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Peoria County is attracting more attention from wind energy developers

The "area of interest" for the Goldrush Apple Wind Project in northern Peoria and southern Stark counties. The first phase of the project is in Peoria County, and phase two is slated for Stark County.
Goldrush Apple Wind
The "area of interest" for the Goldrush Apple Wind Project in northern Peoria and southern Stark counties. The first phase of the project is in Peoria County, and phase two is slated for Stark County.

Peoria County currently doesn't have any wind farms. But within the next few years, it could have two, capable of generating power for more than 300,000 homes.

The Goldrush Apple Wind project eyed for northern Peoria and southern Stark counties is still in an early stage of development. The two-phase buildout will start in Peoria County, then move on to Stark. The wind projects are expected to generate about 200 megawatts of power in Peoria County and 400 megawatts in Stark.

"This will handily cover the power needs of both counties. So I think that's really important when we're thinking about, what does this all mean? I think to the average person that would hopefully be helpful," said Andrew Stetter, a development manager for Apex Clean Energy, which is planning the project.

Shelley Schwab is a senior development manager for Apex Clean Energy. She said electrical transmission upgrades near Princeville have created new capacity for larger projects.

"That transmission corridor has room on the line," Schwab said. "And when there's room on a line, it allows a developer such as solar or wind or battery storage to come in and say, 'Hey, we could tap that line, build a project here and inject some resource.'"

That, plus a positive reception from landowners and favorable county zoning ordinances, make the area attractive for wind developers, Schwab said. More than 50,000 acres are already signed on in Peoria and Stark counties.

Unlike neighboring Tazewell County, there's been little organized resistance to wind farm projects in Peoria County to date. In 2023, the state passed a law that preempts restrictive local ordinances and creates regulatory conditions more favorable for clean energy development.

An Apex spokesman said the company does not use eminent domain to obtain easements. He said the company already has a spot in line with MISO, the regional grid regulator, to plug into the grid.

Schwab says battery storage is also something the company is exploring in the Peoria region.

"It's usually near an area where that transmission is being coordinated. And we store it there for times of high need," she said. "And so we're excited about that opportunity. It allows, again, for that stability opportunity on the grid in the area."

Apex is currently conducting meteorological studies to gather more wind data in Peoria County. They anticipate construction starting in 2027, with operations beginning in 2028.

Four Creeks Wind Project still in development, too

ConnectGen is developing the Four Creeks Wind Project in Peoria County. First announced back in 2022, the project based in Millbrook, Brimfield, Princeville, and Jubilee townships is expected to generate at least 400 megawatts of power. That's enough for more than 130,000 homes annually, the company projects.

The company is currently conducting environmental and engineering studies to finalize project design before it submits a special use permit application to the county.

A spokesperson said the wind project could generate "tens of millions" of dollars of tax revenue over its lifespan that could go towards roads, schools, public safety, and other infrastructure. The spokesperson also said rents from wind turbine easements can create a new steady revenue stream for family farms.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.