Citizen alleges wind farm collusion

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following letter was originally published in the “Voice of the People” of The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.)

Residents need to stay vigilant when it comes to “big wind” in Fulton County, because it can come roaring back at any time. Recently some wind companies have been suing local municipalities who are trying to keep them out. On February 9th, RES (Renewable Energy Systems) filed with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for 436 industrial wind turbines in Fulton, Cass, and Miami Counties. That’s right, you didn’t read that incorrectly, they filed for turbines in Fulton County in February 2018, well after the final vote prohibiting wind turbines in Fulton County. Why would RES do that? Why are their bird and bat counters still lurking around our county? Why is the local RES salesman still on their payroll? Perhaps because RES has some key allies in Fulton County; namely our Area Plan Commission executive director, one commissioner, and most of the Area Plan Commission regardless of the public outcry and letters against the project found in several requests of public records of Fulton County officials’ files. Just what was found in those files? Oh the tangled web they weave. Let’s unravel it for the good people of Fulton County.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition of collusion: secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose. Is that what has been happening in Fulton County with the wind project? Evidence found in the Executive Plan Director’s files are as follows: On August 22, 2017, Area Plan Commission Executive Director Casi Cowles admits via e-mail to RES project director Brad Lila that the Fulton County ordinance is a “mirror image” of White, Cass and Miami counties. White County’s ordinance is an often-copied document that welcomes big wind into counties, and was written when wind turbines were half the size of the turbines planned for Fulton, Cass and Miami Counties.

In the minutes for the 8/28 Area Plan Commission meeting at the time of the “writing” of the ordinance, Cowles said she pulled information from Wabash and Clinton Counties (counties with more protective setbacks), but that information, according to the information request, does not appear to have been shared prior to that meeting for the board’s review. The only counties pulled for the PC board to compare at the 8/28 meeting were Benton, Cass, Miami, White, and Tipton. Ironically, two of those five counties are in the current RES proposal with weak language, and two others were the first two counties in the state to install such towers, also having weak language. Only ONE county (Tipton) was used showing safer setbacks. Only ONE PC board member questioned the small/biased sample and asked for more county comparisons.

From a Rochester Sentinel article: Cowles said there will not come a time where she will give a recommendation to county officials about how they should vote on the zoning regulations pertaining to wind power or on approving a wind farm. It’s not her job to recommend, she said, only to prepare the information officials need to make an educated vote. “I think it’s more important to focus on the facts,” Cowles said.

Let’s talk about facts. Because we requested Cowles’ entire file, all e-mails, etc. for communication with the Commissioners, FEDCO, Plan Commission, and RES reps regarding wind turbines, it appears the executive director originally provided no data showing counties with longer setbacks for decisions to be based upon. Also, no scientific data was provided by the executive director to our officials supporting the idea that a 1,200 foot setback from a home is safe, yet we citizens were challenged at the 10/16 Commissioners meeting to provide peer-reviewed studies proving that wind turbines sited closer than 2,640 feet from a home are not safe. Brad Lila said none exist. We then provided nearly 50 peer-reviewed scientific studies showing the proposed setbacks are unsafe. Cowles did not provide enough information for our officials to cast a vote with the health, safety and well being of the citizens of Fulton County in mind. The only entity in mind in our proposed ordinance appears to be RES and Brad Lila. This is evident in the many RES and Brad Lila references Cowles used during the meetings and in emails. This was supposed to be about reviewing and updating the WECS ordinance, not about a project or specific company. So why the constant communication and collusion with RES?

Citizens questioned who the ordinance was written for – to protect people or if it was written to help RES. In an August 24 email from Brad Lila to Casi Cowles, the message has a subject line of: Additional Changes to Wind Ordinance. The e-mail shows strike-throughs where RES engineers changed the wording in our ordinance and wrote what they wanted for braking systems in the Fulton County ordinance, which was later the exact wording in the ordinance. It is collusion to allow a contractor to write part of a zoning ordinance.

