County Board approves wind farm repower project

April 17, 2019

DIXON – Big Sky Wind will be the second wind farm in Lee County to get a second wind.

BSW DevCo LLC petitioned the county for a special use permit to decommission its 58 turbines in Lee County and replace up to 51 with upgraded models.

Last week, the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals gave a favorable recommendation for the project after having seven hearings in the last 2 months, and the County Board approved the permit Tuesday unanimously without discussion.

The zoning hearings covered an extensive list of required studies including shadow flicker, noise and environmental impact as well as conditions set by the board such as requiring waivers from landowners for 10 turbines that no longer meet the county’s updated property setbacks.

The 240-megawatt wind farm was built in 2010 and went online in 2011 totaling 114 turbines with 58 in southern Lee County and 56 in Bureau County near Ohio.

Developers plan to decommission the turbines, similar to knocking down a tree, and replace up to 51 in Lee County and 46 in Bureau County with upgraded GE turbines at their existing locations that would stand about 457 feet from the ground to the top blade tip.

It’s the second wind repowering project to come to Lee County: Last year, Dallas-based Leeward Renewable Energy began replacing the turbines at the Mendota Hills Wind Farm, the state’s first wind farm built 15 years ago. Mendota Hills’ 63 turbines are being replaced with 29 upgraded ones, with the goal of increasing capacity from 50 megawatts to 76 megawatts.

The Big Sky Wind project is funded by private investors and uses a federal renewable energy production tax credit, which provides about 2.1 cents for every kilowatt of energy created.

Big Sky is owned by a fund managed by New York global investment firm BlackRock Real Assets. Pattern Development, an affiliate of California-based Pattern Energy, is handling construction.

The wind farm originally was owned by California-based Edison Mission Energy, which went into bankruptcy. In 2014, the project was acquired by the Chicago-based North American unit of Indian turbine manufacturer Suzlon Group after Edison Mission Energy failed to pay back a $228 million loan from Suzlon for the 114 turbines.

Suzlon then sold the project to EverPower Wind Holdings. In late 2017, British equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners sold the EverPower operational assets – 752 megawatts of wind developments in Illinois, Pennsylvania, California and New York – to the BlackRock fund.