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Wind farm rotation starts Friday 

 
Lieutenant governor touts advantages of area project

Sauk Valley News
May 31, 2012
By David Giuliani

COMPTON – Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon wanted to get a close look at a wind farm. Really close.

On Wednesday, Simon, a wind energy supporter, climbed up the inside of a turbine as part of her tour of the new wind farm in eastern Lee County.

Officials from Goldwind USA, which owns the Shady Oaks wind farm, said its 72 turbines are set to go online Friday, providing power to ComEd.

Before her tour, Simon, wearing tennis shoes, met with a small group of wind energy supporters in a trailer that serves as the wind farm’s headquarters just north of Compton.

On hand were school superintendents from the Amboy, Bureau Valley and Ohio school districts. Schools tend to support wind energy projects because they get big boosts in annual property tax revenue.

Amboy Superintendent Jeff Thake said the Shady Oaks wind farm will mean an extra $500,000 for his district next fiscal year.

“My interest is twofold: revenue for the school district and the creation of jobs for young people,” he said. “Our graduates are working on wind turbines. It’s a win-win.”

Thake said the district had no plans for increased spending because of the cash infusion. Rather, it planned to save the money to make up for expected shortfalls in state funding, he said.

All three superintendents told Simon a similar story about wind farms’ benefits.

“All that good news without mentioning renewable energy,” Simon said.

She noted the state’s requirement for a certain amount of renewable energy, which aims to help the environment and the economy.

As in other counties, many of Lee County’s rural residents have fought wind farms. They complain about turbines’ noise, vibrations and shadow flicker, pushing for longer setbacks between homes and wind farms.

Asked about this opposition, Simon said the discussions at the County Board level have been important.

“We need to know what’s going on and discuss the possible negative effects. The positive effects are known,” she said.

Her spokeswoman later said Simon had read some of the news coverage on the Lee County Board’s dealings with wind energy.

Representatives of Mainstream Renewable Power, which is planning a wind farm for Lee, Whiteside and Bureau counties, were on hand for Simon’s visit. Mainstream, the previous owner, planned the project before Goldwind acquired it. Goldwind is a subsidiary of a Chinese company.

Goldwind said the project’s beginning of operation was delayed because of requests from bidders who were interested in buying it.

Goldwind still is looking at selling the project, a Goldwind spokesman said.