tax credit that gives developers 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of electricity production from large-scale wind turbines. The tax credit, which was recently extended through the end of 2013, only applies to wind farms that are built or have construction under way by the end of the year.

“2013 would be a great opportunity to build,” Krause said. “There’s turbine availability, equipment availability – everyone rushed last year, in 2012, so it’s a perfect time.

“The problem is the natural gas market just depresses the wholesale price of power, and nobody’s willing to jump on a 20-year commitment to buy our power, even though the price we can offer has never been seen in the history of renewable power. We’re talking 5 cents. It’s very affordable power we’re selling.”

Akuo currently has 150 megawatts of wind power in production. Stewardship Energy has two Illinois wind farms, of 8.4 megawatts and 75 megawatts.

The Dogtown Wind Project would be located entirely south of Illinois and immediately next to E.On Climate & Renewables’ 150-megawatt Pioneer Trail Wind Farm, which was built in fall 2011 and was the first in Ford County. That wind farm has 94 turbines.

The name of the Dogtown project was chosen by local landowners participating in the project. It refers to an area east of Paxton that is known as Dogtown.