MACOMB – Oliver Ellen, wind farm development manager for RWE Renewables, told the McDonough County Board this week that his company plans to have a wind farm established in the southeastern portion of the county by 2024.
Farmers in Eldorado, New Salem, Bethel, Mound, and Industry townships will be offered leases to host wind turbines. Ellen said these would be 30-year leases and more than $40 million would be spent on leasing.
RW Renewables is based in Germany and has been working since 2006 in the United States. Ellen said there are 2,500 wind farms in seven states as part of 25 projects. The company’s American branch is headquartered in Chicago with offices in Texas, California, and Pennsylvania.
Ellen said that 48 to 66 wind turbines are planned for McDonough County, each about 500 feet tall. He said the company has invested $1 billion in Illinois and has established three wind farms containing 300 turbines. The closest site is near Decatur.
RWE Renewables plans to generate 200 megawatts and serve 60,000 homes. Ellen said the company would invest $30 million in the county. He said its three to five year development plan would provide 300 construction jobs in the first year, then eight to 12 permanent jobs to support the wind farm. He said tax revenue should total $50 million.
Ellen said his company would provide road and bridge upgrades in 2023. He said RWE Renewables is now in a fact-finding stage in McDonough County and that a multi-year process is required to determine how the wind farms would figure into the state power grid.
Jeffrey Butler, who owns a farm north of Blandinsville, told the county board that the standard setback of 1,800 feet still puts farm residences too close to the wind turbines. He recommended a one mile setback in every direction.
Butler said he has had problems with turbine noise and shadow flicker. “You’ll get money from this,” he told board members, “but keep in mind how it might affect people.”
Melanie Monroe lives on a farm near Roseville in Warren County. “Wind turbines can harm homes,” she told the county board. She said dangers include audible noise and low-frequency noise.
“The low-frequency noise affects you while you’re sleeping,” Monroe said. “You can feel it in your chest at times.”
Of her family’s proximity to wind turbines, Monroe said, “This is significantly altering our rural quality of life….I don’t know if we’ll be able to stay on our farm. Our bodies need rest.”
In other business, County Board Chairman Scott Schwerer said the county has lost $70,667 in sales tax revenue in the last six months because of businesses being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said Congressman Darin LaHood visited Macomb this week and toured the county’s emergency operations center at Western Illinois University and also looked at GIS activities on campus. Board members voted to extend the county’s declaration of coronavirus emergency through September 18.
The county board voted to add $178,950 to the state’s attorney’s budget and $161,064 to the budget of the public defender. State’s Attorney Matt Kwacala said the money reflects state payments toward the salaries of each officer.
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