A proposed wind farm for northern Piatt County is generating some controversy. But it’s not the first time a wind farm has been considered in the county.
Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy wants to build the Goose Creek Wind Farm. The 300 megawatt project would consist of 50 to 60 large wind turbines on land in Blue Ridge, Goose Creek and Sangamon townships, leased from area farmers. Apex has built other wind farms now operating in central Illinois, in Vermilion, Ford and Sangamon-Morgan counties.
Kerri Nusbaum is Piatt County’s zoning officer. She says a similar wind turbine project was in the works ten years ago.
“The application was approved, but the wind farm was never built,” said Nusbaum. “The tax credits went away about that time, and they never built the wind farm.”
Opponents have criticized the wind turbines as eyesores that mar the rural landscape. They raise concerns about the noise and shadow flicker the turbines might produce, and other negative impacts on the environment. A letter from Brian McDowell of Monticello was one of many read into the record during the zoning board’s January 24 hearing on the project.
“I oppose proposed wind energy development, based on the destruction of prime farmland, and politically risky taxpayer support,” McDowell wrote.
Most of the written testimony against the Goose Creek Wind project came from Piatt County residents. But several letters and emails supporting the project were also read during the January 24 hearing. They tended to come from central Illinois residents living outside Piatt County, and cited environmental benefits of wind energy, and the jobs and tax revenue the wind farm would create.
“My name is Randy,” began one letter from Randy McCoy of Decatur. “And I am a union member, writing to support the Goose Creek Wind Project. I am excited about increased revenue to the schools and county.”
The Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals hopes to wrap up its work and make a recommendation on the wind farm project next week, at meetings scheduled for Tuesday, January 31, and Thursday, February 2. Both meetings begin at 6 PM, at the Monticello Community Building, 201 N. State Street in Monticello.
The zoning board’s recommendation is strictly advisory. The Piatt County Board will have the final say on whether the wind farm can be built. They could take up the question at their February 8 meeting.