NEWMAN – Gary Hoel of Tuscola says he is excited about the prospect of a wind turbine joining corn and soybean crops on his family’s property.
“I always thought building a wind farm was a great idea,” Hoel said. “It provides electricity, and it provides jobs.”
“This means tax dollars for the community,” said Chuck Ayers of Murdock Township, which he indicated could host 10 of the turbines. “We were hoping to get a turbine on our property, but we are landlocked. It is a green renewable form of energy that will benefit our kids and grandkids.”
On the other hand, David Sanders of Tuscola has concerns about the arrival of a wind farm.
“I don’t like change, and I don’t like the idea of prime farmland going out of production,” Sanders said.
They were all participants in a Thursday evening open house at the Newman Community Center for the Harvest Ridge Wind Farm, under development by Texas-based EDP Renewables.
“We are holding the open house to provide the community with more detailed information about the wind farm,” said Harvest Ridge project manager Amy Kurt. “We want to make ourselves available to answer any questions that folks may have about the project.
“There are a lot of people who are excited about the project, and there are a lot of people who still have questions about the project.”
The farm is planned for northeastern Douglas County because of the area’s strong wind resources. It will consist of up to 49 wind turbines that can produce a total capacity of 200 megawatts of electricity, which is enough energy to power nearly 70,000 homes.
Last week, EDP Renewables announced it has enough customers to move ahead with the project, with signed agreements to provide electricity to the Wabash Valley Power Association, Wal-Mart and a third customer who wishes to remain anonymous.
Approximately 100 landowners have reportedly signed up to participate.
“We needed the support of landowners who are willing to lease us their land for the infrastructure needed to the wind farm,” Kurt said.
Jim Biddle of rural Newman said he has volunteered his property for one of the turbines.
“I have been with this wind farm since day one,” Biddle said. “The economic benefit to the community and the school district is my reasoning. Small towns are drying up, and this is a chance to bring some revenue back to our community.”
Kurt said the wind farm will provide more than 250 jobs during construction and eight to 10 permanent local jobs to operate and maintain it.
Dustin Haase of Ridge Farm, a technician for EDP Renewables, said he got a degree from Danville Area Community College to prepare himself for the job, which he has held for more than a year. He said wind speeds of at least 3 meters per second and no more than 22 meters per second are needed to move the turbines fast enough to generate electricity.
“You need to be within that range to create good power,” Haase said. “If the wind is going too fast, there is a chance of damaging components. The maximum wind speed is a safeguard.”
Kurt said Douglas County was chosen because it has wind speeds “strong enough to harvest and create electricity.”
She said her company has been testing wind speeds in Douglas County since 2008.
“This area has been blessed with a great wind resource, and we are so excited to tap into it.”
Haase said the wind turbine towers will be 345 feet tall, with the tips of the turbine blades reaching up to 591 feet above ground.
“I think the wind farm is a great idea,” said Sherry Ellis of Villa Grove. “It takes very little land out of production. It means lots of tax money for schools. Many of the area schools are hurting because there is no industry for schools except for the farmers.”
Herbert Johnson of Urbana said he is an opponent of the planned wind farm.
“I’m concerned about what will happen when it is time to decommission these turbines 30 years or more from now,” Johnson said. “Many of the people here today at this open house will be dead, and we will be stuck with a bunch of rotting wind mills.”
“Wind farms are a long-term investment,” Kurt said. “We anticipate this wind farm will be operational for 30 to 50 years, if not more.”
Kurt said another reason the Douglas County site is ideal is that it provides good access to an Ameren transmission line, which goes north-south through the area.
“We are putting our substation right next to that transmission line,” she said.
“Some people don’t like the wind farm coming, just like people of an earlier generation in the Old West days didn’t like the railroads coming,” said Adlai Yoder of Atwood. “So people may not like Harvest Ridge, but it goes along with the changes that have to be made.”
November-December 2018: Finalize engineering studies and designs, and Douglas County permit application review.
January-April 2019: Select general contractor and prepare for construction.
April-October 2019: Begin construction, prepare roads for construction, build access roads, install underground electrical cables, erect wind turbines and meteorological towers, construct substation.
October-December 2019: Complete turbines and deliver electricity to local grid.
March-June 2020: Complete restoration work.
Source: EDP Renewables
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