Ford Ridge Wind farm building permit approved by county

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FORD COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — A new wind farm is getting built near Sibley after being stuck in red tape for over a decade.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Brandon Magers says Apex Clean Energy made the first step in the Ford Ridge Wind project in 2009 when it got a special-use permit approved. Then last month, he says the project’s building permit was denied by the county.

So, Magers says, the company made some big changes to the plans when it appealed the denial. Big, as in the turbine and rotor heights are now taller.

The turbines’ height climbed an extra hundred feet at 499-feet and the rotors went from 80-feet to 88-feet.

Additionally, the turbine models written into the earlier permits are no longer produced by the manufacturer. Mager says he confirmed that with General Electric.

“Our ordinance says you are required to use the most up-to-date commercially-available equipment,” he says.

Magers says that in the appeal, the company gave substantial evidence of past precedents in the county of changes to plans being made, adding that there was never a ruling set to prevent those kinds of alterations.

“After consulting with the States Attorney, we felt it was best our interests to issue the permit because we didn’t have evidence to fight it,” he says. “We’re making sure our ordinances will be more clear in the future.”

The new building permit was approved Monday, he says.

What it boiled down to, Mager says, was they didn’t want to burden county taxpayers with the cost of expensive hearings and litigation.

“We felt it would be irresponsible to cost (taxpayers) more money when we didn’t have proper evidence to go against what they were trying to do,” he says,

Erin Baker, Senior Development Manager with Apex Clean Energy, described the permit approval as an exciting milestone for Ford Ridge Wind, adding they’re glad the zoning officer found it in compliance with county regulations.

Baker says they expect to start construction in the next couple of months.

“Over the first 30 years of the project lifetime, Ford Ridge Wind is expected to provide $33.25 million in new tax revenue to the community, $50 million in landowner lease payments, and $85,000 annually to the town of Sibley,” says Baker.

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