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Local

First-of-its kind project would replace Lee County wind turbines

Mendota Hills plans to remove, upgrade its fleet, pending county approval

DIXON – The Mendota Hills wind farm could be the first in the nation to decommission its entire fleet of turbines and replace a portion of them with upgraded models.

Dallas-based Leeward Renewable Energy, which owns the wind farm, has requested a special-use permit from the Lee County Board to remove its 63 turbines in the southeast region of the county and build between 33 and 35 new structures.

The board received the proposal Tuesday and referred it to the county zoning board to make a recommendation.

Acting Board Chairman John Nicholson said the project is unique in that it could set an example for other wind farms on decommissioning practices, which can be a “stumbling point” when zoning wind farms.

“This will be the first complete decommissioning on a wind farm in the United States,” he said. 

Wind turbines have a lifespan of about 20 years, and decommissioning outdated models isn’t a new practice, but it’s not one that’s always used.

“Several wind farms have been abandoned, but they’re still standing there,” Nicholson said.

The Mendota Hills wind farm was built in 2003, and Leeward plans to replace its current fleet with more efficient turbines.

“If the 63 turbines are removed, we would install fewer than 40 new turbines that would be more efficient and would generate more energy,” Leeward spokesperson Kelly Kimberly said in a phone interview.  

The project would span across Viola, Brooklyn, Willow Creek and Wyoming townships.

According to the zoning request, the project includes using existing land and infrastructure and will require expanding into neighboring land parcels to maintain sufficient spacing between turbines.

“It would be a very interesting project should it happen,” County Zoning Officer Chris Henkel said.

The zoning board plans to meet at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 to address the proposal.

At its June meeting, the County Board amended its building permit fee regarding wind turbines.

The fee was $25 per foot in height from a turbine’s base to its central hub. The board amended the fee to measure from the base to the highest point of the turbine blade.

Each megawatt of wind power generates between $8,000 and $13,000 in local taxes annually, which has grown to more than $3.3 million for county taxing districts this year.

The make-up of the possible new Mendota Hills turbines and the estimated project cost was not available Tuesday.

The county board also:

• Approved a resolution recognizing Aug. 29 to Sept. 4 as Workforce Development Week.

• Tabled an ordinance that would require vehicles between 55 and 65 feet long to purchase a $10 permit to travel on county roads.

• Approved requests to hire replacements at the County Assessor’s Office and Lee County Jail.

• Tabled a proposal to install a new card reader system for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, courts building and 911 center.

NEXT MEETING

The Lee County Board next meets at 9 a.m. Sept. 20 in the third-floor boardroom of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. 2nd St.

The county zoning board will meet to address the Mendota Hills wind farm proposal at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 in the third-floor boardroom of the Old Lee County Courthouse.

Go to leecountyil.com for an agenda or more information.

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