Only two members from all boards receiving information from Cowles on setbacks (Plan Commission, Commissioners, FEDCO) questioned ANY of Casi’s information (and lack of information) provided, and that was Eric Straeter, President of the Area Plan Commission and member Kathy Hobbs. Straeter wanted more time to study the problems citizens experience living in wind farms, and should be commended. Sadly during their February meeting, the Area Plan Commission voted to be able to remove an officer after Straeter brought it to the board’s attention that Cowles has not had an annual evaluation for several years (per comments made by board members Mark Kepler and Jim Widman at the January meeting). Straeter insisted annual evaluations begin taking place like they are annually for all other appointed department heads. As the February meeting was concluding, Cowles loudly accused Straeter in front of the board and crowd of divulging information about her evaluation during a public meeting (what evaluation? It hasn’t been happening) and she demanded Straeter be removed from the committee evaluating her. Only time will tell if legalized corruption will continue or not.

Signed, A Concerned Citizen

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.

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

Letter: “Wind backer: Look forward”

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Tuesday, November 28, 2017.)

Voice of the People

Wind backer: Look forward

Mr. Mulligan’s previous letter to the editor concerning the financial sustainability of wind energy is a fair one to consider. However to cite wind power’s current state in regard to its subsidies without including the rate at which fossil fuels have been subsidized for decades is unfair and excludes the reasons and history behind why such subsidies exist in the first place. The subsidies now being put into renewables rather than fossil fuels are in effort to alleviate the cost of changing our electrical system over to a more environmentally sustainable one. This is a righteous use of subsidies as we now know these dirtier forms of energy are leading to carbon dioxide levels that if continued will make the environment inhospitable to our current lifestyles. Subsidies can not only accomplish a quicker and necessary change in the energy market they also make food cheaper and healthcare more affordable. For all of these reasons we should be grateful and not so quick to condemn. The merits and wisdom of systems built on subsidies is surely worthy of discussion but as we live now they should be utilized to bring about necessary change and aid in helping in ways only a large government can do with such buying power.

If we choose not to move forward with the rest of the developed world we will lose out on the market and the jobs that come with it. We will lose our place as pioneers in the realm of innovation and technologies. More so we will be placing the uncomfortable reality of a more severe climate change upon our children. Fossil fuel prices will increase as the world moves away from them with or without us. This leaves us with expensive foreign oil bought at higher prices with a higher cost to the environment and indigenous communities, proxy wars in unstable regions in efforts to lay claim on their natural resources, and furthering moves to open up our public lands for such destructive extractions of oil, gas, and coal.

As such, I as a Fulton County native, would be proud to see a wind farm go up in our community. Knowing that we chose to move towards a better (not perfect) means of producing electricity without as many costs. It is sign that we are willing to do not only what is more environmentally responsible but that we are willing to change our own landscape in efforts to lessen the burden other communities would have to shoulder with extractions of fossil fuels. Mountain top removal and fracking come with much heavier costs than a change in scenery the windmills will bring as coal country and neighbors to fracking sites can attest. May we be such a community to welcome this little step we can contribute to such pressing issues in efforts to do our part and lessen our burden on the greater world at large.

Claire Cumberland

Letters: “Wind: Listen to the residents” and “Wind proposal a lousy deal”

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 17, 2017.)

Voice of the People

*Wind: Listen to the residents

 

Last week I went to the Fulton County Commissioners meeting at Fulton.

 

It was standing room only. The meeting was very civil and well ordered. What I found interesting was that a large share of those in attendance were my friends and neighbors and most, not all, are against the wind turbines.

 

Of those in favor, most were from the construction side. They wanted jobs. I understand that, but this is a project that will affect lives for at least the next 30 years. The lives it will affect the most are the residents who live within the wind field. I got there at 5 p.m. when the doors were to open and the parking lot was almost full. When going in we were greeted and asked if we wanted to speak on the issue and if we were for, undecided or opposed. I signed the opposed for an opportunity to speak. I was about the 10th or 12th on the list. At that time, no one had their names of either the for or undecided to speak.

 

I did not get the opportunity to speak.

 

The first five speakers for the evening shared current rules, taxes, legal aspects and the developer, RES, which all slanted their speeches in favor of the turbines, especially RES. The only opinion that slipped out was when speaking on the decommissioning of the turbines, Richard Hall let it slip about getting rid of the “eyesores.”

