LCRPC hears request for Apex/Sugar Creek electrical transmission project

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[November 03, 2016]  LINCOLN - On Wednesday, November 2, the Logan County Regional Planning Commission held its monthly meeting. The main focus was Apex/Sugar Creek Wind Farm's conditional use applications for underground collection line, a substation, and electrical transmission interconnection lines.

Guests representing the wind farm project were Kyle Barry, attorney for the project; Stan Komperda of American Wind Energy; and Dave Wagner of Apex.

Regional Planning Commission members present were commission Chairman Bill Graff, Vice Chairman Blair Hoerbert, Bob Farmer, Fred Finchum, Jim Fuhrer, Jeff Hoinacki, Marty Neitzel, Scott Schaffenacker, Dave Schonauer, Jim Vipond and Becky Werth. Logan County Zoning Officer Will D'Andrea and County Highway Engineer Bret Aukamp were also present.

In September, the Regional Planning Commission recommended that the Zoning Board of Appeals approve of the amended wind farm permit. The ZBA approved the amendments to a previous conditional use permit for the project, but asked for revised plans on how all the towers would be able to connect.

Tonight, the applications for the connections will be presented to the Zoning Board of Appeals. At Wednesday's meeting, the Regional Planning Commission heard plans for the lines and decided whether to recommend the ZBA approve the applications.

Barry, Komperda, and Wagner showed commission members maps of the proposed locations for the lines and briefly explained areas collection lines and transmission lines will cross.

Barry said the first application is for the underground collection line, which are cables that are buried and will connect one side of the wind farm to the other side. It affects about seven parcels. Barry said for that application, they are seeking a conditional use permit.

Barry said the second application is for the "Gen-tie line." It is the transmission line, which is the cord that will connect the wind farm to Ameren's Fogerty switchyard near Route 66. Barry said for that application they are "seeking a conditional use permit for the parcels in agricultural zones and a variance for the parcels zoned Special District or Manufacturing (M3)."

Komperda said the underground collection lines are no different from the lines inside the already permitted project connecting wind turbines. He said with some of the other lines "that carry the combined power from those machines to the substation, we just needed this shorter route that is outside the original footprint of the project."

Komperda said the route "is about a 1.6 mile run. It will be underground and the landowners will be farming right over the top of it." He said they have to satisfy all the same requirements as far as any drain tile repairs and making sure there is still drainage.

Komperda said the line will enter off of 450th Avenue, head east for about three quarters of a mile, head north another three quarters of a mile, and cross 1400th street onto some of their landowners' lands. It will then combine with some other underground lines and head over to the substation.

Komperda said the Gen-Tie line will come down towards the southeast corner of the project in the Rocky Ford area. He said a landowner there has granted some land for a substation. The power will go into a substation and they will put it into a transformer that will go from 34.5 to 138,000 volts.

Komperda said the lines will be put on single poles, and will be on land zoned agricultural, Special District, and the M3 District that may be mined in the future.

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Komperda said transmission lines will cross Salt Creek and run due east until they get across I-55. The lines will then head south along the Business 55 corridor near where the Route 66 and Business 55 interchange is being redone. They will then hop across the railroad and the Ameren line there and head south towards the new Fogarty Substation Ameren built.

Komperda said they need to get to the northwest corner of the substation, which is the interconnection portion of the substation. With that the project will be plugged into the grid.

Komperda said since lines will cross I-55, they have already been in discussions with the Illinois Department of Transportation and will get all the necessary permits.

Aukamp had a question about the area that has been zoned M3 and is a potentially quarry area. He asked if there is "any concern with the above ground transmission lines and any conflicts with potential quarry operations." Aukamp also asked about if the blasting of the quarry might negatively affect it.

Komperda said they have talked to the landowners and the lines will be "as close as possible to the boundary of the property with enough of a setback that they will be able to get in a mine." He said they would have to leave some unmined land due to the neighboring parcel anyway. Komperda said the Mines and Minerals people at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources assured him the blasting is not like it used to be years ago.

Aukamp asked about locations going through wooded areas and wetlands and whether they had addressed possible issues in these areas.

Komperda said they are talking to IDNR about any timber removal that would need to be done during a November to May time frame because of "critter concerns" during the migratory season. Komperda said as long as that issue is addressed, IDNR is fine with the work.

Komperda said they will stay out of agricultural land as much as possible and stay along timber strips on the edges of the fields. He said most of the lines will be in an area that already has electrical infrastructure similar to Ameren in the distribution and high voltage side. They will follow the same protocols as Ameren.

Barry said existing power lines already cross many of the parcels these lines will cross. The poles will avoid low lying flood plains.

The Regional Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of both applications.

A public hearing will be held tonight, Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 p.m. at West Lincoln-Broadwell School with the Zoning Board of Appeals voting whether to approve the applications for the collection lines, substation, and transmission lines.

[Angela Reiners]

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