Lena, Ill. - Acciona Energy continues to plan for phases two and three of its Stephenson County wind project, while also finishing up road repairs and other work related to the first phase, the 67-turbine EcoGrove wind farm outside Lena.
Company officials have also cleared up some of the rumors circulating about EcoGrove not being operational, and area landowners not being satisfied with their financial arrangements.
Jeff Hammond, project developer for Acciona, said residents may have noticed that EcoGrove's turbines are not turning all the time. This is because there are many days when the wind is not strong enough to turn the blades and generate power, he said.
Also, the EcoGrove farm was off line from March 22 through a portion of March 27, as part of a scheduled outage, Hammond said. The purpose of the outage was to allow ComEd crews to move a transmission line in the area to make way for highway construction work, he said.
"The wind power was off (during that time)," Hammond said of the outage. "It was a normal process. We don't like it, but sometimes we have to do it. It's back on now, but the wind hasn't been strong enough sometimes to generate power."
The EcoGrove wind farm outside Lena began generating power in July 2009. Local officials hope this project and others will place Stephenson County on the forefront of a renewable energy revolution in Northwest Illinois.
The farm was dedicated in September 2009, and organizers say the facility will be able to deliver enough energy to power up to 25,000 homes. The 100.5 megawatt wind farm is phase one of a three-phase project being pursued by Acciona in this area.
Recently, there have been rumors that certain landowners are dissatisfied with the money they've received from Acciona for use of their property. Hammond said landowners received their initial payments in late January, based on the power that was generated by EcoGrove from July to December.
According to Hammond, some landowners were confused by the payment schedule and expected to receive their checks in December. In addition, a few landowners were upset because they thought their payments would reflect a whole year of operations, not just half a year, Hammond said. These concerns have been addressed, he said.
"One or two people did not understand the payment schedule," Hammond said. "We're also cleaning up some crop damage. Everything is going very well. ... Long story short, all the landowners have been paid and all the questions that came up with that have been addressed."
Some of the township roads in Stephenson County that were used by Acciona to deliver equipment to the EcoGrove site have been damaged, and still need to be repaired, Hammond said. As part of an agreement with the county, Acciona will be responsible for funding these repairs.
First, however, the county and townships will make their own repairs on the roads in question, before the wind farm damage is addressed, Hammond said. Negotiations regarding these repairs are ongoing, he said.
"As part of developing the wind farm, we agreed to upgrade and repair the roads as we use them," Hammond said. "We did that with the vast majority of the roads, but there is a set of crossroads that still need repairing. ... We are going to finalize the scope of the repairs we're responsible for. The delay has been in getting the final agreement done."
Stephenson County Engineer Chris Isbell said there are two or three damaged roads in West Point Township and Winslow Township that were used for hauling equipment to EcoGrove during construction. Negotiations involving Acciona, the county, and the townships had been delayed for a while, but are now moving forward once again, he said.
"We're still in negotiations with them over the work that needs to be done, and the timing of that work," Isbell said. "Negotiations had been stalled for a little while, but they have been renewed."
Hammond said Acciona is dedicated to keeping up its end of the bargain for road repairs.
"The wind farm has invested a considerable amount of money in repairing and maintaining the roads," Hammond said. "I think that speaks volumes of Acciona's commitment to the county. ... I'm hoping we resolve this and can make an agreement by the end of this month."
Meanwhile, phases two and three of Acciona's Stephenson County initiative are still in the planning stages. Phase two, known as Wolf Creek, is planned as a 116-turbine wind farm in Stephenson and Jo Daviess counties, and will likely begin construction in 2012, Hammond said.
Organizers had hoped to begin work on phase two next year, but the recent economic downturn has slowed things down somewhat for large-scale wind farm projects in the U.S., Hammond said. The economy is now looking up, however, and Acciona officials are hopeful the second phase will be underway soon, he said.
"Wolf Creek is going along very well," Hammond said. "We think it will be a good project, but the build schedule is for 2012."
The third phase, Otter Creek, will be built just north of Dakota and is still in the preliminary planning stage. Hammond declined to comment on the possible size of Otter Creek, but said organizers hope to build it "right after" Wolf Creek.
"We are still evaluating Otter Creek," Hammond said. "That's still percolating at this point."