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FAQ

General

Heritage Prairie Renewable is an innovative wind and solar development located in western Kankakee County and northeastern Livingston County. “Heritage” pays homage to the area’s agricultural roots, and “Prairie” references Illinois, the Prairie State. The wind portion of the project will be located in western Kankakee County and northeastern Livingston County and is anticipated to be 500 – 600 megawatts (MW). The solar portion of the project will be located east of the Village of Essex in Kankakee County and is anticipated to be 300 MW. The Heritage Prairie Renewable portfolio of wind and solar projects is jointly owned by Pattern Energy and ConnectGEN.

Pattern Energy is one of the nation’s largest private renewable energy companies, with a proven track record achieved through local and intentional engagement and support in the communities where we have a presence. Headquartered in the United States, Pattern Energy is in the business of building opportunity and that work starts with listening to local communities, developing relationships on the ground, and tailoring benefit programs to each community. Our business is guided by commitments to safety, serving our customers, protecting the environment, strengthening communities, and creating shared value.

Pattern Energy is led by a management team responsible for building more than 30 renewable energy projects throughout North America and Japan. Our leadership and core management have worked together for more than 15 years, uniting deep industry knowledge with investment expertise.

Founded in 2018, ConnectGEN is an independent renewable energy company focused on greenfield development of high-quality wind, solar, and energy storage projects across North America. Based in Houston, Texas, our experienced team has developed, built, and operated thousands of MW across the United States.

ConnectGEN draws from its team’s vast experience developing renewable energy and infrastructure projects across the United States. In total, the ConnectGEN team has managed the development, financing, construction, and operation of thousands of MW of wind and solar energy across 15 states.

The Heritage Prairie Renewable project represents a roughly $1 billion investment within Kankakee and Livingston Counties. Throughout development, construction, and operations, residents can expect to see widespread direct and indirect job creation, economic investment, and tax revenue.

 

Heritage Prairie Renewable commissioned Dr. David Loomis of Strategic Economic Research, who is also an Economics professor at Illinois State University, to analyze the expected economic impacts from construction and operation of the wind and solar projects.

 

The following are expected benefits to the State of Illinois from a representative 300 MW solar project, as analyzed in the Heritage Prairie Solar economic impact study completed by Dr. David Loomis. For a copy of the complete study, please send a request to Outreach@HeritagePrairieRenewable.com.

Heritage Prairie Solar

  • Over 150 new local jobs during construction in Kankakee County [1]
  • 300-400 new construction jobs
  • Up to 4 new long-term full-time jobs to operate and maintain the solar facility during operations in Kankakee County
  • Over $44M in property tax revenue over the life of the project
  • Over $26.6M in school district and community college revenue from property taxes over the life of the project
  • Over $2.8M in township property taxes over the life of the project
  • Over $90.7M in new earnings during construction for the State of Illinois
  • Over $1.7M in new long-term earnings annually during operations for the State of Illinois
[1] Jobs supported or created in Kankakee County include installation labor, engineering, design, and other professional services including those provided in support of the project development and permitting work.

The economic impact study for the wind project is underway. The estimates below are based on a 500 MW wind project and will be updated, and additional information will be provided upon completion of the study.

Heritage Prairie Wind

  • 800 – 1,000 new construction jobs
  • Up to 12 new long-term full-time jobs to operate and maintain the wind facility during operations in Kankakee and Livingston Counties
  • Over $170M in property tax revenue over the life of the project
  • Over 50% of property tax revenue to benefit school districts and community colleges in Kankakee and Livingston Counties

Illinois has established a uniform set of guidelines for the assessment of wind and solar projects in the state. For both solar and wind development, the state has established an assessed value per megawatt of installed capacity, and the project pays taxes based on the resulting assessed value multiplied by the applicable tax rate.

 

According to Dr. David Loomis, assuming a 300 MW solar project is built, Heritage Prairie Solar would generate over $1.9 million of property tax revenue in the first year of operation, and an average of over $1.2 million per year over the life of the project for a total of over $44 million. Over 60% of this revenue goes to the Herscher CUSD, Reed Custer CUSD, and Kankakee Community College. The balance is split amongst local taxing authorities including Townships and the general Kankakee County budget.

 

We are currently estimating that the Heritage Prairie Wind project would generate an average of over $5.6 million of property tax revenue per year for a total of over $170 million over the life of the project. Over 50% of this revenue goes to the school districts and community colleges with the balance split amongst local taxing authorities including Township and the County budgets. This estimate will be updated upon completion of the economic impact study.