 

This brought a large applause. The only scheduled speaker in opposition was Aaron Ault for the Fulton County Property Rights Group. He brought out points that RES and others in favor didn’t want shared. He shared so much about health issues, environmental issues, drainage and irrigation issues, and many others.

 

To hear his talk, visit the Fulton County IN Property Rights Facebook page. I encourage everyone to listen and watch his presentation.

 

I spoke with RES before the meeting. I shared that I live in the area of the county that has had to put up with NIPSCO for almost 60 years. I have had to farm around them and allow them full rights to our ground. They own us. I ask RES about that and their response was, “Oh, we aren’t NIPSCO”.

 

We would never do that.

 

I asked him about what it says in their contract. He denied it.

 

So here it is on page 10, 3.2.4: “Notwithstanding the grant of the easement contained in Section 3.4 below, Landowner understands and has been informed by the Company that by this Agreement, Company has the right to cause on, over, across and under the Property or as an indirect or direct result of Company’s or any successor or assign’s activities on the Property in Connection with the Windpower Facilities or the Effects.

 

Except as otherwise agreed to herein, Landowner, for itself, its heirs, administrators, executors, successors and assigns, does hereby waive, remise and release any right, claim or cause of action which it may now have or which it may have in the future against the Company or successor or assign as a direct or indirect result of said Effects.”

 

They will own us!

 

Then to top it off, after construction is done, RES plans to sell the wind field and we will then have to deal with another company who also has no interest in us, except for the tax credits that they will be receiving to line their pockets.

 

Having wind turbines in our community will affect lives. It will change farming practices. It will affect health for some people. It will affect property values. What for? Money. All of those speaking in favor of the project were speaking about money.

 

I am sorry people, but there is more to life than money.

 

Yes, we need money to live, but to what extent?

 

Do we let it affect our quality of life? Will we let it pit neighbor against neighbor for many years to come? Will we allow it control our livelihood?

 

Will we sell out to a company whose only interest in us is the tax credits they will receive?

 

If wind turbines are so awesome, why don’t they replace the aged ones and rebuild in those areas? Because the tax credits are for new construction, not for replacing the “eye sores” of the past and they are in high wind areas.

 

So my appeal is to the commissioners and the plan commission, please make the setbacks safer at 2640 feet or four times the height, whichever is greater, as compared to the 900 feet and to those who haven’t signed with RES, please DON’T SIGN THE LEASE AGREEMENT.

 

Help us to preserve Fulton County as an agriculture county, not an industrial wind farm.

 

The next Commissioners meeting on this issue is Nov. 20, 2017 with the location yet to be determined.

 

Thanks for hearing, David Sommers,

4th generation, lifelong Wayne Township resident.

 

Editor’s note: The location of the meeting is at the Fulton County Fairgrounds Community Building.

 

 

 

*Wind proposal a lousy deal

 

Dear fellow residents of Fulton County, On Monday, November 20th at 6 p.m. at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, our county Commissioners will host a public hearing and possibly vote on “wind setbacks” proposed to them by the Fulton County Planning Board.

 

The commissioners have been tirelessly researching and listening to advice and comments from wind developers, concerned citizens and other counties with Industrial Wind Turbine projects. This decision is one that could change the landscape and the culture of our county FOREVER.

 

While I have only lived in Fulton County for 15 years, my husband’s family has been here for over a century. His parents had four children that have been around the world and back, choosing to build homes on their family’s land and raise their children here as well. This rural farming community is rich in family and farming traditions that have created a peaceful, community minded and strongly intertwined culture. I grew up outside of Chicago, but now reside in a town of roughly 350 individuals. I know more names and families in Fulton County than I ever did in my large hometown.

 

I say this because the setbacks proposed for approval on Nov. 20th could potentially destroy the culture and lifestyle that so many have enjoyed here for decades.

 

What have been proposed by our planning board are some of the shortest setbacks in all of Indiana, for some of the tallest turbines in the world. These 600 foot, giant spinning skyscrapers could be placed only 1,200 feet from your home, and 900 feet from your property line.

 

My husband and I share the dream that one day our children will return home to Fulton County and build homes on our land to continue our family’s century long tradition. These setbacks would rob us of that dream. We would not be able to give land to our children, as building a home closer to the turbines would be unsafe.

