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Invenergy plans 100-turbine wind farm in northern McLean County

BLOOMINGTON – Another wind farm is coming to McLean County.

After nearly two years studying the area and securing easements from local landowners, Chicago alternative energy company Invenergy has submitted paperwork for a county permit that would allow construction of a new McLean County Wind Energy Center to start in the next two years.

Invenergy plans to construct about 100 turbines and related infrastructure across more than 100 parcels in Chenoa, Gridley, Lawndale, Lexington and Money Creek townships, according to county records.

“The project will power approximately 69,000 homes (with a 250-megawatt capacity),” according to a permit application. “The project will likely commence construction in 2018 or 2019 with the goal of being operational in 2019 or 2020.”

The project could create 35 long-term jobs and at least $2.3 million in new annual taxes in the county, according to a study by David Loomis, an Illinois State University economics professor who directs its renewable energy center.

Invenergy officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Officials have not said how much the farm will cost to build.

The affected area starts south of Chenoa, west of town, and runs southeast around Lexington toward Colfax. It totals about 13,000 acres.

“The project location was selected due to the area’s strong wind resource, land use, and proximity to existing transmission infrastructure,” according to the permit application.

The permit would allow “wind turbine generators that are up to 500 feet in height, as well as any access roads, transformers, power lines, communication lines, interconnection lines, substation, construction lay-down yards and other ancillary facilities or structures,” states a county notice.

“The application also requests that the time period to apply for building permits for the (farm) be extended to three years, rather than two years as provided by the McLean County Zoning Ordinance,” according to the notice.

The permit will be the subject of a public hearing at the county’s next zoning board of appeals meeting, 7 p.m. Jan. 2 in room 2400 at Heartland Community College’s Astroth Community Education Center in Normal.

Another company, EDP Renewables, has been competing to build a wind farm in the same area. Officials with that firm did not respond to requests for comment.

Last year, county officials added more regulations for future wind development, including specific setbacks, turbine heights, decommissioning requirements and wildlife impact studies, in anticipation of permit applications from one or both companies.

Wind farms currently operating in the county include Twin Groves Wind Farm, a pair of 198-megawatt farms near Ellsworth, and White Oak Energy Center, a 150-megawatt farm near Carlock.