ZBA Approves Bright Stalk Wind Farm

 The McLean County ZBA unanimously approved a special use permit application Monday night for the proposed Bright Stalk Wind Farm near Chenoa. The application along with the ZBA's stipulations will go before the full County Board for a decision on March 20 (Image credit: Breanna Grow)

The McLean County ZBA unanimously approved a special use permit application Monday night for the proposed Bright Stalk Wind Farm near Chenoa. The application along with the ZBA's stipulations will go before the full County Board for a decision on March 20 (Image credit: Breanna Grow)

With a unanimous vote of approval from The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Monday night, McLean County’s fourth planned wind farm is one step closer to reality.

Houston-based EDP Renewables’ proposed Bright Stalk Wind Farm would include up to 58 turbines across nearly 5,000 acres of private land near Chenoa.

County Board members approved Chicago-based Invenergy’s proposed wind project northeast of Bloomington-Normal last month. The County already has two wind farms in operation, EDP’s Twin Groves Wind Farm near Arrowsmith and the White Oak Wind Energy Center near Carlock. The White Oak farm is owned by Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy.

The Bright Stalk project would use more substantial turbines that generate twice the power of those in the Twin Groves Wind Farm. At 550 feet, the new turbines would be the largest in the County.

The ZBA’s approval comes with several stipulations added to zoning staff recommendations, including requiring EDP to conduct fish and wildlife surveys and a sound study following construction.

However, the additional requirements weren’t enough to calm some rural McLean County residents’ concerns.

Tim Jolly attended Monday night’s hearing with a number of other members of Chenoa-Lexington Energy Awareness Now (CLEAN). The group, totalling over 70 members, hired Phillip Luetkehans, an associate with Schirott, Luetkehans & Garner of Itasca, Illinois, to represent them in both recent wind farm special use permit application cases.

Jolly said both projects plan to site turbines near the farm that’s been in his family since 1864. The fifth-generation farmer opposed developments like wind projects taking more farmland out of food production in an area with some of the richest soil in the state, if not the country or possibly, the world.

Jolly also pointed to testimony concerning turbine noise that may be an annoyance for nearby residents, particularly with Bright Stalk’s larger, more powerful turbines.

“I don’t think we’re guaranteed to live anywhere without annoyance,” said Board Member Julia Turner addressing the concern Monday night. Board Chair Jim Finnigan echoed her sentiment: “People act like windmills are a new thing; they’re not...They’re different now, but so is farming.”

Board members said they heard no credible evidence that the proposed project would have negative impacts on residents’ health or property values. Finnigan also noted the County has never taken a formal complaint from residents citing health issues from the two existing wind farms.

What’s Next:

The McLean County Board will consider EDP’s special use permit application and the ZBA’s recommendations at 9:00 am on March 20 in Room 400 of the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington.