(The following was first published in the online “Peru Tribune” of Peru, Indiana on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.)
By Brian Paul Kaufman – firstname.lastname@example.org
Call it Wind Turbine Trouble 101 – presented by a school teacher who said he was “blindsided” about two years ago by the arrival of the towering industrial machinery in his rural Van Wert, Ohio hometown.
Jeremy Kitson shared what he said he’s learned from the experience with about 200 people at the Miami County 4-H Community Building on Sunday.
The bottom line? Kitson put it this way: “The less you know, the more you’ll like wind.”
UK-based Renewable Energy Systems has planned a 383 wind turbine project for Fulton, Cass and Miami Counties – 75 of them in Miami County.
RES’ Director of development, Brad Lila, has said the project will, among other things, bring jobs, tax benefits and lucrative lease payments to landholders in all three counties.
Kitson said he’s done his homework since an employee of another wind company – who was once a family friend – told him his two acre parcel didn’t matter in the scheme of things. “Challenge accepted,” he said.
He said elected officials have a tough job as they wrestle with the issue of whether to allow companies to build and encouraged those present not to become combative with them as they discuss it.
But, he said, there are big problems.
For one thing wind company officials “can’t say what’s a proper distance” is to locate the towers from homes and property lines. The Miami County wind ordinance, written in 2011, is 1,000 feet from a house and 175’ from a property line.
But at least one Michigan University Study said 2,500 feet is the minimum to mitigate something called “Shadow Flicker,” Kitson said. Created by the sun shining on the turbine blades as the rotate, shadow flicker is thought to cause symptoms and upset in some, especially autistic children.
Ohio laws limit shadow flicker to 30 hours a year, while Vermont allows just eight hours a year, he said.
Kitson said countries with more experience with industrial wind turbines, such as Denmark and Germany, have even bigger setbacks because of shadow flicker and noise problems.
A 2016 Bavarian High Count ruling, for example, found that a 650 foot tall turbine needs to be at least 1.2 miles away from the nearest residential area before it can be approved, according to a Bavarian radio story.
In its current form, the Miami County ordinance does not address shadow flicker at all, Kitson said.
The Miami County ordinance allows 50 dbs of noise from wind turbines. But at least one researcher, Dr. Robert Rand, has found that people have “vigorous objections” when noise levels like that are above 20 db, Kitson said.
Wind companies like to say that the noise is like what’s generated by a refrigerator, he said, “but most people don’t want a refrigerator in their bed when they try to sleep.”
Wind turbines also generate something called “infrasound” he said, or noise that’s below what we can hear. But even this has numerous negative effects, he said. Most recently, Kitson said, US diplomats in Cuba may have been exposed to infrasound.
According to the Associated Press, they suffered nausea, dizziness, hearing loss, vertigo and even concussions.
Holding up his cellphone, Kitson said he keeps 21 peer reviewed scientific studies on it that detail the harmful health effects of wind turbines.
Also, safety recommendations by one wind turbine manufacturer say employees should stay at least 1,640 feet away when possible due to the potential accidents, fire and failure, he said, so “1,000 feet from a home in my eyes is not even remotely safe.”
Enforcing proper zoning laws isn’t much to ask, either, he said. For example, you can’t grow pot on your property in Indiana and if you want to build a grain silo too close to your neighbor’s home or property, you’d have to go before some board to get a variance, he said. “This isn’t any different.”
If a wind company wants to be a good neighbor and steward of the land, they should also negotiate with non-participating land owners to make their property rights are protected, he said. Otherwise, Kitson said it’s “trespass zoning” that prevents the adjoining landowner from enjoying or building on their property.
Kitson said a study by Appraisal Group One in Wisconsin found that home and property values took an “11 to 60 percent hit by living in the footprint of an industrial wind project.”
“If (they’re) so sure property values won’t fall, get a property value guarantee,” he said. “Prove it to me with your good faith and dollars.”
Among other topics, Kitson also said Miami County needs to make sure that the amount set aside for decommissioning any wind turbines is substantial and transferable. His county only got $5,000 each – when they can cost $500,000 to $700,000 each to take down. $5,000 would barely pay for the crane to show up on the job site, he said.
At the conclusion of his talk, Kitson said he believes “the (social) fabric of Van Wert County has been destroyed” by the project there – with even brothers refusing to talk to one another over the matter.
Kirby Lane, who also spoke at the meeting, said he’s bringing an ordinance that he’s written to the Miami County Plan/Building meeting on Wednesday night – and encouraged other concerned citizens to attend.
An online petition at Miami County Property Rights Facebook page urges Miami County “to establish safe zoning of four times the height or 2,640 feet which ever is greater from a property line in regards to Industrial Wind Generation.”
During a question, answer and comment time after Kitson and Lane spoke, not one person voiced support for the turbines.
Steve Schipper said he learned a lot at the meeting – and none of it was good. Schipper said he picked up bright yellow and red signs that say “No Wind Turbines” there and planned to plant them at prominent locations on his farms as soon as possible.
Another resident who picked up a yard sign said he was concerned about what he perceived as the county’s failure to make citizens aware of the project. “Are we in Russia?” he said.
One of the organizers, Becky Mahoney, said she was pleased by the turnout, especially since the meeting came together quickly and there was little time to get the word out.
Lane also encouraged residents to attend tonight’s North Miami School Board meeting. Miami County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jim Tidd said he plans to share the benefits of the project there.