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Oakwood Hills could get power plant

$450M state-of-the-art facility proposed in Oakwood Hills; water usage concerns raised

Published: Saturday, July 12, 2014 12:14 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, July 14, 2014 3:27 p.m. CDT
Caption
The long sought energy facility in Oakwood Hills is closer to reality as a joint project between Northland Power and Enventure Partners would bring a 430-megawatt electric generating facility to the area. It would be a cash cow for Oakwood Hills, bringing more than $500,000 annually to schools in property taxes.
Caption
The long sought energy facility in Oakwood Hills is closer to reality as a joint project between Northland Power and Enventure Partners would bring a 430-megawatt electric generating facility to the area. It would be a cash cow for Oakwood Hills, bringing more than $500,000 annually to schools in property taxes.

OAKWOOD HILLS – A $450 million state-of-the-art power plant could be headed to Oakwood Hills, potentially bringing millions of dollars into the small village but also raising concerns about water usage.

The 430-megawatt, natural gas plant would be located along Valley View Road near the village hall, which project engineer Conrad Anderson called an ideal location because of the power and natural gas lines already installed for the plant to make a connection.

Anderson, senior director of engineering for Enventure Partners, said the proposed plant would be one of the cleanest and fastest in the state and a crucial component to providing power to northeastern Illinois as more coal plants shut down.

“These coal plants that were formed before the EPA either have to put in a lot of expensive pollution controls or shut down,” Anderson said. “And three [of six] have already shut down.”

The plant would be a load-following power plant, meaning the electricity it provides would fluctuate with the demand. Anderson said that allows for faster startup times, which is necessary in case wind and solar energy drop off. It also means no storage of flammable material on site is necessary as the natural gas will flow through as needed, which greatly reduces any possibility of explosions, he said.

Plant operations will require roughly 1.5 million gallons of water a day, concerning some residents and local leaders.

Anderson said developers are working on a plan to draw water from existing water treatment facilities, bringing in roughly 350,000 to 400,000 gallons a day from the sewage treatment plant on Route 31 and 600,000 a day from a Crystal Lake plant. The water would otherwise be dumped into the Fox River.

The remaining 35 percent would be drawn from a deep-water aquifer that Joliet also uses as its water source.

As the capacity of the water treatment facilities increases, Anderson said the ratio would go up with the hope of eventually reaching 100 percent water usage from treatment plants, eliminating the need for any groundwater.

“Because we don’t need to invest in any transition lines since they are already here, we can invest in water conservation,” he said.

The massive project has residents concerned about the speed of the process. Chris Reining, who has lived in Oakwood Hills four years, said he and some of his neighbors who have lived in the village for 30 years did not find out about the project until this week.

The village and project developers will hold an open house on the project from 4 to 8 p.m. July 22 at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn, 800 S. Route 31. It will be followed by a public hearing at the village of Lakewood on July 24.

With a $1.3 million hosting fee to be paid to the village, roughly $500,000 of new property tax revenue for schools and 250 temporary jobs, Reining said there could be more benefits than downside for the area but he is far from convinced early on.

“All the information I’ve seen is from the developer so obviously they are going to spin that and make it as positive as they can for the community,” Reining said. “It’s all come fast and furious. It’s a lot to consume.”

Village President Melanie Funk said she and other board members are neuteral on the project and would wait to hear more information and see what the planning and zoning committee recommends.

People can find out more about the project at www.oakwoodhillsenergycenter.com.

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