IKEA Buying Hoopeston Wind Farm
IKEA's U.S. subsidiary is buying a long-planned wind-energy project in eastern Illinois as part of the company's initiative to offset its power use with renewable energy generation.
Rob Olson is chief financial officer of the Swedish furniture retailer's U.S. business. He says IKEA plans to have Hoopeston Wind up and running by 2015.
"We are committed to renewable energy and to running our business in a way that minimizes our carbon emissions, not only because of the environmental impact, but also because it makes good financial sense," said Olson, in a press release. "We invest in our own renewable energy sources so that we can control our exposure to fluctuating electricity costs and continue providing great value to our customers."
The company says the 98-megawatt wind farm should generate enough electricity to offset all of its U.S. power use.
A report in Forbes says the wind farm is expected to generate up to 380,000 megawatthours of renewable energy each year, which is equivalent to 165% of the electricity consumed by IKEA U.S.
IKEA and many other companies such as Google and Walmart have announced plans in recent years to use more renewable energy. The company won't say what it is paying for the Hoopeston project.
It's buying it from Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy. That company will operate the wind farm.
IKEA becomes the yet-to-be-built project's third owner.
Some counties in Illinois are raising objections to legislation that would give the state Department of Agriculture the authority to regulate the locations of power-generating wind turbines.
A Chicago-based wind energy company will start preliminary work on placing 30 turbines in northeastern Champaign County.
After hours of debate in the county's Zoning Board of Appeals, the county board Thursday night unanimously approved Invenergy's special use permit and a road agreement in a matter of minutes. The company will also place 100 turbines in Vermilion County as part of what's called California Ridge Wind Farm.
But Invenergy Vice President for Development Kevin Parczyk said for a while, there will be little to see in the area north of Royal, where the wind farm is locating in Champaign County.
"Because it's spread out over such a large area, there's a lot of things that people don't even see happening," he said. "And really where it's going to be happening is probably in mid to late spring, you'll start seeing the turbines arriving, and then they'll start popping up. A lot of prep work has taken place, and it will for the next six months or so."
"Today is a momentous day," County Board Democrat Alan Kurtz said.
Parczyk said the work of wind farm construction is very sequential, and is constantly moving, but he expects work in an area north of Royal to start this spring. He said the wind farm will mean 150 to 200 construction jobs, plus those for local vendors who provide stone, concrete and other needs for completing the project.
Parczyk said public road work and foundation excavation is underway in Vermilion County, where the county board approved Invenergy's permit last month.
It took two attempts, but Champaign County's Zoning Board of Appeals has recommended the county board approve the construction of a wind farm near Royal.
The 4-to-3 vote Thursday night came after Chicago-based Invenergy added language to a reclamation agreement concerning salvage value of its 30 wind turbines should the wind farm have to shut down early. ZBA members have also cited the potential for noise pollution at neighboring homes.
Invenergy has also said its standards regarding noise pollution will comply with the Illinois Pollution Control Board. But ZBA member Brad Passalacqua says that language in the permit is too vague for him.
"My concern is for the good of the county, and for the participating (land) owners, as well as the people who don't participate in this project," he said. "We don't want to create a situation where they have injury to their property, or their happiness and life, and their home. It's just a very tender area that we need to be very cautious with."
Republican Champaign County Board member Alan Nudo says he still hasn't decided how he'll vote when the full board takes up the issue in two weeks. Two weeks ago, ZBA members cited its concerns in a 5-2 vote against approving the wind farm. The Champaign County Board's Committee of the Whole sent the project back to the ZBA earlier this week.
But Nudo says he now has a better perspective on this issue after Invenergy added language to its special use permit giving Champaign County 'absolute protection' against liability.
"I still don't want to be a speculator in commodities, and I think that there's some room for negotiations with them to come up with a better formula," he said. "But that being said, I have a much better perspective of what they're trying to do, and I think that they are offering something that they haven't offered to other counties."
Invenergy attorney Michael Blazer says new language in the agreement ensures that whoever the company finances the project with will also be obligated to decommission the turbines in the event they ever take over the project.
