|By CINDY LADAGE
FARMERSVILLE, Ill. — The wind blows a little faster on the hill just east of Farmersville, Ill. where the Freeman Coal Mine once had a booming business. The hill that soon will host a wind turbine is what mine terms call - a reclaimed gob pile.
Central Illinois is not a traditional choice for wind energy since most winds in the central part of the state don’t whip fast enough to warrant building a wind turbine. This is usually left to the northern environs of Illinois. However, at the top of the 14-acre, 60-foot reclaimed gob pile - the wind blows fast enough.
This formerly mined area has been reclaimed and currently serves as a State Wildlife Habitat Area and supports hunting programs of the abundant dove, waterfowl and upland game.
Located in Montgomery County, this land is finding new life through an agreement with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative (RECC).
This is the first time a partnership like this has been established allowing an electric cooperative to build a wind turbine on state-owned property.
The land was reclaimed in 1991donated to the state for a wildlife habitat in 1995.
The area is located east of the I-55 Farmersville exit on Montgomery County Highway 17.
IDNR Deputy Director Leslie Sgro expressed excitement about the project.
“We are delighted to partner with the Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative to help provide a clean safe and renewable source of electricity to residents in this area,” Sgro said.
It is estimated that the turbine will provide electricity to 500 local and area members of the RECC, which serves members in Sangamon, Macoupin, Christian and Montgomery Counties.
“This project will provide needed energy for local citizens while the site continues to provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities on reclaimed mined land,” Sgro added.
On Sept. 28, the agreement was signed allowing installation of a wind turbine atop this hill that provides a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. The planned turbine is a 1.65-megawatt, 212-foot wind turbine. Installation is planned for next year. In accordance with the agreement, the wind turbine may use approximately one acre of the 179 set aside in the wildlife habitat area.
RECC President and CEO David Stuva said the project began as an initiative by Illinois Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn. Rural electric started talking about the project last summer; and on Feb. 27, the RECC Board agreed to apply for a grant to provide the funding.
The USDA granted the electric cooperative $375,000 to assist with the cost of building the wind turbine.
“We want to salute the Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative for its commitment to bringing renewable wind energy to Illinois citizens,” Lt. Gov. Quinn said. “This is the first-of-its-kind partnership between local, state and federal groups and shows how the power of unity can power a community.”
Stuva added, “This project provides many benefits – for our members, for the community and for the environment. Thanks to the cooperation of the IDNR, the members of our local rural electric cooperative will have a source of clean, renewable and inexhaustible energy for their homes, farms and businesses.”
Media, politicians and RECC Board Chairman Jimmy Aires and RECC Vice President of Operations John Freitag gathered to witness the signing of the history-making agreement.
This project is part of Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s All-American Energy Plan, which calls for Illinois to cut its dependence on foreign petroleum products. The plan intends to cut dependence on foreign petroleum products in half by 2017 and includes $25 million in incentives. Quinn chairs the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council and the Illinois Green government Coordinating Council.
For questions about this project, contact the Assoc. of Electric Cooperatives at 217-529-5561.
This farm news was published in the Oct. 11, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.