Wind farm hearing extends to second night

August 19, 2009

By Jim Hagerty

Staff Writer

A large crowd of more than 100 people packed Memorial Hall Monday night, Aug. 17, the majority on hand to voice opinions for a proposed wind farm in southwestern Winnebago County. The meeting began at about 4:30 p.m.

The wind farm is being proposed by Navitas Energy Corp., which has a regional office in Minnesota. The company is seeking approval from the Winnebago County Board to erect 100 wind turbines, 40 of which would be built on leased private farmland in the county near Seward.

Farmers behind the proposal cited opportunities to replace revenue lost in drastic downturns in livestock and crop prices in the last several years. According to reports, Navitas would pay farmers between $3,000 and $6,000 per year for each turbine built.

Others are steadfastly against the project, claiming unsightliness of the 400- to 600-foot structures and their reported ability to kill thousands of birds, bats and other animals, thus disrupting the natural landscape of the area. Some residents feel the ordinances are being impelled upon them without inclusion in how the turbines would be sited. Some, including wildlife experts, remain on the fence, calling for further studies to assess the need and benefit of wind energy.

“No set of procedures or ordinances will eliminate all negative impacts on wildlife, but careful planning and siting of wind farms will help avoid the loss of critical habitat and reduce the mortality of birds and bats,” Jerry Paulson, executive director of the Natural Land Institute, said.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) said last week there are no zoning ordinances allowing or preventing wind farms from being built in the county. Navitas has already brought wind farms to Lee, Stephenson and Ogle counties.

Speakers still had the floor at 9 p.m. before county officials moved to continue the hearing at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 18. Results of that meeting were not available at press time.

Navitas Energy could not be reached for comment.

From the Aug. 19-25, 2009 issue

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