Lee County Zoning Board gives nod to wind farm project; Recommendation to be presented to the County Board
DIXON – County Zoning Board members decided Tuesday that they are fans of the Mendota Hills Wind Farm project.
The board unanimously approved a recommendation in favor of the wind farm decommissioning its 63 turbines and replacing them with 27 to 34 upgraded models.
“I think it will be a good addition to the county as far as new construction and temporary jobs, and it’s a first-of-its-kind project,” Zoning Board Chairman Bruce Forster said.
The decision came after about 10 hours of testimony, public comment and discussion during the past few weeks, then compiling all that information into a formal document.
“I think we’ve gone through all of the conditions, I think we’ve gone through all of the testimony, and I think we put all of our statements and facts together,” Forster said. “I think we’re ready to do this.”
The recommendation will be presented Oct. 18 to the Lee County Board, which can choose to accept the proposal, deny it, approve parts of it, or send it back to the Zoning Board.
They tried to account for possible objections to the project, for example by providing a condition that the wind farm reach an agreement with Bresson Airport in Compton before constructing three turbines that could interfere with aircraft traffic, Forster said.
Board member Craig Buhrow said the condition shouldn’t present a problem since the turbines are slated for the northwestern corner of the wind farm and could be moved, or removed.
“I don’t think they’re necessarily vital to the project moving forward,” he said.
The state’s first wind farm, Mendota Hills has paid about $5.5 million in property taxes since 2003, and the project could generate $550,000 more after the rebuild.
If the County Board gives its blessing, construction could begin in May or June with the turbines becoming operational in October 2017.
Mendota Hills, owned by Dallas-based Leeward Renewable Energy, is looking to improve the efficiency of the wind farm, which has operated on a deficit for at least 4 years.
Its 13-year-old towers could be salvaged and sold rather than being scrapped altogether.
The proposed upgraded turbines would be 1 and a half to 2 and a half times taller than the existing structures, with a maximum height of 639 feet from the ground to the tip of the blade.
The Zoning Board’s recommendation will be presented to the Lee County Board at 9 a.m. Oct. 18 in the third-floor board room at the Old Lee County Courthouse, 309 S. Galena Ave.
Go to leecountyil.com for an agenda or more information.
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