Construction of the wind and solar projects will inject millions of dollars into the economy while utilizing local materials and creating local jobs when possible. During the approximately 18-month construction period, it is estimated that the wind project will result in 800-1,000 new construction jobs and the solar project will result in 300-400 new construction jobs, including heavy equipment operators, electricians, laborers, and others. After construction, 10-12 full-time local jobs will be created by the wind project and 2-4 full-time local jobs will be created by the solar project to operate and maintain the wind and solar facilities. New jobs during both the construction and operation phases create increased earnings for the Counties as well as increased demand for local vendors and services, including lodging, food services, gas, groceries, and others.

Of course! Heritage Prairie Renewable and our contractors take our commitments to the local communities where we build our projects very seriously. We will actively pursue out local vendors, job seekers, and local union labor during development and hold a job fair prior to construction to engage interested companies and workers. We will keep a list of interested applicants and vendors during project development to share with the EPC company that is selected to hire subcontractors for construction. We will also establish a vendor and worker application portal.

Please reach out to our project team with questions, any time via our project phone number 217-284-6090, or email address Outreach@HeritagePrairieRenewable.com. Additionally, you can utilize the Contact Us section of our website at HeritagePrairieRenewable.com

Heritage Prairie Wind

The Heritage Prairie Wind project is anticipated to be 500 – 600 MW and will be located in western Kankakee County and northeastern Livingston County. Heritage Prairie Wind is being developed in parallel with the Heritage Prairie Solar project east of Essex in Kankakee County. The Heritage Prairie Renewable portfolio of wind and solar projects is being jointly developed by Pattern Energy and ConnectGEN.

The development period (prior to construction of the wind and solar farms) includes many important steps, including obtaining land rights, collecting meteorological data, performing environmental studies, and obtaining local permits, to name a few. This can typically take anywhere from two to five years and even longer in some cases. Heritage Prairie is currently anticipating beginning construction in 2022. Depending on factors such as seasonal conditions and final project design, construction is expected to last up to two years.

Wind turbines in Illinois are expected to generate energy between 80-90% of the time in an average year. Wind forecasting technology makes wind energy easier to predict and more reliable than ever before.

 

Electric grids are designed to handle variability in both demand and supply. Because of the natural variations in demand, the electric grid always has more power available than it needs in the form of reserves. During a power plant outage – whether a conventional plant or a wind plant – backup is provided by the entire interconnected utility system.

The Heritage Prairie team will strive to minimize impacts to the land during construction to the greatest extent possible. Most of the impacts during construction are temporary and will be restored upon completion of construction. Each wind turbine typically needs less than one acre of land after construction, allowing landowners to continue farming and ranching around them. Heritage Prairie will work with farmers and ranchers when siting wind turbines, access roads, and collection lines to minimize impact to crops, grazing, and other farming and ranching operations.

Yes, Heritage Prairie Wind has signed an AIMA with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and will abide by the requirements therein. These agreements help mitigate any agricultural impacts that will result from the construction of the Heritage Prairie projects and ensure that the land affected by these projects is restored to its pre-construction capabilities. AIMAs are important because they protect landowner’s interests and address issues that may result from the project’s construction and/or subsequent restoration. A copy of the executed AIMA is also provided to all participating landowners.

We recognize that tiling is an extremely important element of agricultural practices in the area and will work to prevent and/or mitigate agricultural impacts associated with the construction process. If there are current GPS coordinates of all drainage tiles, those would be used to assess the site before construction commences and tiles would be avoided to the greatest extent reasonable. Drainage tiles that are affected near the wind turbine sites are re-routed around the foundation area. Any tiles damaged by construction or maintenance of the project will be repaired in a timely manner in accordance with the terms of our leases. We recognize that, in some cases, damage to tiles may not be immediately apparent and we are committed to repairing any damage caused by our activities even if that damage is not discovered until the next big rain event.

Turbine foundation excavations will be performed in a manner to preserve topsoil. Subsoils that are excavated to install the turbine foundation structure will be used to backfill the foundation and will be redistributed around the turbine after construction. If there is excess material that is not needed for fill on roads or other places in the project area, it will be removed unless otherwise agreed to by the landowner.

No. Wind turbines do not produce any greenhouse gas emissions, water discharges, or solid waste byproducts.

The soil that is excavated to install the turbine foundation structure will be used to backfill the foundation and redistributed around the turbine after construction. If there is excess material that is not needed for fill on roads or other places in the project area, the soil can typically be left for the landowner to do what they prefer to do with it, if the landowner desires.

No. For more than 40 years people have been living near more than 350,000 wind turbines operating globally and more than 50,000 wind turbines operating in North America. There is no scientific evidence indicating that wind turbines have caused any adverse health effects. Overall, health and medical agencies agree that the sound from wind turbines is not loud enough to cause hearing impairment and is not causally related to adverse effects. Scientific evidence to date, including the 25 peer-reviewed studies referenced in “Summary of Main Conclusions Reached in 25 Reviews of the Research Literature on Wind Farms and Health” compiled by Professor Simon Chapman and Teresa Simonetti of the Sydney University Medical School, indicates that at common residential setback distances there is no direct health risk from wind turbine noise, including low-frequency noise and infrasound.

