Video: Kevon Martis, Jeremy Kitson, Craig Mosburg at Cass Co. Fairgrounds

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

At the “WIND: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW” meeting on February 17th, Kevon, Jeremy and Craig as well as others spoke. A news report of the meeting is here.

Videos:
Part 1, Kevon Martis, video is here

Part 2, Jessica and Paul Brooks (water quality), Q & A, Jeremy Kitson and Craig Mosburg, video is here

Zoning, water come up at wind meeting

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published by the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, IN on Sunday, February 18, 2018.)

Zoning, water come up at wind meeting
About 230 attend event organized by project opponents

Mitchell Kirk Staff reporter      

Regulations in Cass County fall short of ones an advocate of wind turbine zoning says are necessary for health, safety and welfare.

Kevon Martis, former vice chairman of the Riga Township Planning Commission in southeastern Michigan’s Lenawee County, addressed a crowd of about 230 in the Community Center at the Cass County Fairgrounds Saturday night. The Cass County Property Rights Group, which opposes a wind turbine project proposed for northern Cass and Miami counties, organized the meeting, which also drew speakers opposing wind turbine projects in Canada, Ohio and eastern Indiana.

Zoning

Martis is director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, a nonprofit corporation that raises public awareness of the potential impacts of industrial wind turbines. He’s also a senior policy fellow at the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute in Washington, D.C.

Cass County’s wind energy ordinance requires setbacks of 1,000 feet from homes and the length of a rotor blade from property lines.

Renewable Energy Systems Americas, or RES, is proposing turbines across northern Cass and Miami counties. The company has indicated turbines will be 1,500 feet from homes and a distance of 1.1 times their height from property lines. While RES has yet to choose a type of turbine, it has indicated they’ll be about 600 feet tall and won’t exceed 700 feet.

Cass County officials who support the project feel it would be an economic boon.

“Too often I see county governments be enticed by the thought of additional tax revenue without raising taxes,” Martis said Saturday. “But in truth, placing turbines in just a few townships for countywide revenue enhancements is actually a decision to tax those few townships with the loss of amenity at home and quality of life without compensation.”

Measuring turbine setbacks to homes grants legal access to neighboring property without consent or compensation and is “fundamentally unjust,” Martis said.

It prevents a landowner from building on their own property if the desired location is too close to a turbine on a neighboring property, for instance, he said.

“That’s just basic land-use policy,” he said of measuring to property lines. “You pay taxes on your entire piece of property, the setbacks need to protect your entire piece of property.”

His remarks echoed local criticism toward the project proposed for Cass County that’s part of the bases of a petition calling for larger setbacks from property lines and a lawsuit against county officials.

Measuring setbacks to homes is further flawed, Martis said, when considering turbine safety manuals that specify a radius of 1,640 feet should be maintained from a turbine during dangerous events like fires.

Such a radius could potentially encompass homes under setbacks required by Cass County and those intended by RES.

Martis also referred to information published by Wind Energy, a peer-reviewed journal, reporting pieces of turbine blades 7 to 16 tons could be thrown almost 2,300 feet to 1.2 miles and ice 328 feet to 2,000 feet.

RES has indicated in the past that the turbines planned for Cass and Miami counties will be equipped with technology that will perceive ice buildup and prevent the turbine from operating until the ice sheds.

Martis said the Riga Township wind ordinance he worked on establishes setbacks to nonparticipating property lines of four times turbine height along with smaller setbacks from leaseholders’ homes, both of which can be reduced by signing a waiver.

“What that means is the wind company now has to negotiate an easement with everybody that lives around wind turbines instead of just a few large landowners,” he said. “That’s fair.”

Martis emphasized he did not speak at Saturday’s event to tell Cass County what to do, but told attendees if they feel he made a credible case, then it was up to them to convince their elected officials.

Cass County Commissioners President Jim Sailors has indicated in the past that a change to the rules this far into the project would kill it and be unfair to those who support it.

