Decision Nears on Third McLean County Wind Farm

Mclean County Wind Farm White Oak.jpg

The Proposed Wind Farm Would Power Nearly 70,000 Homes

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals will hear a third night of testimony before deciding whether another wind farm will be built northeast of Bloomington-Normal.

Chicago-based renewable energy company Invenergy is seeking a special use permit to build 100 turbines on 90,000 acres of private land across Chenoa, Gridley, Lawndale, Lexington and Money Creek Townships. 

Invenergy estimated construction on the proposed project would begin in 2019, with the operation fully running in 2020. The wind farm would have a capacity of 250 megawatts, enough to power 69,000 homes.

Once completed, the project would make McLean County one of the largest producers of wind energy in the US, boasting three different wind farms with a total capacity of 800 megawatts, enough to power 220,000 homes.

In 2011, Invenergy built the White Oak Wind Farm just ten miles northeast of Bloomington. Wind turbines at the proposed McLean County Wind Energy Center would stand nearly 500 ft tall, about 28% higher than the structures at White Oak.

The White Oak Wind Farm’s 100 turbines have a lower capacity at 150 megawatts--enough to power about 41,000 homes. Invenergy built the farm for NextEra Energy and sold it to the firm shortly after completion. The farm generates energy for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides power for nine million people across seven southeastern states.

McLean County also added the 398-megawatt Twin Groves Wind Farm between 2007 and 2008 the eastern part of the county, owned by EDP Renewables (formerly Horizon Wind Energy, which was owned by Goldman Sachs).

The cost to develop onshore wind farms has dropped 30% in the last 8 years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The research arm of Bloomberg LP attributes the drop in costs to “cheaper, more efficient turbines and streamlined operating and maintenance procedures.” BNEF expects costs will drop another 47% by 2040.

In addition to renewable energy, the new wind farm would also generate new jobs and property tax revenue. At peak construction, the project would create 519 jobs. Testifying before the board Thursday, Illinois State University Professor of Economics David Loomis explained that the number includes all jobs created directly and indirectly by the wind farm. The project would create 35 new permanent positions over its anticipated 30-year lifespan. The wind farm would also generate an estimated $2.3M in property taxes in the county each year.

The board will hold its final public hearing at 7:00 pm on Tuesday at the Government Center, Room 400, in Bloomington.