August 22, 2013

Wind farm may change hands; Mainstream ‘not going to walk away’ from turbine project

BY DAVID GIULIANI | August 22, 2013 |

Few expected Mainstream Renewable Power, which got permits for a wind farm in Lee and Whiteside counties, actually would build and run it.

Even the Ireland-based company never ruled out selling the project.

On Aug. 11, the Irish Times reported that Mainstream told investors it would “dispose of its remaining projects and will withdraw” from North America.

Mainstream is facing pressure from Marubeni Corp. The Japanese company could receive more shares from its investment in Mainstream if the Irish firm doesn’t sell its North American business before March 31 for at least $44 million, according to the Irish Times.

The newspaper received the information from a document sent to Mainstream shareholders.

It says the current market circumstances make “the development of new wind and solar production facilities [in North America] unviable for Mainstream.”

In an interview this week, Matt Boss, the company’s vice president of development in Chicago, said Mainstream is proceeding with the local project.

“As far as Green River Wind Farm, that’s a fully permitted project,” he said. “We are very much looking forward to seeing that it has a strong future. We’re not going to walk away from it.”

In May, the Lee County Board approved Mainstream’s proposal for 53 turbines in the far southwestern corner of the county after its zoning board rejected it. Last year, the Whiteside County Board voted to allow nine turbines near the village of Deer Grove.

Bureau County’s zoning board, however, rejected a proposal for 19 turbines. The company then withdrew its plans there, saying it planned to resubmit them.

Construction has not begun in either Whiteside or Lee counties. The company, Boss said, must first reach an agreement to sell the wind farm’s electricity.

“We are very keen on moving forward with construction as soon as we can,” he said.

During the hearings for the wind farm, residents questioned whether Mainstream would sell the project once it got the permits. Representatives acknowledged that was possible.

That is often the case with wind farms. A project near the Lee County village of Compton changed hands twice before construction. A local owner sold it to Mainstream, which largely designed the project. Not long before construction, the subsidiary of a Chinese company bought it from Mainstream.

Recently, nearly 60 landowners sued Lee County and Mainstream over the wind farm. They said it would hurt them and pointed to what they considered procedural problems in its approval.

Company and Lee County officials aren’t commenting on the lawsuit.

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