By ERIN SANSON
Macoupin County board members gathered at Bothwell Auditorium at Blackburn college alongside Macoupin county residents, landowners and business owners.
The board held a public hearing regarding the Lotus Wind Farm application. It is up to the board members to decide if Lotus Wind met the requirements of the county ordinance and to either grant or deny their permit for 52 windmills.
The hearing began with the Lotus Director of Project Development Scott Jansen, project manager Adam Carlson and Manager of Health and Safety Jason Conley beginning the presentation about the Lotus project.
Jansen went over some of the benefits to the community this project would have including $60 million in direct income to landowners, the hiring of roughly 342 employees for the construction process, hiring 8-10 full-time maintenance employees who live in the county and approximately $57 million in tax benefits to the county over the life of the project.
Carlson described the construction phases of the project. To begin there would be engineering done for the public roads, civil work, electrical and foundations necessary to build the turbines. Apex Energy estimated that the substation and switch yard, which will be built in Morgan County, would be constructed in the third quarter of this year. Public road improvements so Apex could get the machines to the building sites would be completed in April-May of 2024 with the foundations and collection systems ready to be installed immediately after, that phase would last until Nov. 2024. Turbines could be between Oct. and Dec. 2024, with installation going from October to January 2025.
Following the installation of the turbines would be the restoration of any fields disturbed at the time of construction. Temporary roads and excess rock would be removed and the soil would be de-compacted.
Carlson also said that the topsoil removed from any fields during construction would be preserved, kept on site and restored to its original site. He also mentioned that any drain tile the project goes through would be trenched rather than plowed and that repairs would be ten feet on each side from the center of the strike, with repairs done within one business day. There is also a plan in place for storm water run off and dust control.
Conley described some of the safety measures for the project. He stated that the Lotus Wind Farm was designed to operate safely in Macoupin County and that each site exceeded the setbacks required by the Ordinance. Conley also mentioned that at least one local staff member would be on call during non-business hours and that the turbines are monitored 24/7, 365 days a year.
According to the representatives of the project, the requirements outlined in the ordinance have been met. The setbacks exceed what is required in the ordinance. The 52 turbines meet the sound standards set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations and the shadow flicker measures less than 30 hours per year on all but six properties. However, those property owners have signed waivers for the extra shadow flicker. Apex Energy is still waiting on approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which they expect to receive. Each wind turbine has been sited to avoid impacts to cultural and natural resources and avoid interference with radio, phone, or television signals.
To read the full story, including board questions and public comments, see the May 25, 2023 edition of the Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat.