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WATSEKA — The Iroquois County Board will require the developer of two wind farms located in the county to provide a $10,000 surety bond to the county for each turbine built.
The board instructed State’s Attorney Jim Devine last week to contact E.On Climate & Renewables North America and inform the Chicago-based firm of the requirement.
E.On Climate & Renewables, the developer of the Settlers Trail Wind Farm near Sheldon and the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm near Paxton and Loda, has yet to provide any financial securities to date, despite an ordinance that required a $10,000 surety bond for each turbine be provided up front before each wind farm was built.
With 97 turbines in the Settler’s Trail Wind Farm and 17 included in the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm, E.On owes Iroquois County surety bonds totaling $1.14 million.
Matt Tulis, communications manager for E.On, said last December that, prior to construction, his firm had “agreed to put some sort of financial security in place in the amount of $10,000 per turbine,” but he said the payment had not been made because “there was never any timing associated with that.”
Devine said in December that the reason he and the county’s zoning office did not require the $10,000 surety bond prior to construction is that “they’d known and I’ve known that (the county’s) decommissioning plan was going to be updated.” Devine said he also felt the financial securities should be negotiated for E.On’s projects because a surety bond can basically become worthless if a company goes bankrupt. He said he would try to negotiate a more protective financial security option than the one required.
On Monday, Devine said he had negotiated an agreement with E.On that would have required the firm to pay $50,000 in a cash escrow account for each turbine built — financial security that would survive a bankruptcy — rather than the $10,000 surety bond.
The county board approved requiring the developers of wind farms to pay the $50,000 in financial securities in December, but the new requirement would not have applied to E.On’s projects.
However, E.On, Devine said, was willing to accept the revised requirement anyway.
But the board opted to only charge the $10,000 mandated under the previous ordinance.
“Despite my suggestion to the board that we spent months going over and creating a new and better decommissioning plan, of which E.On is willing to abide by, they insisted I pursue a decommissioning plan under the old ordinance, which, in my opinion, is less effective than the new one we passed,” Devine said. “So that is what I’m doing.”