VILLA GROVE – A group of Villa Grove residents wants to stop in its tracks a wind farm development coming to its area. And it’s been pretty vocal about it, putting up banners and flyers all over the small town in an effort to encourage a change in the development rules.
Travis Albin, 28, who farms near Villa Grove and is a part of the group, said the focus will be on pushing the Douglas County Board at a meeting next week to increase setback requirements for wind turbines slotted to be built as part of the Broadlands Wind Farm. The project – being developed by Madrid, Spain-based EDP Renewables – centers around Broadlands in Champaign County but extends into Douglas, Vermilion and Edgar counties.
According to Douglas County’s current ordinance, the turbines – which would rise to 700-750 feet – would have to be at least 1,000 feet away from any roadway. But concerned residents want to increase the required distance to a half-mile from any roadway or home.
And Albin, at least, doesn’t want to compromise on that.
“We absolutely do not want them,” Albin said. “We’re adamantly opposed to them and we would not be willing to compromise. We want to draw a firm line in the sand. This is a foreign company that’s wanting to build these, and they’re wanting to generate power not for us but for the East Coast or Chicago.”
According to Broadlands project manager Amy Kurt, that assertion is incorrect. Power generated will go to the Indianapolis-based Wabash Valley Power Association, a transmission co-op that supplies power for communities throughout Illinois, she said.
The Villa Grove residents group has a litany of other complaints about the impending project. The big one, though, is that they fear the turbines will depreciate the value of their properties. And rumors that those in proximity to the turbines will experience sleeplessness, and flicker effects and be susceptible to falling blades are not sitting well with them, either.
But county board Chairman Don Munson said it’s easier said than done to change rules that EDP Renewables has been using to draw up plans for the wind farm.
“At this point, the developer knows what our ordinance is, and that’s what they are basing their plans on,” Munson said. “Now this group of people all of a sudden here have decided that they would like something different? That sort of puts both the developer and our ordinance between a rock and a hard place.”
The wind farm – which EDP doesn’t plan to break ground on until spring 2019 – will be a 200-megawatt facility with between 50 and 60 turbines erected on farms throughout the area.
Kurt said EDP has already signed up about 80 landowners with more than 10,000 acres at its disposal for the project. She explained that only about 1 percent of that acreage will be used.
And she said something like a change to the setback rules would be “very detrimental” to the project as they would be making changes “in the middle of the game.”
“We have spent many years working with many landowners and spending many millions of dollars to develop the project in accordance to those rules,” Kurt said. “Changes like these would exclude many of the landowners who have already decided they want to participate.”
Dozens of landowners, Kurt said, have properties along roads that would be excluded if an ordinance change like the one Albin proposes goes into effect. And the idea, she added, that the power and money will be leaving the community doesn’t take into account the money the wind farms will bring in.
EDP Renewables estimates that in the first year, $2 million in taxes will be pumped into the community. The biggest winners: Shiloh school district, Douglas County and Parkland College. In about 30 years, the company estimates the wind farm will have contributed some $50 million to the local economy.
“These are important local services that will benefit for years to come,” Kurt said, emphasizing that it will take a lot for the project to stop as some residents would hope. “We’re not going away.”
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