Water

Jessica Brooks of Chatham-Kent, Ontario, east of Detroit, spoke at Saturday’s meeting as well. She said she and her husband, Paul, and their children live in a wind farm developed by RES and Samsung slated to go online this month.

Brooks said pile driving during the construction of the turbines caused black shale, a bedrock containing arsenic, radon, lead, mercury, radiant material and heavy metals, to contaminate their well water.

Brad Lila, director of development for RES, said by phone Sunday that pile driving won’t be required for the project proposed for Cass and Miami counties. He’s said in the past that foundations of about 9 feet deep will be needed for the turbines because of the kind of soil that exists within the proposed project area.

Ohio, decommissioning and election

Ruth Baker, Logansport, read a letter Saturday from Brenda DeLong, who lives in the footprint of an industrial wind turbine project in Van Wert County, Ohio. DeLong also provided videos that were played of the sound the turbines near her make and shadow flicker cast in her home. She said in her letter that the project has caused her to suffer health issues, has resulted in drainage tile that was not replaced properly and annoyance from the turbines’ noise and blinking red lights.

Lila has said in the past that lights on turbines for the proposed project in Cass and Miami counties will only blink when aircraft are in the area.

During a Q-and-A after the speakers, Martis said in his experience, landowners are often stuck with turbine pedestals after they’re decommissioned and removed. Developers steer clear of areas where rules require removal of pedestals, he added.

Cass County’s wind ordinance requires turbines to be removed to at least 4 feet below ground within a year of discontinuation or abandonment. It also requires the ground to be restored as much as realistically possible to the way it was before the turbine went in.

Martis went on to recommend that the county require wind energy developers to pay for the county’s hiring of an independent third-party engineer to assign proper valuation for decommissioning turbines and require developers to post bonds to ensure deconstruction.

The section about decommissioning in Cass County’s ordinance requires the posting of a bond and that the developer must provide cost estimates “made by a competent party,” but does not specify the developer should pay for the county to hire an independent third-party engineer.

Lila said Sunday that while the decommissioning agreement between Cass County and RES has yet to be finished, it will require an independent third-party engineer to provide estimates and that he’s almost certain RES will have to pay for the study.

Jeremy Kitson, also of Van Wert County, Ohio, spoke at Saturday’s event too. He keynoted an event organized by the Cass County Property Rights Group in December in Royal Center.

Craig Mosburg of Fayette County spoke Saturday as well about his fight against a NextEra Energy wind project.

Ryan Browning of the Clymers area, who opposes the local wind project and will be on the Republican ballot for Cass County Commissioner District 3 in the May primary, closed out the meeting. He’s challenging incumbent Jeff LeDonne, who supports the wind project. Browning thanked Cass County Commissioner Ralph Anderson, who supports the wind project and was the only commissioner in attendance, for coming, which the audience seconded with applause.

“I’m greatly looking forward to working with you starting Jan. 1,” Browning told Anderson.

Wind debate has disrupted ‘country life’

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published in the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, IN on February 2, 2018.)

Ashly Berry Guest columnist

I have lived in Cass County my entire life. I am your typical “small town girl.” I married a farmer, bought a house and have three beautiful children.

We have built a life here in this beautiful section of America, and we are happy here. We love the open landscape, the bright night stars, the summer skies filled with fireflies and the quiet peacefulness of the countryside. I love my neighbors. I love the families that my children attend school with. I love that I know all of my children’s teachers and can call many of them friends. I love that when I go grocery shopping I usually run into people I know, and that along the way to town I can name most of the people that live in the homes that I pass. This is “the country life.”

But lately in Cass County, our sweet country life has been disrupted. It’s like there is an elephant in the room everywhere I go. A topic that you are afraid to mention for fear of what that person you’ve known your whole life might think. Do we agree? Do we disagree? Will things be awkward between us if I say the wrong thing? This big bad elephant has blown into town and things just haven’t been the same since. Neighbors aren’t speaking, families did not get together for Christmas, people stopped attending church, friendships torn apart … this is NOT the country life.

