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Why there are no wind farms in Peoria County and how that might change

Journal Star logo Journal Star 8/16/2022 Alex Dalton, Journal Star

Peoria County still stands out among its neighbors: it doesn't have any wind farms.

Marshall, Woodford, Tazewell and McLean counties all have wind farms, with additional projects planned in Knox and Fulton counties. But Peoria County might not be left out for much longer.

Jason Ryan, a spokesman for the American Clean Power Association, said that the area is well-suited to wind development.

"Peoria County does not currently host any wind farms, but wind power may be in the county’s future," he wrote in an email. "The county has a good wind resource and access to nearby transmission (lines)."

In recent years, two developers have eyed the area as a potential site for wind power development. One plan has since been moved out of the area, but another still might pan out.

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Planned Trivoli site scuttled

In August 2021, representatives of the Florida-based company NextEra Energy attended a meeting of the Trivoli Township’s board. The unincorporated community is located around 15 miles due west of Peoria. The NextEra representatives brought a plan for a potential wind farm that would stretch from Trivoli into neighboring Fulton County.

But the plan didn't pan out as initially conceived. A spokeswoman for NextEra wrote in a statement to the Journal Star that "(d)ue to the proximity of the Peoria airport, the decision was made to move the project out of Peoria County."

Tall structures like wind turbines can interfere with flights by blocking paths through low-level airspace required for takeoffs and landings. To prevent newly built structures from blocking flight paths, the Federal Aviation Administration regulates what structures can be built near airports and requires that developers go through an approval process. A 2014 study from the University of Kansas also found that turbulence generated by wind turbines can pose a hazard to smaller aircraft.

The NextEra wind farm is still in development, but will sit entirely within Fulton County. A spokeswoman declined to answer additional questions about the plans.

Enough power for 10,000 homes:New energy project nears approval just north of Peoria

A potential new development

Houston-based renewable energy developer ConnectGen has launched its own bid to bring a wind farm to Peoria County. The company began surveying the area for a potential wind farm in 2020, and eventually settled on a site in Peoria County's northwest corner.

Kelly O'Brien, ConnectGen director of project development and lead developer for the proposed Millbrook Township project, said that her company has met several times with planning and zoning department members in order to ensure that local ordinances have been followed.

In January, the Peoria County Land Use Committee voted unanimously in support of a three-year permit allowing ConnectGen to install meteorological towers on three parcels of land in Millbrook, Brimfield and Princeville townships. The towers are used to collect data on wind speed, wind direction, ground-level relative humidity and air temperature in order to assess the future efficacy of wind turbines constructed on the site.

While the project is still very early in development, O'Brien said that findings so far have left her with no cause for concern.

"There isn't anything that we've seen that doesn't make us optimistic," she said.

O'Brien said that such projects typically take four to six years to develop and one to two years to construct. ConnectGen's Peoria County project – called Four Creeks – is one of three Illinois wind power projects that the company is currently developing.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Why there are no wind farms in Peoria County and how that might change

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