GALESBURG – Orion Renewable Energy Group’s plan to bring a wind farm to Knox County took its first step in the development process Wednesday.
The five members of the Knox County Board’s Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously agreed to forward two conditional use permits for the project to the Knox County Board’s Assessor, Zoning & GIS Committee.
The permits are for two temporary meteorological towers in Henderson Township and Ontario Township to gauge the wind resource. Michael Cressner, project development manager for Orion, said the towers – which will be called the western tower and the eastern tower – will be up for two years at minimum to gather data on the speed of the winds. The data will be collected on a computer system attached to the towers.
“We’d like to have a minimum of around two years of data,” Cressner said. “(It would) supplement national and regional data to get a localized idea of what the wind resource is doing.”
ZBA Chairman John Durfee asked some questions, including whether the towers would interfere with GPS systems and when neighbors send planes to fly over fields to spray their crops. Cressner replied that the towers would not interfere with any telecommunications or satellite-based systems, and that the towers would be located 250 feet from the property boundary, providing sufficient distance.
Two members of the community spoke about the project before the ZBA members cast their vote. Ken Springer, president of the Knox County Area Partnership for Economic Development, spoke “in strong support” of the wind farm project and the towers, due to the millions in property tax revenue that Orion estimates the project will generate for the county.
Dale Carlson spoke in opposition to the project out of concern that the wind farms would be “a prelude to wind energy systems in Knox County,” which he felt would impact the usage and aesthetics of the farmland.
“Knox County needs a new future land use plan,” Carlson said.
The Assessor, Zoning & GIS Committee will meet Tuesday, July 17.
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