Despite a giant battle over wind farms in Clinton County for the last three years, it doesn’t look like the same interest is here in Boone County.
E.ON, a Chicago-based renewable energy company, has been working on a deal for a large wind farm in Clinton County, but the commissioners there will not lift a moratorium against them. Some residents and farmers are in favor of the wind farm, but many are against it.
So is Boone County on the list for a possible wind farm?
Under the current county zoning ordinance, wind farms are not allowed, Area Plan Director Rachel Cardis said. The decision was made 10 years ago when developers approached the county.
“We went through all of the discussion,” Cardis said. “We went through all of the presentations at the fairgrounds and the commissioners said, ‘No, we’re not going to allow wind energy in our ordinance.’”
Essentially, Boone County has a moratorium to not allow wind farms.
County attorney Bob Clutter said it’s a complicated process to get the proper zoning for a wind farm.
“So, say you wanted to put up 20 turbines, which would be very small,” Clutter said. “For every single one of those turbines you would have to receive variances on their height and size and all that sort of thing. So it would be an incredibly difficult, expensive and arduous process to do that in Boone County at this point.”
However, if the plan commission and the county commissioners stated that the turbines are permitted, a developer wouldn’t necessarily have to do the variances for each turbine, Clutter said. The process would start with the area plan commission who would approve an amendment to modify the ordinance to allow a wind farm. Then the commissioners would have to approve it.
A developer could also start with the commissioners and ask for an amendment.
Boone County Commission president Jeff Wolfe said his first year as a commissioner was the same year that a wind farm developer was shopping around contracts with local farmers. The company was eyeing the western part of the county and had equipment testing the wind.
“As they were going through that process there was a group that formed that was basically anti-wind farm,” Wolfe said. “Because of that remonstration group, it just kind of went away and it was never brought to us for any kind of vote.”
Wolfe said the change that would allow a wind farm would involve a set of standards that would be required including setbacks, distance from residential structures, what would be required of the developer on the county roads.
“Building a wind farm is a very destructive thing to county roads,” Wolfe said. “They have to be rebuilt after (the farm is complete).”
Cardis, Clutter and Wolfe all said that no developer has approached them about a wind farm. Wolfe doesn’t think it will happen at all.
“I don’t think the federal assistance is still there,” Wolfe said of the renewable electricity production tax credits which are set to expire at the end of 2019. “Another issue that probably would play into it is just the value of property in Boone County.”
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