LaSalle News Tribune
May 31, 2012
By Tamara Abbey
COMPTON — Lieutenant Gov. Sheila Simon arrived at Goldwind USA’s Compton office in casual attire Wednesday to learn more about renewable energy from the inside.
Before climbing to the top of one of only three 2.5 megawatt, 100 meter tall wind turbines, she heard from area school superintendents as the Shady Oaks project goes online.
Sharon Sweger, Ohio, Ill. school superintendent, said they expect their first property tax revenue installment from the first phase of the 120-megawatt project this year. The second phase of 71 turbines will be completed this summer and the majority of those turbines are capable of producing 1.5 megawatts. The entire project is estimated to produce enough power for 30,000 homes.
“We will be at about $935,000 in additional revenue just this summer,” she said, “at a time when state cuts, inflation, new state regulations that’s putting an additional burden on budgets.”
She also told Simon the revenue will help the district fund maintenance projects.
Amboy superintendent Jeff Thake hasn’t seen any revenue from the project yet, but he has seen some benefits.
“For me, my interest is two-fold,” he said. “The revenue for the school districts is huge and the other thing is it’s creating jobs. A lot of our recent high school graduates are working on those turbines. One of the biggest things we’re finding in small town America is declining enrollments and what this will do is help offset that.”
That sentiment was echoed by John Bute, Bureau Valley school superintendent. Several projects are scheduled in his district along with a portion of the Shady Oaks project.
Eddie Perez, O & M director for Goldwind, said the turbines dotting the Lee County landscape are in their final phase of testing before going online and producing power for ComED.
The project is the result of a public-private cooperative that encouraged development of renewable energy by extending the contract for energy purchases. Simon said she has often seen the wind turbines and visited community colleges that offer wind turbine education programs but had never actually seen a working turbine. The one she visited today is nearly ready to begin producing power.
Simon, along with technicians Tim O’Malley and Kevin Bontz climbed 328 feet to the top of the turbine to view the surrounding farmland.
“We all get to drive by them or see them on our way in on the roads or on trains, and they’re just beautiful things to see so I wanted to learn a little bit more about it,” she said. “The state had required a certain percentage of energy from renewable sources and that provides them with a little bit of a guarantee. It’s a nice partnership.”
The wind farm has met with some opposition, mainly in Lee County which already hosts several wind farms and developers have applied for additional turbines.