 

There are countless other families in this same situation.

 

Our commissioners have to consider the rights of every citizen in this county, not just those of individuals that have signed contracts with RES, the wind developer that is proposing to build 133 turbines in Fulton County alone.

 

If others feel comfortable enough to live closely to a turbine, that is their right. But those citizens, the wind developers, and our elected officials CANNOT ethically force the rest of us to do so.

 

Consider these facts: RES often uses a model of turbine manufactured by VESTAS, a Dutch company. VESTAS’ safety manual states that the turbine workers should not linger within 1,640 feet of the turbine should something go wrong. There are over 2,000 incidents on record of accidents, many involving injuries or even fatalities.

Yet our planning board has proposed to allow RES to place our HOMES and FAMILIES within only 1,200 feet of a turbine?

 

What if one of these turbines were to catch fire?

 

Our fire departments are not equipped to fight fires hundreds of feet in the air. The Netherlands, VESTAS home, recommends setbacks equivalent to 4 times the height of a turbine and strict sound limits.

 

Denmark, one of the strongest wind power nations in the world, has been using Industrial Wind Turbines as a source of clean energy since the 70s. Obviously, this has allowed them many more years to track health and safety issues involving turbines.

 

After years of practice, their government recommends setbacks of AT LEAST 4 times the height of the turbine for the entire nation. In addition, anyone living within six times the height of a proposed turbine may have their home’s value assessed for loss of value due to the turbine’s proximity, and wind developers are responsible for repaying homeowners anything more than a 1% loss of value. Germany, another experienced wind power nation, has setbacks of 3,280 feet and is currently moving away from wind energy, because their citizens cannot afford to pay their electric bills. (Wind energy is apparently not so affordable). Germans also require sound levels to be at or below 30 decibels in a bedroom near a turbine, yet RES is proposing that 55 decibels is acceptable. France requires a 25 decibel limit within homes.

 

If our officials are looking at ALL of the research, and not just the research presented to them by wind developers, it will be clear to them that these proposed setbacks are a danger to our community.

 

Sure, the citizens of Rochester will not be affected, other than the average $25 property tax cut they may see.

 

But I think it’s safe to say that the good people of Rochester are not willing to accept $25 in exchange for putting their rural neighbors’ lives and homes at risk.

 

The only argument posed in favor of this project is the financial aspect. While this project may offer a sizable paycheck to our county (with restrictions as to how the money can be used), there are other ways to bring money that will not change the entire landscape and culture of our community. It is an elected official’s responsibility to seek out new industry and opportunities that will benefit our county.

 

The right opportunity is out there, and it is one that will not put our citizens’ safety, health and personal welfare at risk.

 

We, the citizens of Fulton County are placing our trust and hope in our elected officials.

 

They swore an oath to protect the safety, health and welfare of ALL citizens of Fulton County. I pray that they hear our message loud and clear, or we will send another message in the next election.

 

Fellow citizens, be sure to attend the Public Hearing at the Fulton County Fairgrounds on Monday, November 20th at 6pm to make your voices heard.

 

Sincerely, A VERY concerned citizen of Fulton County

 

Letters: ‘Fearmongering’ charge bothers letter writer; Wildcat wind farm resident speaks; Henry County resident urges caution here

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following were originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.)

Voice of the People

LETTER: Wildcat wind farm resident speaks

It is finally time.

After being awakened for the umpteenth time by these health impacting, grinding, screeching, humming, squealing, house vibrating, jet sounding, cell phone interrupting, satellite television interfering, internet disrupting, shadow flickering, environmental impacting, property value lowering, aesthetic degrading, red light blaring, obtrusive monsters, known as Industrial wind turbines – IWT – thrust upon us without our permission. Believe me you never get used to these stupid monsters.

It is finally time again to thank the uninformed, seemingly uncaring, self-serving, publicly elected officials, for having the audacity to vote in favor of a project that they knew so little about which would forever change the lives of so many people that they are supposed to work to protect, all because a smooth tongued, untruthful representative from a less than ethical company, (which person admitted in person, that he would not live near turbines), was able to pull the wool over their eyes by making promises of untold booty with undoubtedly, falsified studies of sound, resident acceptance, health and environmental impact.

