A decision on whether a proposed wind farm in Morgan County will move forward will wait two more weeks as county officials update a draft recommendation with 41 conditions proposed by Patrick Engineering.
The Morgan County Board of Appeals received an independent report from Patrick Engineering that provided the board with several conditions that will be added to a recommendation for the county board.
The conditions would need to be met prior to project approval from county commissioners.
Holly McCoy-Nelson, a senior development manager for Apex Clean Energy, presented the project to the Morgan County Board of Appeals, with added testimony from experts on issues such as property values, health impacts, wildlife studies, sound impacts, shadow flicker and the project’s decommissioning plan – all issues brought forth by community members during the ordinance process.
“Although the delay is concerning, we support the county’s efforts to properly review the application,” McCoy-Nelson said. “Based on the discussion last night, we expect the project will be able to meet all required conditions. We expect to see the full list of conditions in the coming days.”
The application proposes up to 107 wind turbines within a 38,000-acre area in the southeastern portion of the county near Franklin, Alexander and Waverly and moving into Sangamon County near New Berlin.
The project would generate enough power – more than 1 million megawatts – to fuel approximately 105,000 homes a year.
The project would create roughly 400 jobs during construction and nine permanent jobs for the 30-year life span of the project.
Local school districts would received roughly $1.46 million in tax revenue each year, while the county would receive roughly $326,115, local road districts would get $184,466, Lincoln Land Community College would get $154,194, local fire districts would see $59, 389 and West Sangamon Library would get $4,320.
“As someone who lives in a rural district with a wind farm, I know how important this type of revenue can be to a district,” McCoy-Nelson said.
During the hearing, Apex presented several experts who testified that the project’s footprint would account for wildlife habitats and that all turbines were within sound limitations and would not negatively impact human health or property values.
An expert also testified that almost all turbines were within the 30-hours-a-year limitation on shadow flicker. Two sites would average 34 and 37 hours a year, respectively. Apex has obtained waivers from the property owners for those two sites.
In its own study, Patrick Engineering concurred with the findings of the sound study.
The board hasn’t moved to recommend approval of the project. Members are waiting for the revised document to include 41 conditions that were established by Springfield-based Patrick Engineering, which was hired by the county to evaluate the application.
Among the conditions are clarification on locations for access roads, especially during the decommissioning plan; figures and safeguards during the decommissioning process at the end of the project; and procedural items that already were completed prior to the meeting.
Several residents spoke, both for and against the project, some bringing concerns about property values and health, especially during construction and the COVID-19 pandemic.
McCoy-Nelson said this is just one step in the process. Following approval by the Board of Appeals, the siting permit would go to Morgan County commissioners for approval. If approved there, Apex would be able to apply for a Wind Energy Conversion System building permit, the final permit needed for construction.
If approved, the project could go to construction and be completed by the end of 2021.
Dusty Douglas, director of the Regional Planning Commission, was not available for comment Wednesday.
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