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Zoning board compiles wind farm evidence, testimony

DIXON – A first-of-its kind project to decommission a Lee County wind farm will catch its second wind in a few weeks, when the zoning board reconvenes, but in the meantime board members will work on the next steps in the lengthy process.

The Lee County Zoning Board began the process Tuesday of drafting and approving pieces of the proposed project, which involves decommissioning an entire stock of wind turbines and replacing about half of them with larger, more efficient models.

Tuesday’s 2-hour meeting was dedicated to finalizing the language of motions that summarized the evidence, testimony and public comment received during the past 2 meetings.

The approved motions will be combined into the zoning board’s overall recommendation to the Lee County Board on whether to grant the wind farm a special use permit to undergo the project.

The project includes tearing down the wind farm’s 63 turbines and replacing 27 to 34 of them with larger models while expanding the farm’s existing grounds.

The board members approved pieces that will factor into their pending recommendation, including impact studies on the area’s environment, radio and telecommunications, shadow flicker, noise and property values.

The studies are based on a Gamesa G126-2.5 model turbine, but the wind farm has not committed to that specific structure.

Board member Glen Hughes said they should make clear that the model hasn’t been finalized, but it does reflect the size and energy production the company is leaning toward.

If the county gives the project its blessing, construction could begin in May or June and the new turbines could be operational by October 2017, said Chris Green, asset manager for Mendota parent company Leeward Renewable Energy.

Mendota Hills Wind Farm, owned by Dallas-based Leeward Renewable Energy, was built in 2003 and has operated at a deficit for at least 4 years, Green said.

The Zoning Board will reconvene on Sept. 26 and 27, which means a recommendation will not be presented to the Lee County Board at its next meeting, but the board could call a special session prior to its Oct. 18 meeting.

County Board Chairman Rick Ketchum, who attended the meeting, said the zoning proceedings are expected to conclude by Sept. 27.