I would hope that these publicly elected officials are realizing how their actions have affected some of the residents of northeastern Tipton County, Ind. Thanks to them our lives have changed forever, not for the better but for a lifetime of interruptions, inconveniences not only in the daytime but 24 hours a day. This is not an issue that you can spend an hour or two or a day in the area and comprehend the negative impact it is having upon our lives.

How else can the headaches, the nausea that only started after the turbines were in service be explained especially since when you travel away from the area these things disappear. We live in a large manufactured house with lots of steel under, there is a constant hum and we know that the turbines are the cause because when they had blade breakages they shut them all down for a period of time, the hum went away until they restarted the turbines.

You have to be here for extended periods of time because there will be instances that the wind doesn’t blow yet the humming and screeching will continue as the IWTs search for wind. It was stated that residents would adjust, getting used to these monsters but alas this is not happening when you are awakened at two or three a.m. by something that sounds as if it is in your house and upon investigating you find that it is an IWT.

It has been suggested that we move, however finding anyone to purchase our property for the true value it had before the IWTs were present is impossible. We are approximately 1,600 to 1,700 feet from the closest turbine, which I am to believe is 307 feet tall. I cannot imagine life any closer, these things should never be any closer than two miles to a residence plus even farther away depending upon the prevailing winds.

As I realize this will serve no purpose to alleviate the situation in Tipton County, Ind.

I would hope it could inform others of the irritating intrusions of IWTs. These monsters have absolutely no place in a community as populated as Tipton County.

Also hoping it would lead elected officials to better investigative any project that bears on the public as intrusive as these monsters. At least one former official realizes the mistake that was made and is now working to help other communities bar these from intruding.

Fred McCorkle

LETTER: ‘Fearmongering’ charge bothers letter writer

To the Citizens of Fulton County, I sent one email (not a few) to the Fulton County Commissioners for the sole purpose of relaying my first-hand experience with regard to all aspects of the development of an industrial wind turbine project. I never received a single reply questioning my assertions or asking for more details. Instead, I am now accused of ‘fearmongering’ and overstating that those living amongst the towers in Tipton County have complaints.

I am offended by the charge of attempting to spread false fear when my “outreach” intentions were in good faith. I witnessed the effects first hand by going to the homes of my constituents who were complaining. I listened to the farmers who were having GPS failures in their implements. I know that the number of prospective buyers of homes for sale in the project area is less than homes for sale outside of the project. I live with the reality of divided families and friendships.

I am surprised by the misplaced logic and inability of your elected officials and plan director to understand that increasing the setback distance indeed does make a difference in that it aids in lessening the noise and shadow flicker. Property owners enjoy life beyond the confines of their dwelling, therefore the ill effects of the turbines are also experienced while outside.

I am confident that the Fulton County residents can draw logical conclusions from indisputable facts. If there were truly no issues, the following facts would never exist:

 1.) After the installation of the wind farm and the effects were observed and recorded, the 2014 Tipton County Commissioners amended the wind energy conversion system (WECS) setback section of our county zoning ordinance to 2,640 feet (one half mile) from the center of the tower to the nearest corner of a residential dwelling or occupied commercial/ institutional building, and 5,280 feet (one mile) from the outer boundary of an incorporated town.

 2.) After our wind farm was operational, two neighboring counties cancelled their agreements for phase 2 and 3 of the same project.

3.) There is a long list of other counties in Indiana that have been approached by wind farm companies but chose not to allow the turbines. Most rejections are due to the elected officials recognizing the importance of setback distances that protect the health and safety, and property values of their own citizens.

4.) Several counties have actually banned or placed moratoriums on wind farm development.

If the wind farms were such a positive addition to counties and if there were no real issues, then all Indiana county leaders would be begging for them to come … instead of vice versa.

Why would the testimonial from a former colleague who had originally believed the ‘spin’ and supported the project but now regrets her decision, be refuted and dismissed as ‘fear mongering’? When the claims of a foreign based company seeking to make money in your county seem to carry more credence with your leaders than the experiences and decisions of fellow Hoosiers who have ‘been there, done that’, then you should wonder why.

