The McLean County Board has Made a Decision on the Bright Stalk Wind Farm
The Main Point: After nearly two hours of deliberation, the McLean County Board approved the Bright Stalk Wind Farm Tuesday morning. The approval came after a 16-3 vote, with members also voting to add additional requirements to EDP Renewables application: EDP Renewables must offer sound studies to those who live within 2,000 feet of a turbine and create a mitigation plan protecting the local aquatic life in the river.
The Data: The Bright Stalk Wind Farm is a 200-megawatt (MW) turbine development from Houston-based EDP Renewables consisting of 58 turbines ranging from 3.45 MW to 3.6 MW. The wind farm will cut across roughly 5,000 acres of privately-owned land in Chenoa, Lawndale and Yates townships.
Rewind: The vote comes one month after the approval of the McLean County Wind Energy Center, a 250 MW, 100 turbine farm planned for southeast and north Lexington. The McLean County Board barely approved the Mclean County Wind Energy Center with a 10-8 vote.
Fine Print: The Board voted down an amendment from member Don Cavallini to guarantee property owners received fair market value for their property if they were affected by the wind farm. Members criticized the move as a rushed attempt and said the criteria used to assess the market value were flawed. Additionally, the McLean County Board voted against sending the approved amendments back to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
At the beginning of the meeting, public commenters were allowed three minutes each to express their concerns or support for the proposed wind farm. Many opponents discussed the issue of noise annoyance, shadow flicker, animal disturbance and decreases in property values. Supporters of the wind farm have championed increased jobs, property tax revenue for school districts and clean energy production as advantages to approving the wind farm.
- The Opposition Says: McLean County Board Members Don Cavallini, Chuck Erickson and George Wendt voted no. “There are six of us who represent the rural areas. There are 14 who live in the cities… If the six of us had the power to put a land dump in the middle of one of your cities so we could generate some money for us, how would those 14 people like that?” Wendt said. “Our constituents don’t want this.”
“None of us is guaranteed to live without annoyance,” Travis Taylor, local Chenoa resident said. “An annoyance is following a combine once or twice a year during harvest; not having to live in the middle of a wind farm 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
- The Supporters Say: The Bright Stalk Wind Farm is projected to produce $2.5 million in property taxes in the first year of operation and $42.7 million over 20 years. The project will create a total of 300 seasonal jobs during construction and up to 13 permanent local positions.
“A good job is the best welfare program there is,” said Mike Matejka, Director of Governmental Affairs with Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA), in support of the wind farm. “And a good job is a result of this project. Through the White Oak and Twin Groves, we have booked over 100,000 hours of good work which has resulted in $4 million in the hands of McLean county residents.”
What's Next: Bright Stalk Wind Farm will be completed by the end of 2022 and the McLean County Wind Energy Center will be finished by the end of 2020. These new wind farms will bring the total number of wind farms in McLean county to four alongside Twin Groves and White Oaks Energy Center.
Key Takeaway: EDP Renewables has the green light to move ahead with construction, despite some opposition from landowners. The continued production of wind energy in McLean County has seen strong support as well as strong criticism.