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California energy company proposes wind-testing towers

A California-based energy company wants to install a pair of wind-testing towers on land south of Kirkland as it investigates the feasibility of building new wind turbines in the area.

EDF Renewable Energy is seeking permits to install 200-foot towers at two sites that are surrounded by farmland, records show.

Derek Hiland, DeKalb County planning, zoning and building director, said that these meteorological towers could be a preface to the construction of more wind towers in the county.

“These towers test wind patterns and velocity for a temporary period to see if constructing wind turbines is worth exploring further,” Hiland said.

One proposed location is farmland along McQueen Road south of Kirkland. The second site is nearby, at the southeast corner of Glawe and Byers roads. Both are in South Grove Township.

The towers would be made up of several tubes 8 inches in diameter. They will be held in place by guy wires anchored about 160 feet away.

Hiland said he was unsure of the cost of these testing towers.

Since both towers would be within agricultural districts, the DeKalb County Board must approve a special-use permit, which cannot be granted without a public hearing.

Special-use permits are required for any project that has the potential for creating a public nuisance; a detrimental effect upon the value or potential development of the surrounding properties; a potential for attracting a large number of people to the area, which could generate noise and other pollutants; and a tendency to generate excessive traffic, according to county zoning ordinances.

The public hearing will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 26 in Conference Room East of the DeKalb County Administration Building in Sycamore. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

The hearing will be overseen by a county zoning hearing officer, who is an independent authority who will review the applicants’ materials and public comments to make recommendations on the construction of the testing towers.

The County Board’s approval of such special permits has been questioned in the past.

In 2011, a lawsuit was settled that claimed the County Board overstepped its authority when approving zoning permits for wind farms on agricultural land.

Wind farms have been the target of criticism in the area since the County Board approved the construction of 119 wind turbines in Afton, Clinton, Milan and Shabbona townships in 2009.

Another failed effort was made in 2012 by the Spanish company Aries Power and Industrial to erect wind turbines in the same area of DeKalb County.

Hiland said that assuming the hearing goes on as scheduled, the Planning and Zoning Committee would hear the applicant’s request in February, and the County Board would rule on the permit application during one of its meetings in March.

EDF Renewable Energy could not be reached for comment. Its permit application is available for inspection at the DeKalb County Administrative Building in Sycamore.