Most of the roughly 100 towers for a proposed wind farm in the Chenoa, Gridley, and Lexington area will be 450 feet tall. That’s bigger than the average of even just a few years ago.
That means the turbines will produce more noise than older towers, Invenergy Vice President of Development Kevin Parzyck told the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday night during a hearing at Heartland Community College.
"Because the tip is moving at a faster tangential speed, they do make a little bit more noise, which is why we have installed more LNTE blades. However, based on what their noise profile is, that just means they have to be set back certain distances to be in compliance with the Illinois Pollution Control Board," said Parzyck.
Parzyck said LNTE blades are angled to preserve the force of the wind but to make less noise.
Wind farm company testimony before the ZBA also portrayed a rapidly changing industry. Parzyck said government incentives have succeeded in creating a domestic manufacturing base for wind towers. A decade ago Parzyck said 25 percent of turbine parts were of U.S. origin. Now, it’s 85 percent.
The earliest wind farm developments that went up in the 1980s are only now being decommissioned. Parzyck referenced ones near Altamont, California, that used lattice towers instead of the monopole construction now used. He said those are being replaced with more modern turbines.
"Turbine capacity has increased substantially. Probably the turbines that would have been installed here many years ago would have been about 1.5 to 1.7 megawatts. Now you are seeing turbines in the 2.5 megawatt capacity. There are larger rotors at 127 meters. But what you can do is put fewer of them in place, so they are spread out more," said Parzyck.
The $300 million development would put $100 million into the tax base for the county and for schools. About 14 towers would be within a mile and a half of Lexington, a siting request that could please the cash-strapped school district, but displease village officials who might take the view the proximity could stunt growth at the edges of town. The village board is also expected to hold hearings on those specific wind towers.
Some rural residents including Glen Schwass of rural Lexington, Terry Pitzer of Colfax, and Amy Winterland expressed reservations about the project during questioning of Parzyck. They voiced worry over noise, wildlife fatality, potential impact on property values, and shadow flickers from turbine blades.
They also questioned whether the estimated $40,000 reserve per turbine for decommissioning costs would be sufficient. Parzyck noted that even if the cost of reclaimed copper and steel drops drastically, state law requires a periodic review of the sufficiency of the reserve to be held by the county.
Turbines have an expected life span of 30 years. But Parzyck said all wind farm companies hope to reuse the same sites.
"Most of the cost is up front in the connections among the towers, the transmission lines underground, and the substation to connect to the grid. It only makes sense to preserve that investment," said Parzyck.
Wildlife impact studies have not been done. A commercial assessor said studies show no adverse impact to housing values near wind towers in several states.
Invenergy claimed the 280 megawatt field of turbines would produce enough electricity to power 69,000 homes.
The zoning board will take two more nights of testimony before making a ruling on a special use permit.
County officials have said during budget planning that much of the growth in the property tax base in rural areas in the last decade has come from wind farms.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.