 

Wind turbine sounds are not unique. Based on the levels and frequencies of the sounds, a multidisciplinary scientific advisory panel comprised of medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals concluded that there is no evidence the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects.

Heritage Prairie Solar

The Heritage Prairie Solar project is anticipated to be 300 MW and will be located east of the Village of Essex in Kankakee County. Heritage Prairie Solar is being developed in parallel with the Heritage Prairie Wind project located in western Kankakee County and northeastern Livingston County. The Heritage Prairie Renewable portfolio of wind and solar projects is being jointly developed by Pattern Energy and ConnectGEN.

The development period (prior to construction of the wind and solar farms) includes many important steps including obtaining land rights, collecting meteorological data, performing environmental studies, and obtaining local permits, to name a few. This can typically take anywhere from two to five years and even longer in some cases. Heritage Prairie expects to start construction in 2022. Depending on factors such as seasonal conditions and final project size and design, construction is expected to last up to two years.

Heritage Prairie Solar will utilize a common technology whereby steel posts are driven directly into the ground and with minimal force or impact – similar to posts used for building a steel fence. At the end of the facility’s useful life, the posts are pulled out and the land is restored to its original condition.

 

While some grading may be required in certain project areas, the project will not require large-scale timber removal, nor will it require a grading of the entire site. The project will utilize a “light on land” approach during construction and operations and will encourage native grasses to grow within the project footprint after construction to provide erosion control and limit dirt and dust from settling on the solar panels.

Yes, Heritage Prairie Solar has signed an AIMA with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and will abide by the requirements therein. These agreements help to mitigate any agricultural impacts that result from the construction of the Heritage Prairie projects and ensure that the land affected by these projects is restored to its pre-construction capabilities. AIMAs are important because they protect landowner’s interests and address issues that may result from the project’s construction and/or subsequent restoration. A copy of the executed AIMA is also provided to all participating landowners.

We will work to prevent and/or mitigate agricultural impacts associated with the construction process. We will review the landowner’s maps up against our designs to work together to address drainage tile concerns. If the property is fully leased for the solar project, we will work with the landowner to determine if either repairing the system or capping the source and retiring the system in place is the best approach for their property. If the property is only partially leased and farming will continue on other portions of the property, we’ll re-route sections accordingly to ensure they still have a good flow where needed.

Generally, solar panels consist of glass, an anti-reflective glass coating; an aluminum frame with solar cells and glue in the middle; and a junction box on the back of the panel. Solar cells are made from two primary panel technologies:

  • Crystalline Silicon
  • Thin Film

Heritage Prairie Solar will use solar panels from a Tier 1 certified supplier.[1]

[1] Tier 1 is a score from a reputable PV industry analyst who takes into account manufacturer experience, financial position, manufacturing scale, durability and quality, technical performance, vertical integration, insurance and backing, service, and support.

Solar panels are durable and designed to last for 35 years. However, from time to time, panels may crack or stop working. Because the project depends on the electricity each panel produces, panels are regularly inspected and replaced when broken. Any defective equipment or debris would be quickly removed, replaced, and properly disposed of.

Absolutely not, and it has been confirmed through many studies that solar panels will not leach dangerous elements into the soil. The chemical components of a solar panel are enclosed and sealed within the panel as well as contained in a solid matrix insoluble and nonvolatile at normal conditions.

 

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has cited numerous studies and created several reports covering this topic. In a June 2015 report titled “Questions & Answers: Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Systems” created in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, it was shown that solar panels do not produce harmful byproducts or runoff during normal use which includes storm conditions like hail, rain, and wind. To view this study, please visit our website HeritagePrarieRenewable.com.

The solar project poses a very low risk to birds. Media attention focusing on heat-related bird deaths at some generating facilities is related to an entirely different type of energy generation technology called concentrating solar. In concentrating solar projects, light is concentrated by mirrors and creates a very high-temperature environment. The Heritage Prairie Solar project will not utilize any concentrating elements and, therefore, is not capable of creating high enough temperatures which could cause issues to avian species.

Solar panels themselves are silent. A number of reputable studies have been conducted, such as the Study of Acoustic and EMF Levels from Solar Photovoltaic Projects prepared for Massachusetts Clean Energy Center by Tech Environmental, Inc. in 2012, which demonstrated that the noise levels generated by inverters and tracking motors are not audible above ambient noise levels at the fence line of most facilities. To view this study, please visit our website Heritage PrarieRenewable.com.

