By ERIN SANSON
A continuation of the Lotus Wind Permit Public Hearing was held on Wednesday June 14. The first meeting, held May 23 at Bothwell Auditorium, Blackburn College saw presentations by Lotus Wind, Cummings Engineering, questions from County Board Members, and the public. After nearly two hours of continued testimony, evidence and deliberation by the board the permit for the Lotus Wind Farm project was passed.
To start the meeting only 17 of the board members were present, two of which called into the meeting via Zoom. The final board member came into the meeting a little bit late but the full board was present to cast their votes.
At the continuation, members of the public were once more given the chance to speak. There were five members of the public present to offer their testimony, four of those who commented on the project were in favor for a variety of reasons such as potential revenue for the area and school districts, air pollution issues and bringing jobs to the area. Only one objector spoke at this meeting, saying that the wind mills would affect air space in Macoupin County making it difficult for planes and emergency services such as the ARCH Helicopter to maneuver in the space.
There were also two letters objecting to the project and two in favor of the project.
After the final testimony presented by the public it was time to move to the deliberation phase. The attorney facilitating the hearing, Mike Jurusik reminded board members that according to State Statute, “Counties must approve requests for siting or permitting of wind and solar facilities if they meet the requirements of PA [Public Act] 102-1123 and comply with state and federal law.”
Jurusik said the board must decide if the applicant met the standards set forth by the Board, State and Federal standards. If they had, then the board must approve the application.
Based on Jurusik’s preliminary findings and those of Terry Fountain, the contracted County Engineer for the project, the standards had been met for the project. There were also 65 conditions of approval required by the County Ordinance, the application could be approved without all of the conditions having been met as some dealt with road use agreements and bond issues. The County Board and Lotus Wind would have to continue to meet to work out agreements for those areas that were acceptable to both sides, the project not being able to move forward without those agreements in place.
The board members were allowed to ask questions again at that point. Kristi Dunnagan asked how many of the 52 site locations had been signed by the property owner. Apex answered that all 52 of the sites had been agreed upon with the property owners but that only 45 wind turbines would actually be built.
Harry Starr asked for clarification on the height of the turbines. The tallest turbine would be 657 feet, but the turbines could range in height from 611 to 657 feet.
Todd Armour asked if it was possible to approve the permit subject to the placement of the decommissioning bonding. Jurusik answered that bonding was already one of the 65 conditions in the document. That condition stated that before the project could proceed the security for decommissioning and decommissioning plan had to be approved by the board.
Gordon Heuer asked if the board members were allowed to vote ‘no’ to the application. Jurusik answered that board members were allowed to vote however they wanted to vote, but Jurusik added, “I think its clear what your parameters are for approving this document. If the applicant has met all of the standards that are required by your wind farm ordinance, if they met the standards of the AIMA agreement, State Law again says you shall approve that application. It says you cannot prevent the wind farm or solar energy project from any agricultural or industrial land.”
Heuer continued that one of the standards said the wind mills could not be a danger or detriment to public health, but that the board had heard testimony that evening saying that it would be detrimental to emergency services like the ARCH helicopter, and he could therefore vote against the application.
Jurusik replied that if Heuer did not feel a standard had been met in the ordinance he was allowed to vote how he felt but that he had to “balance the evidence presented both by the applicant and both by any objector.” Jurusik also reminded Heuer that there were documents by both the FFA and U.S. Military documents that talked about meeting both of their flight regulations.
Once there were no further questions it was time for the board members to vote.
Board member Ryan Kilduff made the motion to approve the application, his motion was seconded by Aaron Stayton.
Acord, Heuer, Ibberson, Kiel, Rosentreter and Wiggins voted against the application approval.
Adden, Armour, Dragovich, Dunnagan, Kilduff, Klausing, Payne, Schmidt, Starr and Stayton voted to approve.
Two members, John Blank and Leann Barr voted present.
The final vote was 10 yes, 6 no and two present. The motion to approve the application passed.
A statement from Scott Jansen, Director of Project Development, was shared saying, “We are thrilled that the Macoupin County Board has voted in favor of the Lotus Wind Project in Northern Macoupin County. This decision marks a significant milestone in our efforts to transition towards a cleaner, more sustainable future, and represents a major step forward in the economic vitality of the region. Once operational, it will contribute $57 million in property taxes to the local economy, including $37 million to local school districts.
We would like to express our gratitude to the Macoupin County Board for their thorough review of the project and for their support. We also appreciate the engagement and input from local residents and stakeholders throughout this process. Their valuable feedback has helped shape the project to ensure it aligns with the community’s goals and values.
At Apex Clean Energy, we remain committed to responsible development and environmental stewardship. We will continue to work closely with local authorities, landowners, and community members to address any concerns and ensure the project is implemented in a manner that maximizes benefits for all involved.
The Lotus Wind Project is a testament to our shared vision of a sustainable energy future. By harnessing the power of wind, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate climate change, improve air quality and dramatically increase the economic stability of rural communities. We look forward to working collaboratively with Macoupin County and its residents to make this vision a reality.”