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Wind farm developer working to get permits for Pilot Hill project reinstated

WATSEKA – The developer of a wind farm that will span portions of Iroquois, Ford and Kankakee counties is working to have its building permits reinstated for 35 turbines to be built in Iroquois County, after the county board voted to withhold those permits last week.

Iroquois County Highway Engineer Joel Moore told the board that contractors for EDF Renewable Energy, headquartered in San Diego, Calif., had violated a road-use agreement with Iroquois County and that county’s townships after construction of the Pilot Hill Wind Farm began.

As a result, the board voted unanimously last Wednesday to withhold the remaining 35 building permits that have already been issued but not yet given out to the company.

The county’s planning and zoning office has issued 41 building permits to EDF – one for each turbine to be built in Iroquois County. EDF paid a $5,000 fee for each permit, totaling $205,000. Of those 41 permits issued, only the first six have been picked up by EDF officials.

Moore, meanwhile, said he is confident that the county will feel comfortable giving out the remaining 35 – if not at least some of them – in the near future.

“They have been making strides to come into compliance with the road-use agreement,” Moore said Tuesday. “We still have got a little ways to go, but since … they’ve found out about the permits being withheld, they have been more than willing to begin complying with the road-use agreement.”

According to Moore, one of the main issues that violated the agreement was that trucks delivering supplies to the turbine sites were using routes not authorized under the agreement with the county and its townships. Most of the unauthorized “off-route” traffic has been on township roads, not county highways, Moore noted.

“I can’t say so much that it was the contractors working there; it was there delivery people,” Moore said. “But still, it’s the developers responsibility to make sure the people making the deliveries know which roads they can use.”

Another issue: Even though some roads used to haul turbine components have been upgraded, they have not been properly maintained as required, Moore said. According to Moore, the roads have “gotten pretty rough.”

Also, Moore said, in two instances large wind tower component parts have been left on roads overnight.

Moore said another issue was that road construction signs were not properly maintained. Moore said that when the signs get knocked down or stolen, they have not been replaced.

Moore said EDF also has not been blocking off the “turning radiuses” around intersections near turbine sites, as required. “They are not policing that every night,” Moore said.

The Pilot Hill Wind Farm was formerly known as the K4 Wind Farm before being purchased by EDF last summer. Construction of Phase I, which includes 61 turbines in Kankakee County and 41 in Iroquois County, began in August. With Ford County’s portion included, the wind farm is expected to eventually comprise 199 turbines with a generating capacity of about 340 megawatts.