Solar panels are coated with anti-reflective glass to ensure that as little light as possible reflects off the surface. Panels will be set back from property boundaries and are typically mounted about 4 feet off the ground and have a maximum height of approximately 7 feet when vertically displayed. Although the project may be visible from adjacent and nearby roads, the overall visual impact will be minimal.

Other

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has conducted and cited many studies which have concluded that impacts of wind and transmission projects on neighboring property values are low to negligible. One of the most comprehensive studies of those listed examined nearly 7,500 U.S. residential transactions for homes located within 5 miles of wind turbine installations, 1,900 of which were within 1 mile and 125 of which occurred after the wind facilities were operational (Hoen et al. 2011). This study concluded that there was no statistical evidence of an impact on home prices from either views of or proximity to wind facilities.[1]

 

Of all the forms of energy generation projects, solar projects have some of the lowest impacts. A study conducted across Illinois by Cohn Reznick in 2018 concluded that there were no demonstrated impact on adjacent property values that was associated with proximity to solar farms.[2]

 

[1]Hoen, B.; Wiser, R.; Cappers, P.; Thayer, M.; Sethi, G. (2011). “Wind Energy Facilities and Residential Properties: The Effect of Proximity and View on Sales Prices.” Journal of Real Estate Research; (33; 3).
[2]CohnReznick, LLP (2018). “Adjacent Property Values Solar Impact Study: A Study of Nice Existing Solar Farms Located in Champaign, LaSalle, and Winnebago Counties, Illinois; and, Lake, Porter, Madison, Marion, And Elkhart Counties, Indiana”

This particular site was chosen for development due to strong natural resources (wind and solar) along with proximity to existing transmission lines and the relatively flat terrain. Both wind and solar can be very complementary land uses to existing agricultural operations providing a consistent stream of revenue through direct payments to farmers and ranchers, tax revenue to the local schools, Townships, and County.

The electricity will be delivered into the PJM Regional Transmission Organization’s transmission system where it will be purchased by output buyer(s) through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). PJM coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states (including Illinois) and the District of Columbia.

Today, the cost of wind and solar are among the most competitive forms of new energy generation. Additionally, the cost of electricity from wind and solar energy is predictable and stable as there are no fuel costs, unlike conventional forms of energy where the cost of fuel can fluctuate significantly over time.

No. The projects are receiving not government grants, or other direct payments from taxpayers. Like nearly all infrastructure in the US (including Oil and Gas), the project’s owner will receive federal tax credits for a portion of the project value. For wind, this is called the Production Tax Credit, and for solar, this is called the Investment Tax Credit.

A stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) that includes an erosion control plan will be developed by the general contractor and verified by Pattern Energy and ConnectGen. The SWPPP will be reviewed by multiple agencies and will need to be approved before construction begins.

All public roads that are expected to be utilized during construction are documented and analyzed to capture the existing condition of the roadways prior to commencing construction activities. All public roads impacted by the construction of the renewable energy projects will be returned to the same or better condition after construction activities. This arrangement is documented and memorialized through a Public Road Use Agreement with the local road engineers at both the Township and County levels. We understand there have been important issues brought up due to recent experience with other renewable energy projects in Livingston and Kankakee County and we will actively work with county officials to understand the relevant lessons from these experiences.

During construction, there will be additional traffic in the area as construction of the wind and solar farms will require heavy equipment, which could include bulldozers, graders, trenching machines, concrete trucks, flatbed trucks, and large cranes. Once construction of the wind and solar farms is complete and the project is operational, traffic will return to its pre-construction levels.

The safety of the public, farmers and ranchers, and our employees at the facilities is of utmost importance to Heritage Prairie Renewable. Heritage Prairie Renewable works closely with local permitting and zoning officials as well as the first responder community, and the project will be compliant with all applicable state and local regulations as well as siting requirements established by county ordinances. Additionally, the facilities will be monitored on-site by the operations and maintenance staff and remotely by an operations center that is staffed 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Yes, prior to receiving building permits from Kankakee and Livingston Counties, Heritage Prairie will have decommissioning plans in place for the facilities at the end of their useful lives. These plans will be reviewed and approved by the County Boards, and Heritage Prairie Renewable will post decommissioning funds with the Counties so that in the very unlikely event that the company goes out of business, the Counties have the necessary funds to decommission the project themselves. The plans will include the removal of the infrastructure and provisions for land restoration. The wind and solar projects have executed Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreements (AIMA) with the Illinois Department of Agriculture which establishes restoration procedures for agricultural lands.

Yes. Any owner(s) would be required to continuously comply with the County-issued Special Use Permit as well as the AIMA, both of which include provisions for removal of infrastructure and decommissioning of wind and solar farms.