KEMPTON — The race to build Ford County's second wind farm is picking up speed.
Three days before the county's planning commission was to meet to consider a special-use permit for a proposed 100-megawatt wind farm east of Paxton, the Ford County Board learned Monday night that it should be prepared in April to approve a road-use agreement for the already-permitted K4 Wind Farm, being developed by Cincinnati-based Vision Energy.
Approval of the road-use agreement represents the last step for the long-delayed K4 project other than paying for building permits for each turbine. The project would involve 94 turbines being built on the far-north end of Ford County near Kempton and Cabery.
Vision Energy was initially planning a 307-turbine wind farm covering portions of northern Ford County, western Iroquois County, eastern Livingston County and southern Kankakee County, with a total generating capacity of around 400 megawatts. Special-use permits for the project were first approved in 2008 in all but Livingston County. The permits were then extended in 2011 for another three years, through Nov. 10, 2014.
Livingston County is no longer involved in the project, according to Greg Perkinson, Ford County's highway engineer. As a result, the number of turbines expected to be involved has been reduced, Perkinson said. The project is now about 350 megawatts, he said.
K4 was the first wind farm to receive a special-use permit in Ford County. Since then, permits have been issued for Houston-based BP Alternative Energy's Ford Ridge Wind Farm, a 67-turbine wind farm near Sibley and Gibson City; and Chicago-based E.On Climate & Renewable North America's 94-turbine Pioneer Trail Wind Farm, built in fall 2011 near Paxton. The BP project received a special-use permit extension in 2011 — through November 2015 — at the same time as Vision Energy did.
Meanwhile, the Ford County Planning Commission will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to consider a special-use permit application for the Dogtown Wind Project, a proposed wind farm that would feature up to 49 turbines on 6,136 acres of farmland near Paxton.
Vision Energy's road-use agreement has already been approved by the Kankakee County Board and is expected to be up for approval in both Ford and Iroquois counties in April. The agreement is identical for each county, Perkinson said.
All of the townships highway commissioners for the townships involved have already approved the agreement, Perkinson added.
The agreement ensures county and township roads are returned to their original or better condition following construction of the wind farm.
Most the roads in Ford County that are covered by the agreement are township roads, Perkinson said. The only exception is about 8 to 10 miles of county-owned roads.