CAMBRIDGE – The Henry County planning committee, by unanimous voice vote Monday, found Invenergy’s Bishop Hill Phase 3 wind farm to be consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan.
Two committee members abstained because of conflicts of interest.
Allyson Sand and Michael Blazer, of Invenergy, discussed the company’s plans to renew up to 70 special-use permits and, most likely, build 61 turbines near Woodhull.
They explained five turbines likely will have “low-noise trailing edge” blades, although the nearest residents having no contract with Invenergy will be 1,700 feet from a turbine. The nearest participating residence will be nearly as far, at 1,656 feet.
Invenergy has agreed not to build within a half-mile of Woodhull.
Property owner Rod Olson said he is not participating in the project but is concerned about a broken turbine at the existing wind farm in Henry County. He said he is aware it’s a “very low risk.”
“It happens very rarely, but it does occur,” said Mr. Blazer. “We had a blade break in January on Bishop Hill 1. GE is still investigating the cause; it takes some time. We’re not sure if it was lightning strike.”
He said technology 20 years ago would let a turbine “spin so quickly it could destroy itself.”
“That cannot happen today,” Mr. Blazer said, noting the turbines have redundant braking systems and blades feathered to stop if the wind is too strong. The vast majority of pieces from any break fall straight down, he said, citing a 2013 California incident where the smallest pieces traveled no more than 200 feet.
“It’s physically impossible for these pieces to reach any of these residences,” Mr. Blazer said. “They’re just too far away.”
Mr. Blazer also said an endangered black-billed cuckoo was found dead about 300 yards from a Bishop Hill 1 turbine, but no one has determined what killed it.
“It’s extremely isolated; we’re talking about one bird,” he said.
After the hearing, Mr. Blazer said Invenergy is working to contribute to what’s known about the black-billed cuckoo. He said no other endangered birds or bats have been found at Bishop Hill.
The Henry County zoning board of appeals is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the project, which is set for a special Henry County Board meting at 6 p.m. May 7.
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