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Piatt County to start wind farm zoning hearings on August 28.

wind farm

The Piatt County Zoning Board has scheduled its first hearing on a new wind farm proposal from Apex Clean Energy for Monday, August 28.

The hearing begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Monticello Community Center at 201 North State Street. The hearing is set to continue on August 29, 30 and 31, if more time is needed.

Apex’s Prosperity Wind proposal is similar to its Goose Creek Wind project, which the Piatt County Board rejected five months ago: up to 50 wind turbines in the northern part of the county, located on approximately 20,000 acres of open farmland.

Apex Clean Energy says the project would create over 200 full-time-equivalent jobs during construction, and up to 12 permanent jobs at a local operations and maintenance facility.

The Virginia-based company says construction “is unlikely before 2024”, due to the county permit process. But Apex says that when it is fully operational, Prosperity Wind will have a capacity of 300 megawatts, and be able to produce enough electricity to power 99,000 homes every year.

But while the earlier plan for the wind farm covered three county townships (Sangamon, Goose Creek and Blue Ridge), Prosperity Wind would be built in only two (Goose Creek and Blue Ridge).

Piatt County Board Vice-Chairman Jerry Edwards (R-Dis. 1) sees a political angle to the decision to withdraw from Sangamon Township, which includes the northeastern section of Monticello, the county seat.

“My opinion is that area was the most vocal against (the wind farm),” said Edwards. “So, they kind of shifted stuff to basically take some of the heat off.”

The project area is located north and west of Mansfield and north and east of Deland.

Edwards says Piatt County residents are generally against wind farms, having rejected them in a non-binding referendum last April. But he says a new state law passed during the state legislature’s lame duck session in January requires counties to allow the projects if they meet state standards.

“The irritating part is that they pass this law, last minute, in the middle of the night, tied on with other things, basically taking away the county’s ability to control it,” said Edwards. “But yet the county still has to issue the permits.”

Edwards and other opponents of wind turbine farms in Piatt County generally dismiss the projects as eyesores, suitable for only the most isolated land parcels. But Apex Wind Energy argues on its Prosperity Wind website that wind farms can be a boon for rural areas.

“Wind turbines compliment working farms, because they allow for existing agricultural operations to continue around them,” the company states. “They also help farmers by diversifying the rural economy and providing a consistent, drought-resistant new harvest.”

Apex Clean Energy says on its project website that wind farms bring jobs, tax revenue and economic development to areas that host them. The company did not respond to our request for comment.

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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