What is this big bad beast that has blown into town? Wind. No, not the cool breeze you feel while sitting on your porch in the evening. This is a storm. The kind that has made us all hide in our houses while we wait for it to blow over. But unfortunately, this is the worst storm we’ve ever had, and it may not blow over.

Cass County passed an ordinance years ago allowing industrial wind farms to be placed just 1,000 feet from our homes. At a time, when turbines were around 300 feet tall, this meant a setback was more than three times the height of a turbine. You would think that because our proposed turbines could be over 800 feet, our ordinance would be updated to at least 2,400 feet. But no, our commissioners are not budging.

My home is surrounded by land that has been signed over to the wind developer, so I very well may be boxed in by giant turbines. Giant is not an overstatement. These behemoths will stretch between 660-820 feet into the sky — the sky that was once open and untainted.

That is not the life I chose. That is not the life my parents chose for me. My parents and grandparents knew what a wonderful place this was to live and raise a family in, and they had hoped that I would do the same. Unfortunately, I am left with a difficult decision. Do I stay and endure the broken friendships, the broken family, the littered landscape and the possibility of health problems for me and my children, or do I pack up and leave?

I am angry that I was put in this situation. I am angry that our commissioners are refusing to revisit our wind ordinance and are not even considering the possibility that this could be the biggest mistake of their lives, and the lives of thousands of people.

Whether or not you will live next to a turbine, your life will change. Our lives will change. Our culture will change. Do you really think our small town life will just return to normal once the turbines are built? Do you think those opposed will just adapt and get over it? I have even heard some insensitive people say, “Then move!” That is certainly something we are considering, but unfortunately, there are at least 1,485 of us considering it. That’s how many people signed the petition to try and change the fate of our county. How will 1,485 people be able to sell their homes? That’s more than 4 times the population of some local towns! Four whole towns of people … gone? What would that do to our local economy? What would that do to our local schools? What would that do to our way of life?

I am just one person, but I am one of many families that have lived here for generations. These generations and these families are the ones who built this county and this way of life. And we are being told to move? Wow. What a sense of community.

There is one thing I plan on doing before I move, if it comes to that. It will be to move my vote to another choice for commissioner in the next election. That is one move the majority of us are anxious to make.

Ashly Berry is a resident of Cass County.

Federal commission denies wind farm developer’s (RES) request

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published in the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, IN on Friday, February 16, 2018.)

Federal commission denies wind farm developer’s request
Waiver would have allowed for speedy equipment site relocation

Mitchell Kirk Staff reporter 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a request from the developer behind wind turbines proposed for Cass and Miami counties that would have allowed it to easily change where it connects with an electric transmission grid.

The Feb. 9 FERC order addresses Harvest Wind Energy LLC’s petition for a waiver of PJM Interconnection LLC’s Open Access Transmission Tariff. Harvest Wind Energy is the turbine project proposed by Renewable Energy Systems Americas, or RES, in northern Cass and Miami counties while PJM Interconnection operates a regional electric transmission system.

The waiver would have allowed Harvest Wind Energy to change its point of interconnection without requiring additional evaluation under the tariff, according to the FERC order. The denial won’t necessarily derail the project, but will likely delay it.

Harvest Wind Energy intends to interconnect with transmission lines owned by AEP Indiana Michigan Transmission Company Inc. using a switching station planned to be constructed about 39 miles between switching stations near Dumont and Greentown, the order continues.

Before initiating a facilities study under the PJM Interconnection tariff, the order states AEP notified the original developer of the wind project of concerns regarding the parcel initially being considered for the switching station.

 Those concerns included infrastructure that would have to be moved and potential proximity to wooded wetlands that would require additional approvals and mitigation, according to the order. In light of those concerns, the order states AEP and the original wind developer agreed to plan for the switching station to be constructed in an adjacent location.

