Morgan County’s entry into wind energy has not been without controversy, but an environmental watchdog group says the state has up to 2 million acres that could be good for wind farms.
County commissioners this week approved a siting plan for Apex Clean Energy’s Lincoln Land Wind project. Although there are still steps to be approved before any of the roughly 107 wind turbines could be built in Morgan County, it was a significant step toward reality.
Among concerns raised by residents since the project was proposed more than a year ago has been the impact to natural habitats. A study by The Nature Conservancy says west-central Illinois is home to many open and flat areas that provide opportunities for wind farms for renewable energy, lowering the carbon footprint.
The Nature Conservancy (nature.org) mapped areas in what it is called the Wind Belt, where turbine farms would pose low risk to natural habitats from Ohio to Montana.
Morgan County and the surrounding region have a good rating, which means there would be a low impact on wildlife and the environment. The map shows high areas of prairie grouse west of Winchester and sporadic intact natural habitats.
The farther west, the higher the potential to impact wildlife becomes.
The Nature Conservancy said the map promotes a positive vision for renewable energy by demonstrating that ambitious wind development goals are achievable on sites with minimal risk of wildlife conflicts. Buying wind-generated electricity from low-impact sites may meet renewable energy goals while avoiding sensitive species and habitats, it said.
Developers are less likely to encounter wildlife-related project delays and cost overruns in low impact areas, resulting in more reliable and efficient deployment of renewable energy, according to nature.org.
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