A large wind energy project is one step closer to finding out if Morgan County will house up to 107 turbines.
The county’s board of appeals gave its approval Wednesday to Apex Clean Energy’s Lincoln Land Wind Project. The move sends the application to Morgan County commissioners for final review.
The board voted 4-0 to approve the project, with one member abstaining, after reviewing a document that added 41 conditions recommended by Patrick Engineering, as well as updated information provided during a public hearing earlier this month.
Board member Jim Duncan abstained from voting because of a grant AmVets received several years ago from Apex Clean Energy. He is affiliated with the veterans’ organization.
Dusty Douglas, director of the Regional Planning Commission, said this is just one step in the application process.
“The attorney will craft the board’s recommendation and it will be taken to the county board [which] will make the ultimate decision,” Douglas said.
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 serve about 105,000 homes a year.
The revised document includes 41 conditions recommended 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, the establishment of a COVID-19 response plan during construction and the approval of an aircraft detection lighting system application by the FAA.
The conditions also stipulate that Apex will adhere to all recommendations made by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources regarding impacts to the environment, as well as other studies conducted regarding the turbine sites.
Holly McCoy-Nelson, senior development manager for Apex Clean Energy, said she is excited for the project to move forward.
“We are pleased with the approval and we feel the board has been very thorough in their review of over 2,000 pages,” McCoy-Nelson said. “I feel the conditions were done in the spirit of the ordinance.”
Additional concerns were brought up by community members during the meeting, including the decommissioning process, shadow flicker and the potential sound impacts of the turbines.
There was also concern about the aircraft lighting system application. Some were worried the application would move forward without approval of the system.
Apex has submitted an application for its permit to the FAA. The application would have to be approved prior to a building permit being issued.
This is just one step in the process. Following approval by the Board of Appeals, the siting permit will 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.
McCoy-Nelson said Apex still hopes to move forward with construction next year, but may have to hold off on construction until 2022.
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