 RES bought Harvest Wind Energy after the new switching station location was selected, the order continues, adding it was later discovered that the new location shared many of the same issues affecting the first.

Harvest Wind Energy approached PJM Interconnection about another new location for the switching station almost 3 miles from the second consideration, according to the order.

But PJM Interconnection indicated its tariff would not permit a change in the point of interconnection location at the stage interconnection studies were currently in, the order states.

Harvest Wind Energy maintained an interconnection construction service agreement and the project’s interconnection study reports refer to the point of interconnection being about 39 miles from the Dumont and Greentown substations, which would still apply to the newly desired location, according to the order.

Also part of Harvest Wind Energy’s request for the waiver was the claim that the determination for the second switching station location was an error made “in good faith,” the order states.

The order recalls PJM Interconnection’s indication that if the waiver was granted, PJM Interconnection would need at least six months to do a new facilities study on the new project location, disrupting its “overall interconnection process” while causing “harm to other interconnection customers…”

The timing surrounding the discovery of issues that compromise the original point of interconnection demonstrated “a lack of due diligence,” on Harvest Wind Energy’s part, according to the order.

FERC also indicated it agrees with PJM Interconnection’s stance that changing the point of interconnection “at this late stage would introduce uncertainty that could well impact other… customers and that such restudy of the point of interconnection would require” more time and evaluation.

The order refers to PJM Interconnection’s indication “that while it appreciates that Harvest Wind may have a concern regarding the delay,” the tariff does not prevent the developer from seeking its desired point of interconnection through a new interconnection request.

Brad Lila, director of development with RES’ Minneapolis office, said by phone Friday that Harvest Wind Energy will likely pursue a new interconnection request, adding it remains unknown what kind of effect the resulting delay would have on the project.

Reach Mitchell Kirk at mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130

(Cass) County should tread carefully on issue of turbines

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following originally appeared in the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, IN on Saturday, February 10, 2018.)

I received a copy of a letter penned by Tipton County Auditor Gregg Townsend, submitted in a packet of information distributed by Renewable Energy Systems to landowners in Cass County.

In the letter, Townsend implies that wind turbines are the greatest financial boon ever to befall Tipton County. To those who believe that a dollar is worth more than the health, safety and sanity of the community, this letter is music to the ear.

The reality is:

Townsend notes that 25 linear miles of roadway were upgraded by E.ON Climate & Renewables — the company that installed wind turbines in Tipton County — at no cost to the taxpayer. This is true. The reason? E.ON completely destroyed those roadways during the construction of the towers. The upgrade was a part of the road use agreement and a mandatory contractual obligation on the part of E.ON. It wasn’t something E.ON did out of the goodness of its heart.

Townsend also notes that $1.2 million dollars in economic development funds were paid to the county and that this money was a “gift.” The money came in four installments from E.ON and was certainly not a gift as Townsend implies. It was a payment negotiated by the county commissioners. The $1.2 million dollars was intended as a payment to make up for lost economic development opportunities in the areas where the wind turbines were erected. The county held onto it for several years until various groups started screaming for it to be disbursed. Thus, the next set of commissioners and council members divvied it out.

Agricultural property taxes continue to be the primary source of revenue for Tipton County. It is simply not true, as Townsend states, that property taxes have decreased or tax rates have lowered. In fact, in 2009, financial consultant Umbaugh & Associates told us that at best a household’s property taxes might decrease by approximately $23 per year with the advent of the wind turbines.

Documentation from our County Assessor’s office verifies that our tax rates have gone up since the installation of wind turbines — from $2.34 per $100 assessed value in 2012 to $2.42 in 2017.

I continue to urge Cass County to proceed with caution regarding wind turbine development. You need not go far in any direction to see neighboring counties that have rejected or banned turbines. There is good reason for that.

— Jane Harper, former Tipton County Commissioner

(Cass) Citizens deserve voice on turbines

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following originally appeared in the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, IN on Wednesday, February 14, 2018.)

