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Energy companies looking elsewhere for wind farm locations

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for a wind farm that was planned for La Salle County.

In 2009, Iberdrola received a special use permit to construct 100 wind turbines in Otter Creek and Allen townships, but the company still hasn’t broken ground on the project.

Iberdrola’s failure to launch could be one indicator wind farm construction has stalled in the county in recent years.

Last year, Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman told The Times the company was having trouble finding a buyer for the project.

“We generally look for a long-term contract before we begin construction, but not always,” he said. “We don’t have a long-term buyer for that project, and that speaks to market condition on prospective developments.”

The special use permit has expired.

“After extending the special use permit a few times we recently decided with the county to let it lapse,” Copleman said, adding there are several reasons the project hasn’t come to fruition, including market conditions and uncertainty over public policy and tax relief for wind farms.

“There are a whole host of factors in the development and construction of any project,” he said. “We’re developing all over the country. That site is still one we are developing and still see it as a good site for a wind farm.”

He stressed Iberdrola is still interested in developing the site.

Wind energy production appears to be on the upswing in Illinois, but interest in La Salle County as a prospective location may be dwindling.

Mike Harsted, director of environmental services and land use for La Salle County, said it’s been a couple of years since he’s heard any renewable energy companies express interest in constructing a wind farm in the county.

In Illinois, wind energy generation climbed 24.4 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In June 2014, electricity generation from wind was 5,886 megawatts in Illinois, an 8.2 percent increase from June 2013, according to EIA data.

Illinois ranks fourth for the total megawatts of wind energy installed and fourth in number of wind-related jobs, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association.

Two groups of wind farms located in La Salle County, EDP Renewables’ Top Crop and Invenergy’s Grand Ridge, were commissioned between 2007 and 2009.

Since then, no other wind farms have broken ground in the county.

In Livingston County, Invenergy applied for a special use permit to build a new wind farm that encompasses 58,300 acres southeast of Pontiac. About 36,400 acres of that could be used for project facilities, including turbines. The application says the project could have 136 turbines.

Alissa Krinsky, director of communications for Invenergy, said the company looks for several factors when choosing a site, including strength of wind resources, proximity to transmission lines and community support.

In recent months, the project has seen some opposition from Livingston County residents.

While Krinsky said the company may pursue further development in La Salle County, there are no immediate plans to do so.

The company’s Grand Ridge I through IV wind farms in Marseilles have a combined maximum generation of 210 megawatts.

As of 2013, there were 2,195 wind turbines in Illinois, according to the AWEA. Just less than 5 percent of Illinois’ energy is provided by wind, or enough electricity to power about 1 million homes.

The maximum generation from the wind turbines in La Salle County is 360 megawatts. By comparison, Exelon’s nuclear plant near Marseilles can generate a maximum of 2,313 megawatts.