BLOOMINGTON – A wind farm project designed to be built in the southeast corner of McLean County will appear for a vote before the county board Thursday, a proposal that could build the county’s reputation as Illinois’ top wind producer.
The $350 million project proposed by Sapphire Sky Wind Energy LLC, a product of Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, would construct 64 wind turbines reaching 590 feet tall in Bellflower and West townships. It would be a 250 megawatt wind farm that would power about 80,000 homes annually.
McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre told The Pantagraph Tuesday that he expects a vote on the project Thursday after the board approves a road-use agreement for construction purposes.
“Things seem to be going along pretty much in favor of the wind farms,” McIntyre said. “Of course, there are people that also are opposed to them.”
Most of the opposition has come from residents who live in the area of the proposed project. Concerns have ranged from large amounts of dust spreading during construction phases to shadow flicker caused by the sun shining through the rotating turbines, and some simply not wanting the nearly 600-foot towers close to their homes.
Board member Jim Soelder, R-District 2, who represents the region where the wind farm would be built, said opposition has recently dwindled. That was especially the case after the Bellflower Township council voted to accept the project.
“I’ve had a couple people contact me – not a large number recently,” Soeldner said. “When the project first came out, I had several but that was kind of before they made agreements with the village of Bellflower and the fire department to give them wind farm revenue.”
The road-use agreement, which passed out of the McLean County transportation committee last week, includes allowing developers to access certain roads during construction. It also calls for widening some intersections to accommodate turbine equipment such as transformers.
Sapphire Sky Wind Energy’s application seeks 89 turbine locations, but it notes that a maximum of 64 turbines will be installed.
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.
If approved, the more than 14,000 acre project would be the fifth wind farm in McLean County.
Developers said the specific location was chosen because of “the area’s strong wind resource, land use, and proximity to existing transmission infrastructure.”
Since 2007, the county has collected over $53 million in property taxes from wind energy projects.
David Loomis, professor of economics at Illinois State University and co-founder of the Center for Renewable Energy, said last year in a study on the impact wind farms have on local economies that McLean County provides 13% of the wind farm capacity in Illinois. LaSalle and Livingston counties each produce 9% of the state’s wind farm energy.
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