Lora Redweik Guest Columnist       

I feel that there are a lot of similarities between the turbine project and what Logansport faced back in 2013.

When Logansport CARE (Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy/Logansport Power) became vocal about the dangers of the Pyrolyzer plant, I stood by and watched it play out. I felt that it would not have an effect on me. I was mistaken.

Everything that happens in our town and county affects us all. The carcinogens from the incinerator would have been emitted into the air, and would have found their way outside the city limits. The CARE/Logansport Power supporters were concerned about their health, property values, businesses, schools as well as the large debt that the city would owe from the proposed project. They felt overwhelmed. Their complaints and concerns were unheard and dismissed by city officials.

I feel there is a parallel between the CARE/Logansport Power and the Cass County Property Rights group. We too are fighting a true David and Goliath battle. We too feel that we are being dismissed — our complaints and concerns go unheard. We are worried about our property values, health, businesses, schools as well as our property rights, water and financial burden left for our county to pay when this is all said and done.

We have asked the commissioners for an evening meeting so residents could come after work hours, but have been denied repeatedly. We, like CARE/Logansport Power, have compared several cities’, towns’ and countries’ negative experiences with these large “green energy” companies. As one of the members of the CARE/Logansport Power posted on their Facebook page, “He is a salesman just doing his job. His ‘job’ is to sell us his product.” This is true for the sales representatives of RES (Renewable Energy Systems), with the promise of big money to the landowners, neighbors and our county officials. RES preaches that we need to save Earth from fossil fuels, CO2 emissions and foreign oil dependencies. The fact is, we will never be free from any of those things. RES’s parent company is Sir Robert McAlpine, which is a fossil fuel company.

RES director Brad Lila said that RES is looking into 3.6 to 4.2 MW turbines to be placed in Cass County. RES has used the turbines manufactured by VESTAS. Their manual states that the height to the tip of the blade of a 3.5 MW is 660 feet tall and the 4.2 MW version is 820 feet. There has never been a turbine of these heights built on U.S. soil. So I ask: Why here in Cass County?

When Cass County passed the WECS (Wind Energy Conversion System) ordinance in 2009, it was patterned after White County’s ordinance with a turbine setback of 1,000 feet from the nearest corner of residential dwellings to the center of the WECS tower. In 2009, turbines were half the height in White and Benton County at 328-400 feet tall. Adding a garage or an addition onto your home is not allowed if your house is within the 1,000 ft. setback.

Kevin Burkett, now editor of the Pharos-Tribune, quoted Jimmy Carter in a June 23, 2013 guest column in the paper: “Access to information is a crucial element in the effort to reduce corruption, increase accountability and deepen trust among citizens and their government.” Then Burkett stated, “The citizens of Logansport must have access to clear, non-partisan, scientific data showing not only the pros and cons of pyrolysis, but also the potential economic, environmental and health impacts — a true cost/benefit analysis that provides citizens with full range of possible outcomes.”

Replace the word “Logansport” with “Cass County,” and replace “pyrolysis” with “RES” — then Burkett’s statement would be exactly what CCPR has been saying from day one! Dave Kitchell wrote on March 3, 2015: “Logansport residents deserve more transparency from their public servants and people who will take responsibility for their actions and not pretend they can only take credit for accomplishments.” Again, replace “Logansport” with “Cass County” and I couldn’t have said it better, Mr. Mayor.

After the mayoral election was decided, Kitchell was quoted in the Pharos Tribune (Dec. 17, 2015): “I have met with Cass County Commissioner President, Jim Sailors, and I think we’re both excited about some of the projects the city and county can finally collaborate on, and the end result will definitely benefit LMU.”

This is why it is so important for ALL Cass County residents to become aware of what is going on in our county. We will ALL be impacted in some way, and should consider what we want looming just 1,000 feet away from our backdoor.

