The permitting could soon be in place that would allow movement in the Green River wind energy project, a venture that has been in the works in Lee and Whiteside counties for 8 years.
The Whiteside County Board, at its Tuesday meeting, is expected to vote on Geronimo Energy’s petition for an extension of its special-use permit required to build the turbines and substation.
Lee County approved a 3-year permit extension in May 2016, the month it was set to expire. That extension is good until May 2019.
The extension, if granted in Whiteside County, wouldn’t give Geronimo as much time.
“The special-use permit ran out here in August 2015, so the 3-year extension would start from there and only go through August 2018,” said Stu Richter, Whiteside County planning and zoning administrator.
Richter said a longer extension could have been requested by Geronimo, but the company kept the petition for 3 years.
Most of the turbines – 66 – would be in Lee County, while only four would be in Whiteside. The substation, however, would be built in Whiteside.
The original plan had called for nine turbines to be built in Whiteside, south of Jersey Road east of Deer Grove, but that plan has changed.
“Deer Grove decided it didn’t want any turbines because they were only 1 1/2 miles away, so that knocked off two of them,” Richter said.
The company lost three turbines in an agreement to keep the project a half-mile away from 22 miles of prairie owned by Greg Wahl, CEO of Wahl Clipper Corp. Wahl and his attorney, noted environmental specialist Rick Porter, had voiced concerns that the turbines would likely disturb the natural habitat of threatened species such as the ornate box turtle.
The wind project was started in 2009 by Mainstream Renewable Energy, but was sold to Geronimo in December 2013. The issues with Deer Grove and Wahl are not the only reasons the project has been delayed, creating the need for permit extensions.
In July 2013, a lawsuit was filed by 60 residents against Lee County and Mainstream. The court challenges cited nonconforming land-use issues, the turbines’ effect on property values, and concerns about noise and shadow flicker.
Richter said there is pending litigation that could further stall the project.
“There is still a lawsuit in court that includes quite a few people, including landowners and township officials,” Richter said.
A state law passed in 2015 to help protect landowners near wind energy projects also held up the process. The law required that an agriculture impact mitigation agreement between developers and the state agriculture department be in place before permitting could be extended. The documentation arrived later than expected, tying the hands of local officials.
The Whiteside County Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the LEC conference room at 400 N. Cherry in Morrison.
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