Another wind farm for northern Illinois

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115757679821612.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Aug. 29: Blades for the GSG Wind Farm turbines (only two were on a load: usually, there are three. At the groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 29. Bob Vogl is in photo for scale.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11575768259179.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Aug. 29: (L-R) Joyce Papiech, Bruce Papiech (FPC Services, Inc., owners and co-owners of the GSG Wind Energy Facility), Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert (R-14) all made comments at the ceremony.’);

Lee County will soon have its second wind farm. On a hill overlooking miles of countryside as well as the 3-year-old Mendota Hills Wind Farm, groundbreaking ceremonies for the GSG Wind Energy Facility were held Aug. 29. Turnout was impressive with more than 250 invitees attending. The project will be co-owned by FPC Services, Inc. of Sublette, and Babcock and Brown Power Operating Partners. Remarks by the owners of FPC, businesspeople associated with the project and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert were featured.

Construction on the first 80 MW phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2006. Nineteen Gamesa turbines will be erected in Lee County and 21 in LaSalle County between Sublette, West Brooklyn, Compton and Mendota. Turbines will stand 390 feet to the tip of the blade; the hub will be 256 feet high. Blades, 284’ in diameter, will spin at low speeds, causing fewer bird deaths. Gamesa blades are made in Pennsylvania and Spain; towers are from Milwaukee. Much of the “nuts and bolts” equipment is made in the Chicago area.

Long-term leases with private landowners were secured. Annual tax payments are projected to be more than $700,000. The “green” electricity generated is expected to be sufficient to power about 24,000 homes.

Planning for the project began five years ago. Zoning approvals for the two phases of the Lee County section were received in 2003 and 2006; LaSalle County approved the project in 2005. Several environmental studies assessed the suitability of the site.

Following the post-ceremony lunch, media interviews and informal conversations continued into the afternoon. Speaker Hastert, who sponsored the first co-generation legislation in 1984, spoke in support of the project. He also commented that coal gasification and ethanol and biodiesel production are necessary and will help Illinois.

Wind energy was seen as changing the world. G.E. switched from building gas turbines to wind turbines. John Deere, while not building wind farms, is investing in them.

The choice to accept or reject a wind farm is a local decision controlled by local zoning. If one community does not want one, another can benefit from accepting it. Wind farms were seen as providing royalties to land owners, taxes for local governments and steady jobs for some young families.

Co-owner Babcock and Brown recently purchased the Bureau County 40 MW Crescent Ridge facility. Once ComEd joined PJM (a regional wholesale market reaching from the Mississippi to the Atlantic), reaching a larger market with new customers willing to pay higher prices, the purchase was seen as profitable.

Theoretically, all of the U.S.’s energy needs could be met by harnessing the winds from Texas through North Dakota. While this swath has immense wind resources, with larger, more efficient turbines, Illinois is now seen as a leader in renewable energy. Western markets are sparse and transmission facilities inadequate. Illinois provides not only adequate wind but also the necessary demand and transmission lines.

Lee, LaSalle and Bureau counties have high land with resulting strong winds and corn fields with few trees to slow those winds. Ironically, blades of the nearby Mendota Hills installation were not turning as the wind did not cooperate that day.

Energy Fair

Oops! Focused as we were on the days of the Fair itself, we neglected to mention Dan Slattery, who provided much help before the fair, negotiating for talk programs with local radio stations and a promotion by Insight TV as well as distributing the Fair booklets to numerous politicians and civic leaders. He’s been doing these things since we started the fair. Our belated thanks.

Bob & Sonia Vogl

Fair contributing participants

American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS): Ending animal experimentation & cruelty through education, advocacy & development of alternative methods. (217) 887-0816

Babyworks: Earth-friendly baby products. (800) 422-2910

Consorzio: Natural, organic Napa Valley olive oils, marinades & dressings. (800) 288-1089

Farm Direct: The Illinois direct farmer-to-consumer directory from the U of Ill., Urbana-Champaign.

Seed Savers: A non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds. (563) 382-5990

Healthy Green Goods (had been Plan-It Green)

Fair volunteers

Ray Hertzer, who stayed all day Monday to clean up

Kathy Qualkinbush

Sue Glenn

Vicki Fabian & Kids

Kent & Kathy Lawrence

From the Sept. 6-12, 2006, issue

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