Mendota Hills Wind Farm

Prior to the wind farm public hearing in Adams County on Tuesday, June 8th, KHQA's Jarod Wells went to Lee County, Illinois, the home of the first wind farm in the state to find out more information about its wind farm, and what it's been like since the farm officially went online in 2003.

The Mendota Hills Wind Farm near the village of Paw Paw in Lee County, Illinois has 63 working wind turbines. Throughout the entire county there are 101 wind turbines currently operating. Going back to 2002, Lee County was in the same situation Adams County is right now.

Lee County Zoning Administrator Chris Henkel said, "We had a board room full of people with questions and concerns. Opposition, pro, we had everything."

Ground was first broke for the Mendota Hills Wind Farm in 2003. There are still concerned citizens throughout the county, but zoning administrator Chris Henkel says the number of them significantly dropped after the turbines were activated.

Henkel said, "For the most part, we don't get any complaints after they're up. I've had two complaints at this office."

One of those complaints was from a citizen who simply didn't like how the turbines looked. The other was a minor light malfunction that was fixed immediately. Other concerns prior to the activation were noise, shadows and property value loss.

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Have you guys seen any property values decrease because of the wind farms?

Henkel said, "Lee County has not. Our assessing office has reviewed this, cannot find anything that substantially shows any decrease at all."

Before any construction began, Lee County set up standards and conditions for companies to follow. Like being a certain distance from power lines, property lines, communities and subdivisions.

Henkel said, "That gives it protection if the wind tower were to fall over, you'd still have distance before it ever hit the property line."

The tax revenue a county receives from having a wind farm is regulated by the state.

Henkel said, "basically, if I can make it as simple as possible, for very megawatt of power generated by one of those machines equates to approximately $9,000"

Jarod spoke with a county resident who has five turbines on his property. WhenJarod asked him what he thought about the turbines after they were installed on his property, he responded by saying all the negative things you hear, like noise pollution and a threat to the bird population, are not issues. And he said it may change the way you farm your land, but added it's never been an issue for him. This resident also told Jarod he profits more from the turbines than he would if he farmed that acreage. The only negative aspect he sees is wind is not a constant source of power like nuclear or coal.

Lee County Illinois Zoning Administrator Chris Henkel says his number one recommendation to Adams County is to set strong guidelines and setbacks to where turbines can be constructed.