Lee County Zoning Board recommends plan by GSG Wind farm to upgrade turbines

Final vote will go to Lee County Board

At 955 feet above sea level, Bureau County’s highest point can be found in Indiantown Township. About 4.5 miles southwest of Tiskilwa. The ridge can be seen along the intersection of County Road 700 North and 1550 East St.

DIXON - The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals gave a favorable recommendation for the GSG Wind farm to replace and upgrade its turbines in Lee County.

GSG Wind, developed by Leeward Renewable Energy, became operational in 2007 with 40 turbines in a footprint of more than 3,000 acres in Lee and La Salle counties near West Brooklyn. It’s an 80-megawatt project.

Lee County has 19 turbines in Brookyn, Lee Center and Sublette townships. The company petitioned the county for a special use permit earlier this year to decommission and deconstruct all turbines and replace them with up to 16 bigger, more efficient models.

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals heard testimony, evidence and public comment during the last two months and wrapped up around 100 findings of fact during its meeting Monday.

Zoning Board member Rex Meyer voted against the project with concerns that the company didn’t have specifics on exactly where the new turbines would be and how many would be built.

Member Glen Hughes agreed that there were concerns about a lack of specifics but argued that the company will be required to provide more information before being granted building permits.

The overall land usage and general location will remain the same, he said.

The board also found that the project “would not have a statistically measurable impact on property values within the area,” based on a property value impact study commissioned by the company.

The board approved a favorable recommendation, which will go to the Lee County Board in July for a final vote.

Based on testimony, the goal of the $140 million project is to produce more energy, reduce operational costs, and create less noise at lower wind speeds.

If approved, the company would start taking down existing turbines in March and begin construction on the new ones in May with the goal of completing the project by the end of 2023, said John Wycherley, vice president for wind energy development at Leeward.

It would create an estimated 140 temporary jobs during the construction process, he said.

The wind farm would generate around $10.85 million in property taxes across the next 25 years.

The project includes an agricultural impact mitigation agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and a complaint resolution hotline that will be active during construction.

Leeward operates four wind farms in Illinois, two of which are in Lee County. The company decommissioned and repowered the Mendota Hills Wind Farm a few years ago in Lee County.

There’s also the Crescent Ridge Wind Farm and Lone Tree Wind Farm in Bureau County.

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Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

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