Understanding The Facts of Alta Farms Wind Energy

Why did Alta Farms re-submit an application?

We took some time the past few months to analyze the previous application process and think about the future of the Project. Additionally, we heard from a lot of folks – residents, small business owners, landowners, community members, the men and women who build the turbine towers right here in this County –sharing their immense support and encouragement at our Clinton office, over the phone, and online. After lengthy discussions with these community partners, we decided to submit a new application for the Project.

Why is this application different?

This application is an update to the previous application, in part because we’ve completed an additional year of development activity. Engineering, survey work, and coordination with landowners are much more advanced. Furthermore, the application submitted addresses some of the comments received during review of the previous application. These subjects have been researched by third-party experts, who have developed detailed analyses. These analyses are available for you to review so that you may get the facts for yourself. Send us a message, or stop by the office to learn more.

Can you provide details on the economic benefits for DeWitt County?

Alta Farms will bring significant economic benefits to DeWitt County and the state of Illinois through lease payments, income for construction workers, and total output into the local economy. The County will see over $13.8 million in new earnings during construction, along with nearly $1 million in annual long-term earnings. When total economic output is measured using the total value of goods and services in the local economy, DeWitt County stands to gain $35 million in new output during construction, and $4.6 million annually. (Loomis, page 1-2)

Participants in the local economy have a lot to gain from these numbers- as average annual incomes remain below the state and local average in DeWitt County, these increases in earnings and economic output offer new hope for local growth. This parallels the growing economic impact of wind energy across the state. As Illinois’ 25 largest wind farms bring in more than $13 million in annual income, and a projected $6.4 billion over the life of the projects. (Loomis, page 1-2)

How many jobs will the Alta Farms Wind Project create?

On top of the tax revenue raised and direct payments to landowners, Alta Farms will have another positive economic impact for DeWitt County with jobs. Illinois has seen explosive growth of renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs, leading the Midwest in both categories in 2018. That year, the state had over 123,000 jobs in renewables, a growth of 4% over 2017. We are proud to become a part of this trend, as the construction of Alta Farms will create 234 jobs in the region, along with 583 jobs across the state. After the construction phase ends, the Project will create 20 long-term jobs in DeWitt County, along with 36 long-term jobs for the state of Illinois. Well-paying jobs that keep people in the local community are another benefit of Alta Farms. (Loomis, page 1)

Has there been research on property values and wind energy projects?

While many have expressed concerns about declining property values for homes within or adjacent to the Project area, there is simply no reasonable basis for these concerns. Here in DeWitt County and internationally, a wealth of research has been done on the impact of local wind development on property values. The clear consensus of these studies is that wind turbines do not affect property values significantly.

We commissioned real estate appraisers from MaRous & Company to prepare a Market Impact Analysis for Alta Farms, which confirmed that the Project will not have any negative effect on property values. In contrast, it is likely that lessees turn their extra income into home and land improvements, increasing some property values. (Page 29 of the Application) The Project’s Economic Impact Analysis suggests that Alta Farms is likely to increase equalized assessed property values within Dewitt County (Loomis, page 6).

Can you explain more about the wind energy development and water resources?

To preserve public safety, Alta Farms is following legal and industry best practices around groundwater contamination and additionally commissioned an analysis by an independent third party, Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, Inc., to gauge the wind farm’s potential effects on the Mahomet Aquifer.

As expected, the analysis found that turbines will not penetrate the ground to any depth that endangers the aquifer; according to this analysis, “The fact that Project construction activities are relatively shallow, along with the thickness and low permeability of the overlying glacial till deposits, make contamination of the Mahomet Aquifer from Project related activities almost impossible.” (Page 20 of the Application)

Do wind turbines affect weather radar?

Renewable energy opponents have used patchy information and misinterpretations of radar data to claim that turbines create massive problems with weather forecasting and warnings. In reality, weather imaging is at least as likely to face interference from insects, migrating birds, and pollutants.

  1. Since last summer, we’ve been working closely with the National Weather Service Radar Operations Center and the Lincoln, Illinois Weather Forecast Office to avoid interference. The  initial analysis of the Project remains unchanged- Alta Farms will have a low impact on the Lincoln, Illinois NEXRAD, based on its location.

Although NWS’s did not request additional changes to the Project, Alta Farms will voluntarily curtail turbine operations (minimize blade rotation) as soon as possible after issuance and for the duration of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings in DeWitt County issued by the NWS. (Page 27 of the Application)

What does the Project mean for our schools?

By generating tax revenue for local communities, wind development has been a huge boost to school districts across the country. This is why teachers and school administrators have become some of wind energy’s loudest cheerleaders in many regions. While rural and urban school districts across the nation struggle to maintain funding, revenue from wind project taxes has had a consistent positive impact in their surrounding communities.

Alta Farms is projected to generate $22.1 million in revenue for Clinton schools.

District over its lifetime (Page 16 of the Application). Additionally, the Project is forecasted to provide over $4.6 million in DeWitt County tax revenue, over $4.2 million in total township property taxes, and up to $3.4 million for community colleges, fire departments, and libraries. 

