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Watch now: $5.4 million McLean County wind farm advances

BLOOMINGTON – A wind farm project inched closer to construction in McLean County on Tuesday.

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals voted 7-0 to approve a plan that would construct 64 turbines reaching 590 feet tall in the southeast corner of McLean County. The recommendation goes to the full county board for approval.

Sapphire Sky Wind Energy LLC, an affiliate of Invenergy LLC headquartered Chicago, submitted its application for the project May 10.

The estimated $5.4 million wind farm would span more than 14,000 acres in Bellflower and West Townships.

The application seeks 89 turbine locations, but it notes that a maximum of 64 turbines will be installed.

The proposed 250 megawatt project would power about 80,000 homes annually, the application states.

The turbines would contain serrated blades that are larger and rotate slower than other turbines, creating less noise, Jim Griffin, an attorney representing Sapphire Sky Wind Energy, said at a past meeting.

He said the project would use fewer turbines but produce the same electrical output as other wind farms.

The 30-year project is estimated to bring about $71.5 million in property taxes to McLean County, West and Bellflower Townships and other government agencies including the LeRoy and Blue Ridge school districts.

A large constituent concern that the zoning board of appeals discussed first Tuesday night was about shadow flicker, which is caused when the sun is low on the horizon and shines through the rotating blades, creating moving shadows.

The project designers said the wind farm would restrict shadow flicker to a 30 hours or less per year.

Zoning board of appeals member Drake Zimmerman recommended shutting down specific turbines for certain times during the day to avoid shadow flicker.

“They’re not losing a gigantic amount of energy by turning it off for that half hour or so,” Zimmerman said.

The committee spent most of its time debating on if it would restrict shadow flicker in some areas even more. It voted to recommend restricting shadow flicker to no less than 20 hours per year in areas where residents are not participating in the project.

Participating residents include those with wind turbines on their land and who receive payments in exchange.

Other residents are concerned over the construction of the project.

Ed Peterson, of West Township, said he is against the project because it turns public roads into construction roads.

He pointed to other wind farms that have hindered road access for residents, and that have caused ambulances, for example, to take longer routes.

“I feel the road is for public access, public utilities, and priority is public safety above and beyond everything else,” Peterson said.