Proposed Illinois Wind Farm Creates Environmental Controversy

A proposed Illinois wind farm created controversy when it became clear that the location interfered with the natural habitat of three endangered species.
by | June 19, 2012

What happens when green energy development and conservationism collide? That’s the question members of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are asking themselves after it became clear that a proposed wind farm in Whiteside County, Ill., intrudes on the natural habitat of three threatened species, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Thanks to a federal tax credit for wind turbine developers, Illinois led the nation last year in new wind turbines -- 404 to be exact. However, the environmental impact of Mainstream Renewable Power’s proposed wind farm hosting 90 towers -- the Green River Wind Farm project -- has created a new controversy surrounding an already contentious industry.

According to a report, the construction of the turbines runs “a high risk of injuring or killing unobserved animals.” In particular, the Plains Hognose Snake, the Ornate Box Turtle and the Regal Fritillary Butterfly. Roads built to the turbines pose a threat to turtles, which would use them as basking areas and paths. Also, the turbine's blades mimic the movement of predators and could inhibit feeding and breeding, according to the paper.

“Everything has an environmental cost; it’s a question of which environmental cost do you want to pay,” Keith Shank, a DNR manager and the author of the report on the Whiteside County project, told the Tribune.

Proposed alternatives to the plan include restoring habitat near the wind farm area or moving the location away from environmentally sensitive areas. Time is of the essence, however, as the federal tax credit for wind turbine developers expires at the end of this year.

The County Board will make the final decision, with a zoning commission hearing tomorrow, and public hearings starting July 5.

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