Champaign County wind farm now wants 50 turbines, half of initial plan

Jan 25, 2018

A proposed wind farm in Champaign County now wants to build 50 turbines — about half of its original plan — and now has a potential new owner and a new group of residents in opposition.

Jason Dagger, a spokesman from Everpower, confirmed negotiations are ongoing to sell the Buckeye Wind Project in Champaign County to innogy, a German energy company.

RELATED: Developer of Champaign County wind farm likely for sale

“With this acquisition, innogy will become the sole owner of more than two gigawatts of onshore wind projects in various development stages located in attractive U.S. power markets for renewables,” said Sarah Knauber, a spokeswoman for innogy via email.

That includes projects in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Montana, New York, Wyoming, Maryland and Maine, information on the company’s website says. 

MORE: Wind farms stall, solar grows as energy debate continues in Ohio

The acquisition is subject to approval by the U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States with estimated closing of the transaction in the second quarter of this year, Knauber said.

The Champaign County project, which was split into two phases, was involved in a legal fight that lasted more than a decade and ended up in the Ohio Supreme Court. The initial phase of the project, with 54 turbines, was the first commercial wind farm to receive approval by the Ohio Power Siting Board in March 2010. A second phase with 56 turbines was approved in 2013.

DETAILS: Court sides with Champaign County wind developers in permit fight

The initial roughly 100-turbine project would provide economic benefits of about $55 million locally, proponents said.

But construction stalled during the legal fight with Union Neighbors United, a group of Champaign County residents who opposed the project. The case was tangled in a series of appeals and legal fights over everything from the safety of the project to the state’s approval process.

Last summer officials from Everpower and UNU said the sides had reached a settlement that would end the lawsuit and potentially allow the project to move forward.

READ MORE: Everpower signs deal with Amazon for Ohio wind farm

Documents filed with PUCO show the developers have filed an amendment slashing the number of proposed turbines to a maximum of 50. The project would use 27 potential turbine sites from the first phase and 28 from the second phase. It’s unclear what the economic impact of the new project might be.

The developers are also seeking additional changes, according to the documents, including the option to use additional turbine models, relocate a collection substation and modify the access road and collection line system design.

The agreement only allows one turbine to be built in Union Twp., UNU attorneys said in a statement. The organization and its individual members also have agreed not to oppose the new, smaller project.

“In the future, UNU and its members will remain publicly neutral on the pending amendment application, (Payment In Lieu of Taxes), and other matters directly relating to the Buckeye Wind and Champaign Wind projects,” said Chris Walker, an attorney for the group.

But documents filed with utilities commission show another group of residents have filed with the state to intervene in the case, raising some similar concerns that members of UNU had raised earlier.

The new group of residents includes Robert and Roberta Custer, owners of a Medicaid-certified facility for about 60 individuals with developmental disabilities called Downsize Farms on North Parkview Road in Champaign County. It’s located near three turbines in the revised project’s footprint.

The Custers raised concerns that noise and shadow flicker, the effects of shadows cast by the spinning turbine blades, could have negative health effects on the organization’s clients, according to the documents.

The new group of residents also raised several other concerns about the project, including arguing state law passed since the project was first approved require that each turbine be set back at least 1,125 feet from property lines not included in the project. Instead, they argue the project uses setback requirements of 541 feet from adjacent property lines, which was the requirement when the state first approved the project.

An attorney for the latest group of residents to oppose the project didn’t return calls seeking comment from the Springfield News-Sun

The new group of residents also argued the revised project asks to use new, more powerful turbines that were different from those state officials had previously approved. And they argue the developers haven’t provided an adequate analysis to determine the noise level likely to be produced by the turbines.

“Each of the local residents has a real and substantial interest in this matter,” the request to intervene says. “They reside within areas that will be adversely affected by nuisance noise and shadow flicker from the combined facility. They have a real and substantial interest in trying to prevent the infliction of additional adverse impacts on their land, residences, communities and lives that the combined facility is projected to create.”

The Champaign County Prosecutor’s Office also has filed to intervene in the case on behalf of Wayne, Union, Salem and Goshen Twps., as well as on behalf of the Champaign County commissioners.