— Lora Redweik is a resident of Twelve Mile

Making big wind a referendum

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published, as a Letter to the Editor, in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Tuesday, January 30, 2018.)

Recently The Rochester Sentinel ran an article pertaining to wind farm legislation, both house bills 1225 and 1338 are of great importance and sorely needed in Miami, Fulton and Cass counties.

Since 2010 a wind power company has weaseled around Miami County ferreting out leases using propaganda comparable to the Nazis’ of WWII. Once a lease is secured they then use tactics like that of the KGB to maintain secrecy. Leases have been reviewed by attorneys and found to have “many” discrepancies. Land owners have been advised not to sign such leases. In Pennsylvania, RES wind energy was mired in a lawsuit when they didn’t compensate subcontractors, consequently landowners with leases had liens placed against their property. Had these house bills been in effect, unscrupulous companies like RES would have been prevented from invading our counties. They would have been told “no” to big wind from the beginning. Miami County has two commissioners compromised by big money from big wind. Josh Francis works directly for RES setting up leases. Larry West has a nephew who owns land that stands to gain monetarily from big wind. Also a county council/plan commission member has a family farm under lease since 2011. His name is Ethan Manning. The Republicans have picked Manning to replace retiring House of Representatives District 23 Bill Friend. Had these bills been in effect back in 2014 when Manning won election to the county council, the voters would have found out about a wolf in sheep clothing and his ties to big wind.

Also the two crooked commissioners wouldn’t be able to run Miami County like a tyranny to further their own personal agendas.

The so called “vocal minority” living and voting in the 23rd State House district have a chance to make this election a referendum on big wind by voting against politicians like Ethan Manning who support wind farms. If unopposed in the primary election then wait until the fall election to vote for a candidate from another party.

Last a message to RES wind energy: You people have caused enough trouble in Fulton, Miami, and Cass counties. You are not welcomed here so pack your bags and leave us alone. The majority of people don’t want a commercial wind farm nor your big bag of wind. You’re about as popular as a S.T.D. So hit the road, the sooner the better.

Another concerned citizen

GUEST COLUMN: Size matters in ongoing debate over wind turbines

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published in the Pharos-Tribune of Logansport, Indiana on Friday, January 26, 2018.)

Paige Woodhouse, Guest Columnist

Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell recently voiced his opinion on Cass County’s proposed Wind Farm in a Pharos-Tribune column. His stance seems to be based on the financial benefits of the project. While the opinion of a mayor, if based on sound evidence, is certainly something to consider, it should not be used as supportive evidence for this project. Kitchell acknowledged that the city (his jurisdiction) would not directly benefit from the project. He encouraged Cass County residents to blow with the “winds of change.” It seems that when you consider the size and scale of this project, the financial benefits are a mild breeze — but those who would live among the turbines would feel the storm.

Kitchell stated that “Windmills will add to our capacity to generate power, and we have a growing demand for it in Indiana.” While growing demand is a fact, the first part of his statement is misleading. Renewable Energy Systems (RES), the foreign-owned company proposing the project, intends to run an underground web of power lines through Cass and Miami counties, which would hook into an already established grid, sending the power out to the east coast. Many here in Cass County seem to think this project is responsible as it would provide us with clean energy here at home. This is simply false. Cass County will not be using the power generated from these turbines, and we should not be led to believe so, especially by the Mayor.

Kitchell did, however, make a point that is truthful and we should all pay attention. He said, “Windmills represent minimal impact if appropriate setbacks are adopted. Setbacks are a local issue. As Cass County has been more restrictive than other counties in approving setbacks for confined feeding operations, so too can it be restrictive in mitigating noise and any other issues, including falling ice or snow.” Yes, our local officials should create restrictive setbacks in order to protect the safety, health and property values of the citizens that would be affected. The problem, however, is that they have failed to do so and are refusing to consider changes.

