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Macon County awaits movement on wind turbines project

DECATUR – The winds across the northern plains of Macon County have have continued to flow uninterrupted by any wind turbines.

That was not meant to be the case, as county officials moved quickly last year to set the groundwork to build upward of 118 wind turbines across the northern part of the county near Maroa, with a plan that turbines could begin to dot the landscape as early as this fall.

But nearly a year later, there have been no further movements on the plan, and no permits for construction have been turned in to the county’s planning and zoning department.

Officials say the plan remains to build the turbines, but the scope of the project needs to be fully refined before work can begin.

A spokesman for E.ON, the American unit of Germany’s largest utility company planning to build the substation, said the ultimate size and start date of the project will be determined by feasibility studies that are not yet complete and transmissions.

“If the various components of the project come together and market conditions permit, the project could begin construction in 2016,” said Elon Hasson, E.ON’s director of external affairs in a statement.

The number of turbines has not yet been determined, but Hasson said it could consist of between 100 and 175 turbines. It is estimated to generate between $30 million to $45 million in new tax revenue over the life of the project, which is expected to be 25 years.

Before the turbines can be built, developers will need to have their own permits approved by the county board. Turbine locations would have to be agreed upon by the company and landowners.

So far, permits have been taken out for two MET towers, which measure wind velocity in the area.

While the plan to build turbines in the county has been discussed for years, a proposal to build a roughly five-acre electric substation for electrical lines for a 200-megawatt wind farm on Glasgow Road in Maroa was passed by the board last December, in part to because E.ON looked to qualify for a federal tax credit for wind energy production that is set to expire at the end of the year.

Along with putting in access roads, clearing ground, grading, the foundation for the substation breaker and fencing the area was completed last winter, with final construction of the substation expected to start around the same time construction begins on the turbines.

While the turbines will not be coming as quickly as some county officials hoped, they remain supportive of the plan.

“We’re trying to figure out how this will work, but I think it’ll be something that can really benefit this community,” board Chairman Jay Dunn said.