PIATT COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — In a 4-2 vote, the Piatt County Board approved Apex Clean Energy to build its first ever wind farm — but the decision continues to face some opposition.
It all started in March when county board members voted down on the potential wind farm. Last Friday, they reversed their decision despite many community members being against it. Officials said it’s a lot more complicated than a simple yes or no.
“Piatt County has some of the best farm ground in the world. Why would you bury thousands of tons of concrete and foundation underneath prime farm ground?” asked Vice-Chairman Board Member Jerry Edwards.
These are some of the questions people are asking about the new wind farms. Edwards said many community members would prefer the land stay the same.
“It’s been farmland for hundreds of years and it should remain that,” he said.
Edwards said 50 wind turbines will be built around Mansfield and De Land. They will reach more than 600 feet tall and take up more than 70 feet. He said they’re not needed.
“They could cover this state with wind turbines and solar panels and would still not produce enough electricity to power the state,” Edwards said.
So why did some board members vote yes? Edwards said some of the board’s authority was stripped away from local governments with the signing of the new state law. It states that counties like Piatt can’t set rules against solar and wind energy facilities that are more restrictive than the state.
County Board Chairman Todd Henricks also said pushing back would only go so far.
“The cost we would have incurred in fighting this, and to a ‘no’ vote, would’ve been a cost that we would’ve had to bear for all the citizens of Piatt County.”
Henricks said that upwards of half a million dollars in legal fees would be the price to pay for battling this project in court.
“We understand any time there is change in a community it can be a transition, but we’re confident people across Piatt County will see far-reaching benefits because of it,” a spokesperson from Apex Clean Energy said in response to concerns from community members.
The bulk of construction will start in 2024 with a goal of completion by the end of the year. Henricks said being mindful of community members will go a long way for the company.
“I hope Apex will be a responsible construction and organizer of the county’s windmills,” he said.
Apex officials said the project is expected generate more than $93 million in property tax revenue over the life of the project. This includes $58 million for the school districts in the project area.