Big Sky Wind farm to repower fleet of turbines

DIXON – Big Sky Wind Farm got the green light to repower its fleet of 114 turbines in Lee and Bureau counties.

The Lee County Board recently approved a special-use permit for the project, which includes replacing 58 turbines with upgraded models in Lee County near Ohio and is expected to total around $270 million.

BSW DevCo first petitioned the county in April 2019 to decommission and replace the turbines, and the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals gave a favorable recommendation for the project after holding seven hearings across 2 months that covered an extensive list of required studies, including shadow flicker, noise and environmental impact.

The County Board then approved the permit, but the project stalled, and Big Sky Wind came back and repeated the zoning process last year. There was then another delay and a change in turbine model, so the company made a third petition.

The board approved the final project in a 16-to-5 vote.

Board member Jim Horstman was concerned with the size of the new turbines; they would go from a diameter of 288 feet to either 360 or 393 feet. He said it wasn’t addressed during the hearings why they needed “super-sized wind generators.”

Zoning administrative assistant Alice Henkel said the turbine size is similar to another repowering in the county with the Mendota Hills Wind farm.

Work could start in September and finish summer 2022.

The 240-megawatt wind farm was built in 2010 and went online in 2011 with 114 turbines across more than 13,000 acres.

Earlier this year, the project changed owners from a BlackRock-managed fund to Vitol.

The Big Sky Wind farm originally was owned by California-based Edison Mission Energy, which went into bankruptcy and sold most of its assets to NRG Energy Inc., but not the wind farm.

In 2014, the project was acquired by the Chicago-based North American unit of Indian turbine manufacturer Suzlon Group after Edison Mission Energy failed to pay back a $228 million loan from Suzlon for the 114 turbines.

Suzlon then sold the project to EverPower Wind Holdings. In late 2017, British equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners sold the EverPower assets – 752 megawatts of wind developments in Illinois, Pennsylvania, California and New York – to a fund managed by the renewable energy arm of New York global investment firm BlackRock Real Assets.

Rachel Rodgers

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