CLINTON — The developers of a proposed wind farm project near Clinton plan to submit a formal proposal to DeWitt County in the late spring, but an opposition group is already airing concerns.
Officials with Trade Winds Energy of Lenexa, Kansas, have been meeting with DeWitt County leaders over the past several months and have opened an office in downtown Clinton in the former Magill Hotel.
Tom Swierczewski, a development director with the company, said the company plans to apply for a special-use permit with DeWitt County, and if approved, construction is expected to start in 2019 with the project going online in 2020.
“We have been very active in the last nine months with leasing land and finalizing our project footprint,” he said.
According to the Trade Winds Energy website, the project would cover about 24,000 acres and involve about 200 individual landowners northwest of Clinton. The company said it would pay an estimated $3 million per year in new property taxes.
This latest proposal joins other projects in Central Illinois, including newly erected Radford's Run Wind Farm. Radford's Run has 139 turbines west of Maroa in Macon County and is operated by E.ON, the American unit of Germany’s largest utility company.
But several residents are launching a campaign to stop the DeWitt County project before it gets started.
Andrea Rhoades of rural Kenney said she is concerned about the potential property value decline of homes near turbines, the noise and shadow flicker that turbines can cause leading to health issues, the decommissioning process for when the turbines are no longer operational, wildlife factors and the industrial feel that the machines bring to a rural, country setting.
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“A lot has been learned through the experiences of counties who have lived with wind turbines and the policies that have been put in place that help protect the safety, well-being and quality of life of their residences,” she said.
Waynesville resident Ken Shaffer appeared before the county’s Land Use Committee in December to request the board readdress the current zoning ordinances for wind farms. Shaffer said the county should require shadow flicker studies, allowing setbacks from structures at a distance of six times the structure height and reducing the tower height limit.
But that doesn’t go far enough, Rhoades said, who lives directly south of the heart of the proposed wind farm.
“We just built our dream home and had no idea that this wind farm project had been proposed,” she said. “We may have reconsidered had we known ahead of time.”
Swierczewski said he understands that local residents have concerns and encourages anyone with questions to visit with him at the Clinton office.
“One of our real focal points is community involvement,” he said.
“Northern DeWitt County is a great location for a wind farm, one of the best I’ve seen in Illinois. It is windy and relatively flat with few water features, trees or other natural areas that would affect wildlife.”
He said that the rural population also is ideal for a wind farm, and transmission lines running north and east are available to generate electricity to Chicago and eastern locations.
Still, Rhoades said there are many more negatives than positives for DeWitt County, and she vowed to fight the proposed project. She started a Facebook group which already has more than 1,000 members, most of whom are opposing the wind farm.
“This project has been in the works for quite a while, yet most DeWitt County residents, even those that live close to the footprint of the project are unaware,” she said.