Hoopeston wind farm

MONTICELLO – The Piatt County Board is taking steps to have more input on wind farm development in the county, but board members acknowledge that their hands may be tied due to new state legislation.

Headed to Governor Pritzker’s desk, is legislation that would provide counties with “guardrails” for sighting wind farms, and would better align the state with its renewable energy goals, according to the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Bill Cunningham of Chicago.

If signed into law by the Governor, the State of Illinois would develop a commission that would oversee and approve wind turbine siting everywhere but Chicago.

Counties would retain the ability to have an up or down vote on the project once presented, but if the project is within the state guidelines, any county rejection would trigger a lawsuit against the county that would generally favor the wind turbine company.

Last week, the Piatt County Board voted to place a moratorium on new special use applications for wind energy conversion projects until Sept. 1.

It does not affect the current wind farm project under consideration. Last year, Apex Clean Energy filed an SUP with the county for a 300 MW wind farm in northern Piatt County, which would include 50 turbines. The county board is expected to decide on that in February.

After 14 nights of testimony before the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals, a recommendation will be made by the ZBA to the full county board on Jan. 24.

“We will take their opinion and consider it Feb. 8,” said County Board Chairman Todd Henricks.

Board members say that other companies have expressed an interest in building other wind energy conversion projects in Piatt County, but board members have expressed a desire to put stricter guidelines on the current wind farm ordinance.

Earlier this month, the board sent the entire ordinance back to the ZBA for an updated review.

The moratorium will give the chance for board members to see what happens with the new legislation, without having to worry about considering another project.

“It may be taken out of our hands anyway,” said Board Member Michael Beem.

Henricks said the county still has some options to slow the number of projects in Piatt County.

The board can remove the moratorium at any time, let it expire, or extend it before it expires Sept. 1.

Henricks said he had recent conversations with State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) about it. Rose has been an outspoken opponent of wind farms.

“His suggestion was to get every not-yet incorporated community in the county to be incorporated as quickly as possible, just to get the one-and-a-half mile setback established,” Henricks said. “He mentioned White Heath several times.”

Henricks said that even some subdivisions would be eligible to be incorporated.

Board members also will hear from the voters in April about their feelings on additional wind farm projects.

In April, voters will see this question on the ballot.

“Shall the Piatt County Board permit the zoning and permitting necessary to construct a commercial wind farm within the boundaries of Piatt County? Those who support the construction of commercial wind farms within Piatt County should vote yes. Those who oppose the construction of commercial wind farms should vote no.”

The referendum is advisory only.

“I just want people to understand that whatever the vote is, it does not affect any current applications,” said Board Member Paul Foran.

“This is for the future,” Henricks said. “We obviously can’t go back and make changes after they have submitted the application.”

Trending Food Videos