Jane Harper, Tipton County

LETTER: Henry County resident urges caution here

To Whom it may concern,

I am not a Fulton County resident, however, I am a Henry County resident who happens to find myself in the same situation as your citizens. Having read your article by Wesley Dehne, I feel I must speak up on this issue. First of all, property rights do go both ways, I will agree to that remark.

Where it becomes twisted is when one (wind companies) insist they have more rights than anyone else. All land owners have rights. The wind company will insist there are no adverse effects from their Industrial Wind Turbines. If that is so, why do they include all of the adverse effects in the contract the property owner signs; (shadow flicker, turbulence, vibration, electromagnetic field, ice throw, fire, blade failure, infrasound, noise, property value decline, etc.) The wind company will insist the setback of 1,500 feet from the foundation of a home is safe and free from adverse effects that are listed in the contract. The wind turbine maintenance manuals state, a safety zone of 1,650 feet is required from the turbine in ANY failure or malfunction of the turbine. Now, how in the world can there be a “SAFE” setback of 1,500 feet from a non-participating land owner’s home if the “Safe Zone” is 1,650 feet from the Industrial Wind Turbine? No setback should ever be from the home of a non-participating land owner. It must be from the “property line.” That person owns ALL of that property, not just where the home is.

It also states in the well written article that officials of Fulton County went to the Wildcat 1 Wind Farm (Factory) in Tipton County and spoke with residents living within the Wind Farm (Factory). They (officials) may not be aware of the “Good Neighbor” contract. This is a contract the wind company presents to surrounding property owners as a “letter of support.” This contract allows the wind company to obtain an easement for all of the “adverse effects” listed in the contract with the leasing property owner.

The non-property owner is offered a payment on a yearly basis to sign the contract (“good neighbor”). The non-participating property owner, once they have signed the contract, are no longer able/allowed to speak in a negative manner concerning the Wind Farm (Factory). If the property owner violates that agreement, they could be in risk of being sued by the wind company.

One of your officials: “Let the people signing up make the decision,” Metzger said. “We’re just making sure it’s safe.”

He continued: “People act like we’re pushing this on them, but we’re taking a good look at this. We have to look at all the options, and that’s what we’re doing.”

This is so familiar. We have been hearing a very similar statement from our officials in Henry County since 2009.

There are many issues to consider. The first and foremost must/should be, “absolute safety and wellbeing of the citizens.” That is the obligation of the officials of the county. Citizens of Fulton County, educate yourselves thoroughly and educate you officials. Get the “DATA” and demand “DATA” from those who are making decisions on YOUR behalf.

Sincerely,
Peggy Stefandel, Henry County Resident

Engineer: Nix the wind project

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 10, 2017.)

My name is Ryan Mulligan. I graduated from Rochester High School in 2002. From there, I went to Purdue University and graduated in 2006 with a degree in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering.

The School of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at Purdue is universally recognized as one of the top in the country. The school proudly boasts of 15 astronauts amongst its alumni.

Admittedly, I am not one of the fifteen. But after Purdue, I moved to Utah and worked for three years as an engineer in the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster program until two concurrent things happened: 1) my wife and I had the desire to move back home to Indiana and live amongst family, and 2) President Obama decided the United States’ participation in manned space flight was no longer worth the taxpayers’ money. I left the disappearing manned space flight industry voluntarily, but many of my friends and coworkers had no choice.

My wife and I, and our two young daughters, currently live in southern Fulton County. We peacefully live on 25 acres in a small house, near friends, with beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

I’m providing a little background to demonstrate that my opinions on engineering projects are backed with education, and that I have been personally affected by the fickleness of the federal government. And the federal government is the only entity that is holding wind farm projects, like the one proposed in Fulton County, together.

Sustainability is a noble goal. The realization that our planet’s resources are generally finite, and the desire to live within those limits, is wise. But sustainability has two facets: 1) environmental sustainability and 2) financial sustainability, the second of which often gets overlooked.

Wind farms are not financially sustainable. The only reason that the wind energy industry exists is because of the lucrative federal government subsidy called the Production Tax Credit (PTC). The PTC takes our tax money and funnels it to wind farm companies so they can compete in the energy market. Without our tax dollars, wind farms are not financially viable.

The reason wind farms cannot compete on the energy market is due to unalterable physics: when the windmill blades aren’t spinning, no electricity is being made.

