Sauk Valley counties show opposition for bill on wind energy regulation

Big Sky Wind Farm, which has 114 turbines in Lee and Bureau counties, is once again seeking a special-use permit to decommission the 58 in southern Lee County, and upgrade – or repower – them with replacements.

Counties across the Sauk Valley are opposing a bill that would put state zoning regulations on wind energy projects.

More than two-thirds of Illinois counties, including Lee, Whiteside, Ogle and Carroll counties, have passed resolutions against Senate Bill 1602, which includes setting state requirements for siting approval for wind developments, and changing setback requirements as well as blade height and sound limitations.

Opponents of the legislation say that the bill would undermine county authority with setting their own standards for wind projects, ignoring local needs and concerns.

The United Counties Council of Illinois advised counties to draft resolutions against the bill.

The Lee County Board passed such a resolution Thursday stating that the bill requires any currently existing county zoning ordinances pertaining to wind farms be amended within 120 days to comply with the requirements of the bill and prohibits a county from adopting and future restrictions on the installation or use of a commercial wind energy facility that are inconsistent with the provisions of the bill, and that it ignores differences that occur locally from county to county across the state and removes a County Board’s ability to regulate those local differences and address the concerns of their residents.

Board Vice Chairman John Nicholson said the bill is another instance of the state poking its nose into local business, and the projects have too big of an impact to be left to the state.

“It’s only wise that we do it on a local level because we know the circumstances involving these bigger entities; it’s as simple as that,” he said.

According to the bill, “a county may not place any restriction on the installation or use of a commercial wind energy facility, except by adopting an ordinance that complies with the provisions, and may not establish siting standards for supporting facilities that preclude development of commercial wind energy facilities.”

Lee County, and counties across the Sauk Valley, have several massive wind farms, including the first to be built in Illinois.

The resolution against the bill further states that it “undermines local control in that it substitutes state level legislative determination for the local control exercised by County Zoning Commissions, Zoning Boards of Appeals and County Boards,” as well as “the County Board is the best entity to support the needs, interests and safety of its residents due to direct feedback and understanding of the county’s needs, while state officials or industry leaders who do not reside in these Counties may not be aware of the most relevant and current information.”

More than 70 counties approved similar ordinances.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.