Commissioners Jim Sailors, Ralph Anderson and Jeff LeDonne hold all the power with establishing “safe” setbacks in Cass County. Many citizens have voiced their concerns that the current setbacks, established in 2009, are outdated and not applicable to this project. It seems that the “winds of change” could bring the largest turbines in the nation to Cass County. The 150 turbines here would be between 3.6-4.2MW turbines, standing between 660-820 feet tall. This is quite a change from the average 300-400 foot turbines of 2009, when Cass County’s setbacks were established.

Concerned citizens have been asking the commissioners and the planning board — Sailors is the president of both — to revisit the wind ordinance for months, but their requests have been repeatedly ignored and denied. Sailors explained that they have signed a confidentiality agreement with RES preventing them from releasing details to the public until the project is finalized. However, RES does not control the setback details, as Kitchell stated. Those fall under the local jurisdiction of the three commissioners. The only reason the commissioners have offered as to why they are refusing to revisit the wind ordinance is changing the setbacks at this stage would be unfair to landowners as it would essentially stop the project.

Those advocating for safer setbacks have offered a considerable amount of reliable data showing a clear need for updating Cass County’s ordinance. Sailors also explained that they are attempting to keep our ordinance consistent with neighboring White County so that we can be competitive. However, White County’s turbines are half the size (only 1.5-1.65MW) of those proposed here. In addition, White County has nearly 14,000 fewer people and 100 more square miles than Cass County, meaning areas where their turbines are placed are far less populated than here. If our county’s population, square miles and size of turbines are not comparable, how then can our wind ordinance be the same and still be considered safe?

In a simple search for comparable wind energy projects in the U.S., only two can currently be found — Block Island Wind Farm, 3.8 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, and a 15-turbine wind farm off the coast of New York. Each has turbines in the 600-foot range, but they are all in the ocean. New York’s wind farm plans to expand to 200 turbines placed over 256 square miles of ocean, allowing 1.5 miles per turbine. If a 600-foot turbine standing in the ocean requires a 1.5 mile radius around it, why then is it considered safe to place one only 1,500 feet from a home?

Common sense says that our setbacks should be based on the size of our project, and on unbiased safety data. The Minnesota Department of Commerce completed a study in 2011, when the average height of an industrial wind turbine was around 400 feet. It compiled data from 15 experienced wind power nations around the world. The study found that these nations completed their own research on sound and shadow flicker from turbines, and created nationwide regulations establishing safe setbacks. In other words, they found that if the turbines are placed at safe distances, sound and shadow flicker are not an issue for residents.

The study includes data from Denmark, the nation with the highest wind energy capacity per capita, per land area and per GDP in the world. Denmark recommends setbacks of four times the height of a turbine, which would require setbacks of between 2,640-3,280 feet for Cass County. Denmark also has a policy requiring that if someone living within six times the height of a turbine loses a minimum of 1% of their property value due to proximity of a turbine, the wind developer must reimburse that person for their loss.

The Netherlands, the country that manufactures the turbines that RES uses, also recommends setbacks of four times the height of a turbine. They also require sound restrictions of 41 decibels at night and 47 during the day. Cass County currently allows 60 decibels. France has even stricter sound limits of only 25 decibels within residences near turbines. Germany requires setbacks of at least 3,280 feet and sound limits of 35 decibels at night and 45 decibels during the day.

These are entire nations, basing their setbacks on scientific studies, and with turbines half the height of what RES is proposing here. All of this data has been presented to the commissioners and the planning board, yet they have offered no evidence supporting the current wind ordinance. Recently, Fulton County’s commissioners decided that this project was not the right fit for them, after reviewing this same data and listening to their residents.

Sailors admitted that he is “not listening to the people.” It seems that our officials may be enjoying the comfortable breeze blowing from financial promises, and turning their backs on the coming storm. The sheer size of this project should cause anyone to pause and consider more than just money. Elected officials swear an oath to protect the safety, health and welfare of all citizens. It’s time for them to make good on that promise.

Paige Woodhouse lives in Royal Center