DIXON – There was a bit of deja vu for the Zoning Board on Thursday as it gave a second nod to the same project it approved in September, which was followed by the Lee County Board’s blessing in October.
The Mendota Hills Wind Farm project once again received approval to decommission its fleet of turbines and replace about half of them with upgraded models.
Leeward Renewable Energy, the Dallas-based company that owns the wind farm, returned to the board with a nearly identical petition asking for a special use permit to uproot 63 turbines and build 27 to 34 larger, more efficient towers.
State’s Attorney Matt Klahn said the company is not asking for any additions to the project but included legal descriptions for the parcels of land in the proposed footprint that were left out the first time around.
The company also took out the three parcels that could conflict with flight paths at the Bresson Airport in Compton, one of the main concerns that was brought up during about 10 hours of combined meetings, public comments and testimony about the project.
In all, the new proposal accounts for some technical housecleaning.
“We wanted to clean that up and make it more concise,” Leeward asset manager Chris Green said.
He said even though they excluded the three parcels that might conflict with the airport, there’s still the potential for 34 turbines.
Board member Glen Hughes asked whether adding turbines in different areas in the project scope would affect the studies required – noise, shadow flicker, agricultural impact and the like.
The company will still be required to abide by the regulations set out in the petition once it applies for building permits, Green said.
They have not yet applied for building permits but are still aiming to start knocking the 13-year-old towers down this summer.
Mendota Hills is the state’s first wind farm and also its first to be decommissioned.
He said the new turbines could arrive in October – after the “guts” of the units are built in Spain and the towers and blades are assembled in the U.S. – and they could be installed by December.
“We can put up five in a week,” he added.
However, a construction date is still being worked out, and it might be pushed to May or June in 2018.
The wind farm has paid about $5.5 million in property taxes since 2003, and the project could generate an extra $550,000 in property tax revenue for the county after the rebuild.
The operation has run on a deficit for at least 4 years, and the new, more spaced apart models could triple the annual energy production from 90,000 to 270,000 megawatt hours on an annual basis and increase energy production capacity from 23 percent to 43 percent.
The project would span across Viola, Brooklyn, Willow Creek and Wyoming townships.
The board’s recommendation will go to the County Board for a vote on Feb. 21.
The Mendota Hills Wind Farm proposal will go before the Lee County Board at 9 a.m. on Feb. 21 in the third-floor boardroom of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.
The agenda will be posted at leecountyil.com 2 days before the meeting.
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