Pritzker clears obstructions for wind farms
Governor signs law removing townships from approval process
By Ted Cox
Gov. Pritzker signed a bill into law Friday removing obstructions from the approval process for wind farms.
Pritzker signed House Bill 2988, which removes townships from the process of setting zoning for potential wind farms.
“I’m committed to putting our state on a path toward 100 percent clean and renewable energy, and this bill I signed into law today will help get us there,” Pritzker said in a statement issued Friday. “Illinois has over 3,500 megawatts of operating wind capacity, and under my administration we’re going to further embrace our clean energy future and take bold action to combat climate change.”
A news release put out by the Governor’s Office said the “new law will create jobs, revitalize communities with new investment in rural areas — including tens of millions of dollars in annual payments directly to landowners and farmers and hundreds of millions of dollars in property-tax payments to schools and local government bodies — and produce clean, renewable energy that will help Illinois work toward lowering its emissions.”
“Wind and solar companies are making tens of millions of dollars of investment in Illinois’s new green economy,” said state Sen. Bill Cunningham of Chicago, lead Senate sponsor. “We can’t let unnecessary government regulation block the creation of high-paying jobs and the much-needed property-tax revenue wind farms will produce for our schools.”
The American Wind Energy Association has ranked Illinois sixth in the nation with 2,632 turbines generating 4,464 megawatts a year or 6.2 percent of the state's energy needs, enough to power over 1 million homes. The industry also employs more than 5,000 people in the state, with annual land-lease payments of between $10 and $15 million, with complementary savings in water and carbon-dioxide emissions compared with nuclear and fossil-fuel energy sources.
Lead sponsor Rep. Ann Williams of Chicago said, “This legislation reaffirms existing law and enables counties and municipalities to enact wind zoning energy regulations, ensuring that our state can continue expanding our clean energy economy through the development of wind farms throughout Illinois.”
“This legislation reaffirms existing law and enables counties and municipalities to enact wind zoning energy regulations.”
State Rep. Ann Williams (Blue Room Stream)
Although wind farms are common across wide swaths of the state, and the vast majority of scientists insist the nation should move toward renewable forms of energy like wind farms to combat climate change, their approval is not a slam dunk on the loyal level. Proponents cite the lease agreements, largely benefitting farmers, and the taxes paid to local jurisdictions, but critics complain about quality of life in sight lines, safety, and “shadow flicker” for surrounding houses.
The Alta Farms II project proposed for more than 100 wind turbines between Waynesville and Wapella northwest of Clinton has met resistance from local residents before the DeWitt County Board. Most recently, the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the project by a 5-1 vote in March. But the county board has overruled the ZBA before on the project, and a final decision is set for a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Clinton High School Auditorium.
The new law gives counties and municipalities say over zoning for wind farms and removes townships from the process.