Champaign County ZBA Wind Hearings in Aug/Sep

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Andy Robinson

Jul 25, 2011, 6:29:55 PM7/25/11

Here is a good article about some topical wind farm zoning meetings at the end of next month (Aug. 25, and Sept. 1, 8 and 29).  I don't know what time the meetings are (or where exactly in Brookins), but it might be good to get a group together to be a voice of reason.  I just recall the way the Sierra Club/ Naomi Jakobsson wind rally got rather unrully.  

Champaign County sets hearings on wind farm proposal

Wed, 07/13/2011 - 7:55am | Tom Kacich

URBANA — Champaign County's first wind farm — as many as 30 turbines in a 10,913-acre area in the northeastern part of the county — will go before the county zoning board of appeals beginning Aug. 25.

The entire wind farm, known as the California Ridge project, includes 134 turbines, 104 of which would be in western Vermilion County.

The Champaign County part of the project would be located entirely on 62 farmland parcels in Compromise and Ogden townships, just north of Royal.

County zoning director John Hall said he has scheduled four public hearings — Aug. 25, and Sept. 1, 8 and 29 — on the request from Invenergy Wind LLC of Chicago for a special-use permit to build the wind turbines.

"We scheduled four hearings, based on what happened in other counties" where wind farm applications were filed, Hall said.

If all goes according to plan, he said, the issue could go to the county board as soon as Oct. 20. In addition to the ZBA, the project would be reviewed by the county board at a committee of the whole meeting in October.

"It's going to be a significant public hearing just to go through all the evidence, and let anybody who wants to speak speak," Hall said of the zoning board of appeals process. "I do know the zoning board will follow its bylaws in regards to minimizing redundant testimony. So my advice would be to keep it on target and talk about the wind farm that is proposed."

The only public hearings in the process will be at the ZBA, Hall said.

"Normally in cases like this when the ZBA makes a recommendation to the county board, what people say at the committee of the whole and the county board is supposed to be nothing more than what they said at the public hearing, otherwise they're trying to submit new evidence. And so if people want to be able to say things to the county board, they'd better come and say it at the public hearing."

Hall said that based on similar hearings in other counties, he expects to hear from wind farm opponents on issues such as noise standards and environmental impacts.

"I think our wind ordinance (approved in May 2009) is one of the better ones in the state, it's certainly better than most," Hall said. "And yet people have the right to come and give testimony. I still believe we have adequate standards. But if somebody submits something during the public hearing and the zoning board asks about it, I'll have to do my research and see if they have a point."

Although the wind farm project is within an area of more than 10,000 acres, the land use taken up by the 30 328-foot-tall turbines and associated access roads would amount to 16.5 acres.

Each turbine, according to a press release from county board Chairman C. Pius Weibel, would provide about $14,400 in tax revenue each year, most of which would go to school districts in northeastern Champaign County, such as Armstrong Township High School, Rantoul Township High School, St. Joseph-Ogden High school and the Gifford and Prairieview-Ogden grade school districts.

Construction could begin in early 2012 and be completed by December, according to Invenergy's special-use application. Construction would take nine to 12 months with the peak period lasting four to six months, the company said. During peak construction there would be 75 large truck trips per day and up to 200 small vehicle trips in the area. Of the 75 large truck trips, 20 would be wind turbine component deliveries.

The special-use permit application says that properly maintained wind turbines have a minimum life of 20 years, and can either be decommissioned and removed, or repowered with new components.

Although this is the first proposed wind farm in Champaign County, nearby McLean County has 340 turbines in operation.

, including the 240 turbines at the Twin Groves farm west of Gibson City and the White Oak farm northwest of Normal. Twin Groves went into operation in 2007.

Andy Robinson

Aug 24, 2011, 5:26:05 PM8/24/11
RE Group,
Here is another News-Gazette article about the wind zoning meeting Thursday night, 7pm at Brookens Center.
I plan on making an appearance.  It sounds like the discussed should mostly be about the removal plan and roads.  Maybe it's a good sign if it's a little dry, that's better for getting things done than being contentious.  

ps- remember our next CCNet RE meeting is Tue 9/13 8am at the Beckman Cafe.  

First Champaign County wind farm hearing set

URBANA — The first of a series of public hearings on a proposed wind farm — the inaugural wind complex in Champaign County — is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 E. Washington St., U.

The county Zoning Board of Appeals will consider a request from Invenergy LLC of Chicago to authorize development of a 30-turbine wind farm in the northeast quadrant of the county just north of Royal in Compromise and Ogden townships. The Champaign County wind farm is part of a larger complex, known as the Calfornia Ridge Wind Energy, that includes 104 wind turbines in Vermilion County. Together the 134 turbines would have a generating capacity of 214 megawatts, and would be valued at approximately $350 million.

The head of the county's zoning office, John Hall, said there's no indication how many people will turn out for Thursday's hearing. Additional meetings are scheduled for Sept. 1, 8 and 29, Hall said. In the past, county officials have said they want the project to go to the county board for its approval in October.

