Avangrid Renewables is still pressing ahead on its plans to extend a 40-turbine wind farm into Kewanee and Burns townships, despite a lawsuit challenging its initial round of construction applications.
Those applications for the Midland Wind Farm were approved last year by the county board, which also was named in a lawsuit filed in March by a group of 16 residents intent on stopping the project.
“We are still actively developing the Midland Wind Farm, as we are in regular contact with landowners and local and state agencies that may have an oversight role as we move this project forward,” Paul Copleman, Avangrid’s communication manager, told the Star Courier this week in an email interview.
Copleman would not comment on the lawsuit, which claims the permitting process wasn’t completed properly and that more time is needed to study the impact the Midland development would have on Native American artifacts found along the nearby Great Sauk Trail.
He also would not respond to rumors that Midland’s development timetable had recently been pushed back because of the lawsuit. He said the timetable for development is somewhat uncertain because the company must apply and get approvals from many levels of government before it can proceed with construction.
“We are developing numerous wind and solar projects across the country at any given time, which are at various stages of development,” he said. “These projects are multi-year permitting and evaluation efforts as we undertake the community outreach, due diligence, and scientific assessment of multiple variables that affect our interest and ability to move forward.”
If constructed, the wind farm is estimated to generate $25 to $30 million over the course of their lifespan and provide up to 200 construction jobs and four-to-six permanent jobs. The company already has signed leases with 60 property owners for the placement of towers.
But the 16 members of the STOP II group say the economic tradeoff is not worth the damage the farm would cause to Native American sites along the trail (more than 60 sites have been identified by Native American preservation officers). The group invited those officers to speak at a meeting Wednesday at Black Hawk College East (see accompanying story).
Copleman said the company also is concerned over preserving Native American artifacts and that identifying those areas already is a part of the company’s site development process.
“Local historical and cultural resources are some of the many variables we need to examine when developing a wind farm,” he said. “This is a process that we do at all of our wind farms, often with government agency input and oversight. We’ve already begun the process to engage the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.”
He said the preliminary site work for the Midland wind farm showed the Henry County location would be a good one. He said it has several variables that put it at the top of the list of possible sites.
“It is important that a wind farm fit with the existing uses of the land, and given the area’s significant agricultural use, road network, and existing energy grid infrastructure, we feel this could be a good place for a wind farm, but still need to do the requisite homework in consultation with experts on a range of issues.”
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