14,000-acre McLean County wind farm could bring $43.7 million to local schools

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BELLFLOWER, Ill. (WMBD) — More wind turbines could be on the way to McLean County, the state’s largest wind energy producing county.

This week, the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a plan that would construct 64 wind turbines in the townships of Bellflower and West.

Those villages are in the southeast corner of the county.

It’s a $350 million project and will encompass more than 14,000 acres. With the vote, its final step towards breaking ground would be an approval vote from the full McLean County Board.

According to Phil Dick, the director of McLean County Zoning & building, these wind turbines will be taller than usual.

“In the past, the tallest turbines were up to 550 feet. The maximum height of these turbines will be 591 feet,” Dick said.

According to the project developer, Sapphire Sky Wind Energy, affiliated with Invenergy of Chicago, the turbines that will be constructed will make less noise.

“Sound experts were required to get reports showing that they meet the requirements of noise for residences in the rural area of the county,” Dick said.

The 30-year project, if approved, would bring in $71.5 million dollars in tax revenue with $43.7 million going to both the Le Roy CUSD 2 and Blue Ridge CUSD 18. Mark Jontry, the regional superintendent for McLean and Dewitt Counties, said districts can do a lot with that amount of money.

“It really gives those districts a lot of flexibility on how to spend that money. Whether it’s increasing the type of programming that they might want to offer in their districts for students, it might allow them to do some facility repairs or enhancements,” Jontry said.

Jontry said in the past, other projects have allowed some school districts to stay afloat and others to reduce the amount of their property tax values.

“For each district it’ll mean something different depending on where they’re at in a point of time in terms of their financial status,” Jontry said.

Annually, the Le Roy Schools will receive $265,362, and over the entire 30 years that equates to $7,960,865. The Blue Ridge Schools will receive $1,193,207 annually and over the entire 30 years, the total will be $35,796,206.

A representative for Invenergy says the project is an over $350 million investment into McLean County that will bring hundreds of construction jobs to the area, with many being “fulfilled locally”.

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