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Sugar Creek Wind Farm in the works once more

The Sugar Creek Wind Farm is gaining speed once more after a nearly three-year hiatus delayed construction on the project, a company representative said Thursday.

Stan Komperda, Director of Development for American Wind Energy Management (AWEM), said that he expects construction to begin later this year across a several-thousand acre stretch in Western Logan County.

The 175-megawatt Sugar Creek Wind Farm will consist of roughly 100 wind turbine towers that will have a hub height of 95 meters each and will be situated on approximately 11,500 acres between New Holland and Middletown.

While it is still being determined who will eventually consume the power generated on the farm, lease agreements have already been established with 94 local land owners, with others in the works.

“It’s been slow, the economy has definitely slowed the development of projects,” Komperda said frankly on Thursday.

“The power market, as a result, has also been slowed because, when you’ve got a slow economy, you wind up getting a glut in power, so power prices drop. That is starting to change.”

In the time that the project has been on hold, the county and the energy industry have seen a number of changes that have also affected the scope of the project.

One of the biggest changes locally comes from Ameren’s newly constructed Fogarty switchyard, just South of Lincoln, which will serve as a connection point for the new wind farm.

Komperda said that the substation was built with nearly $1 million in investments from AWEM and that it is expected to improve the grid locally by lessening outages.

While the company is in the process of completing the last of their land and road-use agreements, particularly for the transmission line that will connect to the Fogarty switchyard, they are also still looking for purchasers of the power that will be generated on the farm.

He pointed out that corporations are beginning to purchase entire wind farms in an effort to generate their own power supply, as was the case with European furniture company Ikea purchasing a 98-megawatt farm in Hoopeston, Illinois in 2014.

“What we’ve been hearing from other people, is that there are also other corporations with an appetite for that,” he said.

Additionally, Komperda mentioned that the pending closure of several coal plants in the Eastern part of the country is expected to create an even greater demand for new power generation.

The group was given the green light to move forward with their plans by the Logan County Board in 2011. At the time, the estimated cost of the project was about $400 million.

In 2012, with anticipated changes in the federal production tax credit and general economic uncertainty looming, the companies announced that they were shelving the project for at least two years.

Komperda said Thursday that, before the company is given the necessary building permits to begin construction, they must still submit certifications from the manufacturer and a field-tile drainage repair plan, among other documentation required by Logan County.

Once construction begins, the project is expected to take anywhere from 12-24 months.