"We haven't been getting a lot of calls so we don't have any idea what to expect," said Hall, the county zoning administrator.

Because there are so many facets to the wind farm case, including reclamation agreements, road agreements and waivers to standard conditions in the county's special-use permit process, a vote by the zoning board of appeals isn't expected until Sept. 8 at the earliest, Hall said.

"And even that, when you start having these meetings every week, that intervening week goes so fast that it's difficult to get much done," he said. "It would be great if we could walk in there on the 8th and finish it.

"What's at issue here is, Does this proposal meet the requirements (in the county wind farm ordinance)? Some people might want to talk about how inadequate those requirements are, and they might be able to make that relevant. But for the most part this will be about, Are the already existing requirements met here or not?" Hall

Two major issues that still have to be resolved, Hall said, are the reclamation and road agreements.

"We don't even have a draft of a reclamation agreement yet," he said. "That's the principle thing that will protect the county board in the long run if this thing ends up going bad. That's critical."

Champaign County's reclamation agreement requirements are more extensive than most other counties, he said. It sets up the process for removing the 492-foot-tall towers and foundations and returning the sites to agricultural use once the project is decommissioned. According to the company's petition to the zoning board, properly maintained wind turbines have a minimum life of 20 years.

"In the event that they have bad luck, go bankrupt or whatever, the reclamation agreement are the rules that take over and ensure the county that either these (towers) will be take down in an orderly manner, and that there's been adequate assurance provided either in the form of a letter of credit or in an escrow account, or that we find some way to get a new wind farm company to take over the project," Hall said.

"I have no doubt that we'll get something that meets our requirements. But it's just a challenge for them now," Hall said.

Similar negotiations for road improvements are going on with the road commissioners in Compromise and Ogden townships.

In a Aug. 18 letter to the zoning board of appeals, the commissioners say that their roads will require upgrading "to withstand not only the overweight and oversize vehicles which will travel over the roads, but also the enormous number of gravel and cement trucks required to build the turbine foundations and access roads."

Invenergy estimates construction of the wind farm will generate 75 large truck trips a day and up to 200 small vehicle trips during a 9- to 12-month construction period.

"We remain optimistic that the terms of a road agreement can be reached within the next few weeks," wrote Marvin Johnson, the road commissioner in Compromise Township, and Greg Frerichs, the road commissioner in Ogden Township.

"They've been working on that a long time and it's sort of frustrating that they don't have an agreement yet," Hall said.

Despite the problems, Hall said, he believes the wind farm will be built in Champaign County.

"We've been told that if we can't come to an agreement in Champaign County, they'll put them all in Vermilion County," he said. "That's something we're sensitive to. But I think we'll get our 30 (turbines) and I think it will be a great project. This is just something we have to work through."

Construction could begin this year, a company spokeswoman said, and be in commercial operation as early as December 2012.

Roch Ducey

Aug 24, 2011, 6:44:18 PM8/24/11
...sorry to miss it ...I'll be working with some UU folks on an Eastern Illinois Food Bank "repack" event ...but thanks for the heads-up ...r2d2

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Andy Robinson

Aug 26, 2011, 11:54:19 AM8/26/11
Ok, so you can almost see my head in the back left row of this newspaper story.  The ZBA meeting went pretty well with good information being presented by the company and reasonable public comments by people on both sides.  

It's nice that since the focus of these meetings is checking off all the requirements of the county regulation, there is less focus on wind=bad and more on the details of getting something built (and eventually removed).  The board commissioner was also good about both letting people speak but also cutting them off if they were off topic regarding the project.  

There should be two more Thursday meetings Sep 8 and 13 at 7pm in Brookens (rear North entrance).  I got home by 9 and it was good to see government planning in action.  I recommend anyone go if they are interested in the topic.  Agendas, documents, and a map can be viewed at the ZBA website:

Roch Ducey

Aug 26, 2011, 12:08:42 PM8/26/11
...good for you, Andy! ...hopefully, I'll be joining you for the September dates ...I was busy last night with a crew repackaging nearly 2,000 boxes of fiber cereal for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, including a number of other UUs
...thanks, r2d2

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Andy Robinson

Sep 1, 2011, 5:03:41 PM9/1/11
to, Roch Ducey
I'm not available to hear the public's wind concerns tonight, but if anyone is interested, 7pm is the second of 3 public input sessions for the ZBA. Parking and entering on the north side of Brookens is the easiest with the chambers to your right down the hall.  

Here is a quote from the wind noise report about this new generation of GE turbines that I thought was interesting: 

"Newer  generation turbines, such as  the GE 1.6-100, use variable speed rotors that  produce  lower levels  of  
aerodynamic noise at  low wind speeds, as  opposed to previous generations' constant - speed designs, 
which generate the  same amount  of  noise regardless of  wind speed. Given this, older designs tend to 
be  more  audible during low wind conditions."  
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