The community benefits of this Project are real and unignorable, and revenue from Alta Farms will help keep DeWitt County institutions safeguarded for our future (Loomis, page 1).

What about the birds and wildlife?

While wind opponents have cited bird and bat deaths as a massive problem with wind energy, leading conservation groups have taken a very different stance.

The Audubon Society has strongly endorsed properly-sited wind turbines, while helping develop industry guidelines for minimizing their effects on wildlife.

The Sierra Club has taken a similar stance, affirming that “For the sake of birds, the environment and nature’s beauty, wind and solar power are a vastly better choice than coal, oil and nuclear energy.” 

While wind turbines are associated with a comparatively small number of annual bird deaths in the US (between 150,000 and 500,000), this gets more attention than those caused by oil fields (1 million), collisions with communications towers (6.5 million), power lines (25 million), windows (300 million), and cats (1.4 to 3.7 billion).

What is the lifespan of a wind turbine?

Modern wind turbines have comparatively long life spans, up to 30 years. Like all forms of energy production, the turbines that make up Alta Farms will have to be decommissioned at the end of their useful life span. In accordance with the local ordinance, we’ve established an extensive decommissioning plan for this Project. The plan guarantees restoration of original soil and vegetation conditions, removal of all structures and associated debris, and confirmation of all financial resources needed to decommission the Project. 

Additionally, the Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement establishes standards for decommissioning after the Project has reached the end of its useful life and requires that Alta Farms post financial security with DeWitt County for the decommissioning of the Project based upon the estimated decommissioning costs (Page 24 of the Application).P

What about my property rights?

Respect for local property rights is at the center of Alta Farms and rural wind development in general. We are proud to partner with local landowners who have decided to participate in this Project and determined that wind development was the right fit for their property.

In any agricultural area, many farmers live on the land they tend, and others do not. The same is true of Alta Farms participants- some lessees manage farmland that they have inherited, and some owners possess large tracts of land away from human settlement. All properties participating in this Project have or will complete a Wind Energy Lease, and as such has authorized Alta Farms to seek the necessary permitting required to build on their property (Page 4 of the Application).

In agricultural areas like DeWitt County, the right of landowners to develop their private property has long driven the local economy. Alta Farms continues this tradition, giving landowners a new way to turn private property into income, energy, and economic growth.

Additionally, landowners are protected through the Project’s Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement (AIMA) filed with the Illinois Bureau of Land and Water Resources. AIMAs are a standard requirement of utility project construction on agricultural land in Illinois, and they help landowners understand their rights and protect their interests. The Alta Farms AIMA is viewable in our SUP application.

What is setback compliance?

Setbacks have a purpose- to keep members of the public safe in the rare event of turbine malfunction. We recognize the value of reasonable setbacks from wind projects, and they are a key reason that no member of the general public has ever been directly injured by a turbine.

Alta Farms is in full compliance with local regulations and industry standards for siting from adjacent properties with a 2,000-foot setback from any nonparticipating residence, school, hospital, day care, church, or commercial building. In addition, the Project is sited in compliance with FCC regulations on communications infrastructure, and we are in communication with local internet provider MR Systems Wireless to ensure safe siting near their towers (Page 4 of the Application). The smallest setback that the Project will use towards any property line will be 1.1 times the total height of the turbine (Page 37 of the Application).

Are you concerned with the appearance of wind turbines?

Some opponents have described wind turbines as visual pollution or a disruption of rural views. Responses to turbines’ visual appearance is always a matter of personal opinion. Many who live near wind farms have expressed pride when seeing renewable energy being produced in their hometown, and others find their movement peaceful and calming. Personal opinions of changing views are always subjective, but we believe that the sight of wind turbines will become an accepted part of the American landscape just like grain silos, telephone lines, and communications infrastructure.

(Source: Inderscience Publishers)

How do fossil fuels compare to wind energy?

Those who have been asking about the carbon footprint of fossil fuels vs. wind energy should know that an average wind turbine makes up for its carbon footprint within 5 to 8 months of operation. To put this in perspective, the carbon footprint of coal is 90 times larger than wind energy. As wind and solar become a larger portion of our country’s electrical generation, more of the manufacturing, erection, and construction processes will begin to utilize renewable energy. As technology advances for electric vehicles, they could someday be utilized for delivery and erection.

(Source: Inderscience Publishers)

Who will get the power from Alta Farms Wind Project?

Electrical systems are designed to carry power from where it is supplied to where the demand is located. Depending on where the specific project interconnects to the grid system, the power could be flowing in any given direction or be used locally. Take this example: Not all corn is consumed where it is grown. While some of it might be distributed locally, much of it goes to locations where there is demand. The same occurs for electricity generated by wind and much other power generation.

Where are the wind turbines manufactured?

Over the last 10 years, the US. has seen a huge expansion in the manufacturing and assembly of wind turbines. Many turbines that were previously built overseas are now built in Colorado, Iowa, Texas, and other states. Illinois does have some production capability of certain components. Arcosa, formerly Trinity Structural Towers, in Clinton is a local example.

What is shadow flicker?

