MOUNT PULASKI – Efforts have been renewed to construct dozens of wind turbines in Logan County, despite a similar proposal’s rejection earlier this year.
Officials from Relight US Corp., a Delaware-based company that has been tied to the project for years, have said they want to connect more with the community to see how their former proposal was shot down and what changes could be made to move forward on the estimated $400 million project.
The Meridien Wind Farm was rejected by the Logan County Board in January due to concerns over health issues that may be caused by the turbine’s noises as well as the legitimacy of Relight US Corp., founded in 2007 as an American division of an energy company based in Italy.
The project, which has been in the planning stage since 2007, would have placed 81 turbines in the southern and western park of Mount Pulaski, stretching from Broadwell to Elkhart.
Two hearings have been held in Mount Pulaski in the past month to discuss the topic, with more than 100 people combined in attendance for both hearings to learn about what changes have been made to the plan, as well as raise similar concerns with the project as they have had in the past.
Wayne Woo, a partner in Relight and self-described “finance guy,” spoke to audiences at both hearings and went over several changes. Along with the noise from the turbines moving to an average decibel level 20 percent below the ordinance requirements, the turbine size would be reduced from 2.85 megawatts to 2.0 megawatts, though turbine heights would still be between 430 and 492 feet.
Woo said the company has struggled in past with turnover in its administration, which led to an inability to connect with residents about the project. He hoped the hearings and further discussion would help ease the mind of residents.
“We tried to understand where we went wrong,” Woo said. “We realized we needed a deeper interaction with the community and sort through some miscommunication.”
While several residents said they did appreciate the effort being made by Woo to engage the community more, it did not change their minds about the downside of the turbines.
Mike Nichols, whose house would not directly be affected by the turbines, said he respects what Relight has done by reaching out to the community but has not yet been won over by Relight officials. He said it seemed that instead of taking resident’s concerns to heart, Relight planned to use money to earn favor.
“It seems the plan is to just throw money at people to appease them,” Nichols said.
Aside from the estimated $43 million in property taxes that could be brought in during the expected 25-year lifespan of the turbines, including $2.4 million in the first year alone, Woo said Relight would provide funding for a community project fund that would total $1.5 million during the lifespan of the project, as well added money for the Mount Pulaski School District through property taxes and other as-yet undetermined contributions .
“Not only are we trying to invest in the community, we’re trying to de-risk opportunities,” Woo said.
But Chris Cowan said the potential risk of the turbines, from the noise they emit that reportedly causes sleep disturbance to the potential to lower the property value of nearby homes, exceed the potential benefits.
“We’re just saying enough is enough with this,” he said.
Woo said he would take concerns raised by residents back to the company and its investors, adding there was no hard time line to push any plan back to the county board for approval. The revised project time line has a December 2016 completion date.
Previously, the company had pushed the plan so it could take advantage of the federal Production Tax Credits, which was set to expire at the end of last year. However, the credit was extended.
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