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Wind turbines north of Decatur: 4 things to know

MAROA – Residents and commuters traveling through northwestern Macon County may have noticed something different when they looked over at the newly erected wind farm west of Maroa.

The turbines are spinning – at least, some of the time.

Here’s what you need to know about the progress of the Radford’s Run Wind Farm.

The spinning turbines are going through final tests.

After construction on the 139 wind turbines north of Warrensburg and west of Maroa was completed on Sept. 28, the first blades began to spin on a handful of turbines on Oct. 28, said Matthew Tulis, communication manager at E.ON, the company that will operate the wind farm.

Right now, Tulis said the company is in the “commissioning and testing phase” to make sure each turbine is mechanically and electrically sound. The plan is to test 20 turbines each week, with Tulis saying they will be connected to the transmission system after passing the tests.

There’s no firm start date for all of the turbines.

Since construction on the wind farm began this spring, the company has said all 139 turbines will be operational and at full speed by the end of the year. That’s still the plan, according to Tulis, who could not provide a more specific date as to when the turbines would go online.

As of now, Tulis said the turbines have not run into any issues with construction or testing. One completed, energy generated by the wind farm will go into the PJM Interconnection, a massive grid spread throughout 13 states in the Midwest and East.

Nearby landowners still have concerns about the impact.

Alan Ruwe said it is too early for him to draw a strong opinion yet on how the dozen turbines within a mile of his property will impact him.

Ruwe, one of three dozen landowners who filed a lawsuit in Dec. 2015 in an attempt to stop the project, said Wednesday that the he has seen and heard the turbines going on and off near his property in the past week. He did not want to jump to conclusions, but he said he has noticed a sound coming from the spinning blades whenever he is outside or has his windows open, in addition to noticeable low-frequency noise s.

“When they’re all turning and going, then I’ll be ready to make a final conclusion on them,” he said.

The case is pending in Macon County Circuit Court and could go to trial as early as next spring. Along with questions about how the county gave notice to residents about hearings on the wind farm’s construction, plaintiffs have expressed concern about negative health effects that could be caused by the turbines. Reports have shown that shadow flickers and ultrasound emissions from the turbines can cause health problems.

The wind farm is a potential windfall for local governments, but not yet.

Over the next three decades, the wind farm is expected to generate $46 million in new property tax revenue, according to the original application to the county.

That money won’t start coming in until 2019, as the timing of the construction will not allow the farm to be assessed for property tax purposes until next year.

School districts would get the biggest increase in property tax revenue, but they would also see cuts to their state aid, making for a smaller net gain.

For instance, Maroa-Forsyth School District would receive an additional $17.1 million in property taxes over the 30-year life of the project, according to a study that was part of the wind farm application. After state aid cuts, the gain for the district would be $4.4 million.

Similarly, Warrensburg-Latham School District would receive $14.6 million more in property taxes but a net revenue increase of $4.1 million, the study said.

Clinton and Mount Pulaski school districts would receive $305,000 and $440,000 in net revenue, respectively.

The benefits to county and township governments are more straightforward. Before construction was complete, Macon County had already collected about $3 million from fees associated with special permits for the turbines. Part of that money went toward purchasing new election equipment in the Macon County Clerk’s Office.

Over the course of the project, Macon County is expected to receive an additional $6.1 million in property tax revenue. The Austin, Maroa, Illini and Hickory Point townships would split the remaining $7.8 million.

In the first year, Macon County would collect $95,000 to $100,000, with the number to decrease each subsequent year of the wind farm’s operation.