Shadow flicker pertains to (sun)light that passes through moving wind turbine blades creating a flickering effect.  Shadow flicker is predictable, harmless, and passes quickly. It is based on the sun’s angle, turbine location, and the distance to an observer; it can be avoided using several methods:

  • With modeling, shadows from moving wind blades are predictable and turbines can be sited using what are known as “setbacks” to minimize flicker to a few hours annually.
  • Shadow flicker typically lasts just a few minutes near sunrise and sunset and can be addressed through use of proven mitigation techniques such as screening plantings that block turbine shadows.
  • Lastly, all wind turbines are equipped with braking systems. This allows an energy operator to remotely stop the turbine blades from turning. Should shadow flicker become unavoidable or a nuisance to someone with heightened sensitivities, these brakes can be engaged during certain times of the day so shadow flicker will cease to exist.

How much sound do wind turbines produce?

As with any other form of energy production, the mechanical systems present on wind farms can create some level of ambient noise. While the volume of a wind turbine can increase with the prevailing wind speed, this sound is generally low enough that two people at a turbine’s base could continue a conversation in a normal speaking voice. (Page 25 of the application)

In compliance with the DeWitt County Wind Energy Ordinance, Alta Farms contracted a third-party expert to conduct a rigorous sound analysis for the Project, confirming that expected noise levels will not exceed those described in the local ordinance or the standards set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

Typically, two people can carry on a conversation at normal voice levels even while standing directly below a turbine. As the illustration shows, through setbacks (erecting the turbine a distance away) of 400 meters or approximately 1,300 feet, the turbine is no louder than a standard household refrigerator. Here is what it sounds like at one of the largest wind farms.

how loud is a wind turbine graphic

Is it true that wind turbines often catch fire?

A fire at a wind turbine is a rare event and extensive precautions are taken to prevent this from occurring. Photos on the Internet consist of a handful of incidents over decades of operation of hundreds of thousands of turbines around the world. Even  sophisticated equipment, subject to constant motion and challenging environments, can sometimes fail. Safety measures to prevent fires include systems that change the pitch of blades to prevent too much speed, temperature monitors, and automatic shut-off systems that prevent overheating. With modern turbine technologies, sensors and routine maintenance result in very few failures.

Is renewable energy affordable?

Yes. Technological advances have enables renewables to better maximize their power output, helping drive down costs. Wind’s cost has declined by 66% over the last seven years, and the price of solar energy has fallen by 43% over the last five years making renewable cost-competitive with all other forms of electric generation, including shale gas at today’s unsustainably low prices, and factoring in the incentives that all forms of energy receive.

Renewable energy is uniquely able to offer fixed-price contracts because it has no fuel cost and therefore no fuel price risk. Utilities and consumers like wind and solar because they act as a hedge against future volatility of natural gas prices, much like a fixed-rate mortgage protects homeowners against interest fluctuations.

A study found that states with greater use of renewable energy have lower electricity prices, and that states having Renewable Portfolio Standards have seen smaller increases in electricity prices compared to states without those policies.

How does wind energy help our farmers?

Wind energy has become a new drought-resistant cash crop that is helping sustain America’s family farmers and ranchers.  Wind projects pay millions of dollars a year in lease payments and local taxes while leaving 98-99% of surrounding lands available for its original uses such as farming, ranching, wildlife habitat, and recreation.

How do I determine if a source is credible?

There has been a lot of misinformation spread about wind energy and the Alta Farms Wind Project, much of which has been pulled from unreliable, biased sources like windwatch.org or stopthesethings.com. Some of the information even stems from misleading communications on Facebook. These websites referenced are not credible sources. They are not fact-based, not peer-reviewed, and do not provide insight from subject matter experts with experience in the field. We are here to share the facts about wind energy and arm you with credible information from credentialed, reliable, and unbiased third-party experts. Here are some tips on determining if a source is credible:

  1. The author should have a position of authority, experience or credentials in the field.
  2. Credible research, reports, or studies should include citations to other resources.
  3. Citations and other information should be drawn from sources like well-known non-profit organizations, respected universities, or government agencies.
  4. Whenever possible, seek out studies or papers that are peer reviewed. The peer review process is a form of scientific quality control.

Who is Tradewind and Enel Green Power?

In early 2019, Tradewind Energy was acquired by leading renewable energy company and long-time strategic partner Enel Green Power. Enel Green Power builds, owns and operates renewable energy projects, with more than 100 projects in operation across 24 states and two Canadian provinces. For more than 10 years, our two companies have worked together, Tradewind as the greenfield developer and Enel Green Power as the constructor and long-term owner and operator of the projects.  

With Enel’s capital and development and operational expertise, the united company is in an even stronger position than ever to move our projects forward. Enel Green Power now combines the best in renewable project development with the best in engineering, construction and operational excellence, leading to greater speed and efficiency of development.  For DeWitt County, this means that the Alta Farms Wind Project will remain in the same hands through the life of the Project: from the remainder of the development phase, into construction and then operations.

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PHONE: 217.937.9189
EMAIL: altafarms@tradewindenergy.com