Hearings Continue on Proposed Wind Farm  

 The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals heard testimony on Tuesday night regarding another proposed wind farm in northern McLean County. (Image credit: Matt Johnson)

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals heard testimony on Tuesday night regarding another proposed wind farm in northern McLean County. (Image credit: Matt Johnson)

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) met Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m. at the Government Center in Bloomington to hear experts testify on the proposed Bright Stalk Wind Farm in northern McLean County.

EDP Renewables, the company in charge of the project, began with Rhett Good who testified as a wildlife expert. Good, a research biologist with Western Ecosystems Technology, discussed his Wildlife Impact Assessment for the proposed wind turbine on several species including one Bald Eagle’s nest within five miles of the site.

Good addressed the findings of his assessment and the subsequent recommendations made by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). A total of six recommendations were made including that EDP Renewables conduct a three-year mortality study on bat and bird species and that they do not to site a wind turbine within 500 feet of a body of water, which could affect aquatic life.

EDP Renewables and the IDNR are discussing amendments to the recommendations. “The project does agree to conduct those surveys to determine if there will be impacts,” Good said.

Brian Armstrong represented opponents of the Bright Stalk Wind Farm and questioned Good on the purpose for the changes to the recommendations from the IDNR. Good said EDP Renewables will comply with recommendations but is working with the IDNR to explore alternative ways to address the concerns. 

Amy Winterland of Winterland Farms in Colfax asked Good about the effects of wind turbine noise on certain birds’ hunting patterns. “In the IDNR report, I believe it said you always see harriers pre-construction and never post-construction. Is it because they are disturbed?”

Good said the IDNR does suspect that wind turbines could affect harriers, but that studies looked at harrier mortality, not other disturbances to the species. 

Next, EDP Renewables called on  Gary DeClark, Senior Managing Director of Valbridge Property Advisors. DeClark spoke about rural property values and the effect of wind turbine construction. A study by DeClark and his associates using data from the McLean County Assessor’s Office found “no statistically significant” relationships regarding property value increases or decreases in McLean County between 2004 and 2017.

EDP Renewables’ final expert was Allison Poe, Regional Environmental Manager with EDP Renewables. Poe addressed the impact Bright Stalk Wind Farm could have on wildlife as well as the environment. She discussed the tiered system EDP Renewables uses to mitigate and control for potential environmental hazards.   

Travis Taylor, a local Chenoa resident, asked Poe if EDP Renewables had information on the fossil fuel impact of wind turbine construction. “Have you guys ever done a study on the fossil fuel usage for construction and deconstruction?” Taylor said.

Poe was unable to site any studies on the fossil fuel impact of the construction process. She said she would look into it and report any findings.

What’s Next?

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet Wednesday, February 21, and Thursday, February 22, at 6:00 p.m. at the Government Center, Room 400 in Bloomington where hearings are set to continue. A decision will be made by the ZBA at a later date, once all hearings have concluded.