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Wind Farm Expansion In Tazewell County In ‘Early-Stage Development’

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Joe Deacon
EDP Renewables North America is in the early stages of developing an expansion of the Rail Splitter wind farm in southern Tazewell County.

Construction on a potential second phase of a wind farm in southern Tazewell County could start within two years, according to company literature.

EDP Renewables North America has a dedicated website for the Rail Splitter II wind farm project and has distributed newsletters to property owners where turbines may be located. Work could begin as soon as 2023, with completion targeted for the following year.

“They're negotiating with the property owners right now, and they've been in regular contact with our community development and zoning office,” said Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman. “They'll have to get building permits for each one of the sites, and once they have the land purchased and the building permits, it's my understanding they can move forward. They'll have to have a couple of public hearings, also.”

In an email response, an EDP spokesperson confirmed the wind farm expansion is in “early-stage development,” but declined to further discuss the project. A September newsletter obtained by WCBU says EDP recently erected a temporary tower to gauge wind speeds and directions.

The newsletter also says EDP is waiting to get results on a transmission line capacity study, expected to arrive in early December, before updating the project timeline.

The wind farm expansion would be located in Boynton, Hopedale, Hittle, and Little Mackinaw townships. Plans call for 20-28 new, taller turbines with rotor tips reaching nearly 270 feet higher than the ones in Rail Splitter Phase I. These turbines have a generating capacity of 5.6 megawatts, compared to 1.5 megawatts for the existing towers.

EDP’s project website says Rail Splitter II will generate power to serve 34,000 homes, and the project represents a $140 million capital investment. Zimmerman said expansion of the wind farm would provide an economic benefit to the county's rural townships.

“Our townships on the south end are the ones that probably have the least amount of resources, and when Rail Splitter I came in, they (EDP) spent $1 million on road upgrades, which helps these poor townships just tremendously,” he said. “In addition to that, each one of these towers generates property tax revenue for the schools down there. So it really is just a win-win for all the parties involved — and I didn't say, ‘wind-wind;’ I said ‘win-win.’”

Zimmerman also confirmed an unidentified company is exploring a possible “fairly sizable” solar farm project, though he wasn’t able to provide many specifics.

“They're currently negotiating with property owners in a more rural part of the county, and I think it has the potential to be upwards of 1,000 acres,” he said. “So it's not a small solar farm that they're looking at.”

Zimmerman said the solar farm would potentially be located in the eastern part of the county, adding he didn’t know how far along the company’s negotiations with landowners had progressed.

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.