The full Champaign County Board will take up the wind farm on November 17th. Construction on Vermilion County's portion of the wind farm is already underway.
A wind farm in Paxton is about seven months ahead of schedule, with plans to be on line early next year.
About 100 people attended an open house Thursday hosted by E-On Climate and Renewables, just east of the Ford County city. Nine of the first 77 turbines to be built are now in operation.
Company spokesman Matt Tulis says it's been able to feed off the success of another wind farm it operates in Iroquois County. He says the first turbines went up in late June, and the company has been able to keep up that pace.
"Weather is always a factor," said Tulis. "We like to build these projects in windy areas, and sometimes it's too windy to do construction. But we've really been fortunate here lately, and been able to stay ahead of schedule."
The wind farm plans aren't sitting well with everyone in the area. Cindy Ehrke with the group Energize Illinois says the Ford County Board failed to consider the downside of wind turbines, like noise pollution and the impact on wildlife. Her group has followed wind farm research in sites ranging from upstate New York to Australia. Ehrke says the Ford County Board should have looked at issues ranging from setbacks from property, impacts on wildlife, and noise before letting the Paxton project proceed.
"There's no real teeth to the enforcement of 'what if this does happen if they do go over the noise limit", she said. "What if there's a shadow flicker in somebody's house and it is causing them problems? What is the consequence, and what steps is the company taking? They're just not there in the ordinance."
Ihrke says the wind farm issue has prompted her and two other members of Energize Illinois to run for the Ford County Board. Roberts could also become the home to a wind farm. Two companies will speak at an informational meeting, scheduled for November 10th at the Roberts Village Gym.
The Vermilion County Board overwhelmingly approved a measure Tuesday night by a vote of 22-1 to issue a land permit to an energy company that wants to construct a large wind farm in Vermilion and Champaign Counties.
The lone dissenting vote came from board member Terry Stal.
Chicago-based Invenergy is looking to build 104 wind turbines in Vermilion County starting northeast of Kickapoo State Park. The company is willing to pay the county up to $90,000 a year in property taxes and an additional $150,000 in building permit fees.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon supports the plan, touting its economic advantages for the community.
"Land owners get anywhere between $4,000 and $8,000 a year for leasing a piece of their land for the wind turbine," McMahon said. "So, you get the economic boost of people getting money because of the wind."
Darrell Cambron of rural Rankin has opposed the project from the start. Cambron said that the Vermilon County wind ordinance, which allows the wind turbines within 1,000 feet of a home is simply too close. He is urging county officials to give the plan a second look.
"It seems like they keep getting bigger all the time," Cambron said. "I've talked to other people who have had them around their homes, and they have problems with them."
Each wind turbine would be 492 feet tall, and have the capacity of producing 1.6 megawatts. Cambron said he is concerned that the large wind turbines would create too much noise and shadow flicker. However, McMahon said those concerns could only be addressed if Vermilion County had a zoning ordinance, but he said county simply does not have one on the books.
"I have no jurisdiction to look at those issues when it's a building permit," McMahon explained. "If you were going to build a building, and you needed a permit for that building, you have to produce that that building is a sound building, and it's not going to fall over or somebody get hurt."
The wind farm would stretch to Champaign County, where there would be 30 additional turbines north of Royal and just south of Gifford.
Champaign County Board member Alan Kurtz, a Democrat, said the county's wind farm ordinance, which took three years to develop, will allow the county to reap the benefits, including hundreds of jobs.
"I was able to put together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, and we passed a wind farm ordinance by a supermajority of 25 out of the 27 votes on the county board," Kurtz explained. "It's obvious that there was a consensus for wind farms here in Champaign County and the revenues that it will bring to us."
The Champaign County Planning and Zoning Department received its application this week to build the wind farm. A set of public hearings on the project is scheduled Aug. 25, and Sept. 1, 8 and 29 at the Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals.
"I don't know if the county board is going to want to do a study session," county zoning director John Hall said. "They are all pretty familiar with the wind farm requirements since it was such a relatively recent amendment, so I never presumed that they would want a study session...there are no plans for a study session at this time."
The Champaign County Board could vote on the application as early as Oct. 20.