March 28, 2018

Maroa OKs plans to keep potential new wind turbines away from city limits

Ryan Voyles | Herald & Review | Mar 27, 2018 |

MAROA – Maroa may expand its borders to create a larger buffer between the city and future wind turbines.

Enerfin, the wind farm division of Madrid, Spain-based power company Elecnor, has expressed interest in constructing a wind farm east and south of Maroa in northern Macon County. The company operates wind farms in Brazil, Canada and Spain.

Maroa Mayor Aaron Meador said he was contacted several weeks ago by Bruce Hubert, senior vice president of First Illinois Ag Group, who was working on behalf of Enerfin to gauge interest from landowners about allowing turbines on properties.

As told to him, Meador said Enerfin is exploring about eight to 10 wind turbines being within two miles of Maroa, some within a quarter-mile of its city limits. The turbines would be part of a wind farm with 35 to 50 wind turbines that would cover stretches of farmland in the area around Maroa and extend southeast toward Oreana.

A representative from Enerfin could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

The layout of the proposed wind farm was also not available, and Macon County Planning & Zoning Director Jennifer Gunter said the company has made one filing with her office. That filing, done late last year, is a building permit to construct a wind measuring tower. The Herald & Review has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to acquire a copy of the permit.

Radford’s Run Wind Farm, which includes 139 turbines and became operational at the start of this year, is west of Maroa and right up to U.S. 51. Dozens of landowners filed a lawsuit to stop construction, saying they weren’t notified properly during the process.

On Monday, the Maroa City Council voted to create a rule barring new turbines from being built within 1.5 miles of its border.

With Radford’s Run Wind so close and the county line on the northern border of Maroa, Meador said Tuesday that the council took the necessary step to allow the city the opportunity for future expansion.

If the turbines were built, he said, “we would be boxed in and the city of Maroa would not have any growth for 50 years.”

The council also gave Meador permission to negotiate with landowners east and south of the city about possibly annexing them into Maroa. Meador said that he has not yet spoken to any farmers or landowners about possible annexation.

There was a bit of confusion after the council’s vote, as officials said during the meeting they wanted to make sure the turbines could not be within two miles of the city’s borders. The Illinois County Code states that the county may regulate the siting of wind farms and electric-generating wind devices in unincorporated areas and “the 1.5 mile radius surrounding the zoning jurisdiction of a municipality.”

The language of plan approved by the Maroa City Council states the goal is to keep turbines at a maximum distance, so Meador said it complies with the county code and that any future turbines will need to be at least 1.5 miles away from the city.

Where the wind farm project goes from here remains uncertain.

Hubert said Tuesday that he had been asked by Enerfin to reach out to landowners to see if they were interested, but that he did not have any other role in the project and that he could not speak for Enerfin or comment on Monday’s vote.

The possible wind farm outside Maroa could be another turbulent chapter in recent years as more companies look to Central Illinois as a viable location for wind turbines.

This year saw the completion of Radford’s Run in northwestern Macon County, taking almost 10 years from conception to reality. The lawsuit against the county and the wind farm’s operator, a subsidiary of E.ON, the American unit of Germany’s largest utility company, is currently going through the Macon County Circuit Court, and no trial date is set.

Officials with Trade Winds Energy of Lenexa, Kansas, have been in discussions with DeWitt County officials about building a nearly 24,000-acre wind farm northwest of Clinton. Construction on that project could start as early as next year, though opposition from landowners has started to develop.

According to the company’s website, the project would be in western Dewitt County and extend partly into eastern Logan County.

Also in Logan County, Hilltopper Wind Farm Project is being developed by Portland, Maine-based Swift Current Energy. The wind farm has a planned location south and west of Mount Pulaski with towers stretching to Elkhart and Broadwell.

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