That meeting, chaired by Doug Thompson of Atlanta, was said to have
been the best-attended annual Logan County SWCD meeting in recent
memory, said board member Cheryl Baker of Emden. On a cold winter
night, the promise of good food and an interesting subject filled
the meeting room at the American Legion Hall. A variety of
interested people, including members of FFA chapters from Hartsburg-Emden,
Mount Pulaski and Lincoln, were present, as well as Sen. Larry Bomke
from Springfield, Logan County Board member Chuck Ruben and board
secretary JoAnne Marlin.
After the meal and the brief business
meeting, Culik, a former ag extension adviser with a long career in
various parts of the country, began to tell of his current
occupation as a project manager for Horizon's wind farm projects
across the country. Horizon is developing the Twin Groves project
east of Bloomington and is currently conducting research to develop
an area in Logan County along the northwest border with Tazewell
County in an area from Union to Delavan. This project has been
dubbed the Rail Splitter Wind Farm.
Culik described his job as the point man for the projects:
meeting with the land owners in the proposed area, deploying the
initial test equipment to measure the wind potential in that area,
and working with local, state and federal agencies to get necessary
licenses, permits and zoning. The initial slides of his PowerPoint
presentation were filled with descriptions of the process, data and
relevant project-oriented information in words.
There was a noticeable shift in Culik's presentation when he
changed from slides with words on them to PowerPoint slides with
pictures of the construction and operation of the windmills in a
Midwest setting. The wind power generators look graceful and tall,
like lithe ballerinas garbed in white standing amidst rows of corn
and beans doing axial pirouettes. The 164-foot blades revolve around
a hub atop a 328-foot tower, create up to 3 megawatts of power each
and produce a whoooooosh, whoooooosh, whooooosh sound that is
noticeable within a vicinity of 700 feet.
Each gargantuan tower is anchored to the ground by a pad 54 feet
in radius constructed of reinforced concrete 8 feet thick. The
towers are brought in on semitrailers in sections and assembled by
tall cranes. The generating assembly, called a nacelle, is next
mounted on the tower, and finally the hub and blades are mounted to
the nacelle. The generating equipment used at the Twin Groves
project was manufactured in Denmark.
The blades of each turbine begin to turn at wind speeds of 5 mph,
begin to generate electricity at 8 mph and generate at peak
efficiency at wind speeds of 20-22 mph. The blades "feather" over 20
mph, and brakes shut the generator down to prevent damage during
high winds in excess of 50 mph.
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The electricity produced from the wind farm leaves the turbines
through a grid of underground 3-inch copper cables and is either
sold to local markets or put on the national power grid and sold
across the country.
The wind farms are developed in locations where Horizon can gain
access to productive topography, which here generally means a gentle
upslope rise to the northeast, the correct wind conditions and local
access to power transmission lines.
East of Bloomington, Horizon is currently in their first phase of
developing the 240-turbine wind farm, which will produce 396
megawatts of electricity. This project is slated to be finished in
December 2007. Culik said the Rail Splitter Wind Farm would likely
have 34-60 turbines and produce approximately 100 megawatts of
Horizon, owned by Goldman Sachs, promotes their sensitivity
toward environmental concerns and their sensitivity toward landowner
concerns. Their promotional DVD shows accounts of prosperous, happy
landowners who say that Horizon has a good track record of working
harmoniously with landowners.
The development of renewable energy sources such as wind farms is
currently being promoted by Illinois Gov. Blagojevich and by the
federal government as a responsible way to reduce harmful emissions
and produce electricity in an environmentally sound fashion. In
recent years wind-generated electricity has become price-competitive
with coal and nuclear power.
Wind farms are thought to be very beneficial in the areas of the
country they are developed. Culik said the Rail Splitter Wind Farm
would probably employ 10-20 full-time technicians after construction
is completed. Each turbine displaces approximately three-fourths
acre of ground, but returns $5,000 to $6,000, sometimes $7,000 a
year to the landowner in lease payments and an equal or greater
amount to state and local governments in taxes. The benefits to
Logan County in both jobs and income potential have landowners and
government leaders hearing this potential "chaa-ching" sound
Horizon is currently in the second year of what may result in a
three-year wind study atop Union ridge. You can see their guyed
200-foot test rig on 1250th Avenue near Union measuring wind speed
and direction at various heights.
Culik reports that Horizon has signed lease options on 37 percent
of the 18,000 acres they hope to develop in the Rail Splitter Wind
Farm, with construction slated to begin in 2008 or 2009. Their
website can be found at