Wind is simply not reliable.

Electricity needs are the greatest when it’s hot and still, exactly when wind farms are not producing. Wind farms will never compete with a power plant that utilizes a consistent source of energy.

They will only exist while they are being supported by the federal government.

So what happens when the PTC subsidy goes away (like government support for the Space Shuttle went away)? Fortunately, we’ve recently seen an example of it. At the end of 2012, the subsidy expired. During that time, wind farm construction ground to a halt. Once the PTC subsidy was renewed by Congress in 2013, wind farm construction began again. This is a clear indication that wind farming companies have no desire or ability to farm wind if they are not propped up by the federal government.

So where do we stand today? In the Fiscal Year 2016, the PTC was extended for five years. On their website, the American Wind Energy Association states clearly that the extension of the PTC is vital to the industry, allowing growth and construction to continue. They are not shy about their need for our tax dollars.

Here’s why the proposers of the wind farm are in a rush: the extension of the PTC included a phase-down plan which drops the subsidy by 20% each year. If a project is started in 2017, a wind energy company will receive 80% of the original subsidy. However, if construction begins in 2018, the subsidy drops to 60%.

And so on. Here’s yet another important fact: the PTC subsidy is only paid out during the first ten years of a wind farm’s life.

That means that the wind farm being proposed in Fulton County is only guaranteed to be financially viable for its first ten years of operation.

Beyond that, it will take an act of Congress to keep it operating competitively with other sources of energy. That’s hardly comforting for a project that has a 25-30 year life span.

Fortunately, we’ve been offered a glimpse into our near future. A former Tipton County commissioner, Jane Harper, went out of her way to offer her advice in the November 3rd, 2017 edition of the Rochester Sentinel. Jane was responsible for helping approve the Wildcat I Wind Farm in Tipton County. She now regrets it, and reached out to Fulton County because she wishes someone had reached out to her. She said Tipton County’s setbacks (the distance a windmill must be from a home or property line) were not effective enough, resulting in noise and shadow flicker in neighboring homes.

Shadow flicker occurs when a windmill’s blades create a spinning shadow on a home.

Jane offered passionate, yet reasonable, advice to our community. After being offered a glimpse into our future, the disappointing response from our commissioners was mostly of dismissal.

Jane’s efforts should be thanked and her concerns should be thoroughly explored.

That being said, we should be thankful our commissioners have not rubber-stamped this project. Without their diligence, construction could already be underway before the public realized what was happening.

One valuable piece of advice Jane offered was that windmill setbacks should be established from property lines rather than residences. The Director of the Fulton County Planning Commission, Casi Cowles, admitted she was confused by Jane’s assertion.

While contemplating a proposed 1/2 mile setback from property lines, she stated, “If 1,500 feet isn’t good enough, why is adding 1,140 feet any better?” Here are two real-life reasons the setbacks should be established at 1/2 mile from property lines: 1) My property is 25 acres.

My 112 year-old farmhouse is on the far eastern edge of the property. If the approved setback ends up being 1,500 feet from a residential structure, windmills can be built right on my western property line. With the windmills in place, I could no longer build on the western half of my property, even if I want to replace my old farmhouse. In effect, the western half of my property would be owned by the windmills. I don’t know how anyone could argue that this isn’t a violation of property rights.

2) Shadow flicker from windmills is real. Go ahead and YouTube it; you’ll get queasy just watching the videos. Today, windmills placed at a 1,500-foot setback would cause approximately five hours of shadow flicker in a residence. It gets worse as the days shorten. I can prove it, but my wife convinced me to remove geometry and sun altitude information from this letter. With a 1/2 mile setback, the chance of shadow flicker in a victim’s home decreases significantly.

So we have a proposal in front of us that appears like an opportunity to some.

Something bigger than us has turned its eye toward our county’s larger landholders and said: “I am here for you. I can provide money to you and the county and it’s all in the name of sustainable energy!

All we need is your signature!”

It’s natural to think: “We should be thankful this large thing has turned its attention to us! This appears to be an opportunity! If we turn it down, we might be missing out on something! This project could bring money to the county! Landowners should be able to do what they want because wind energy is the future!”

In reality, we’re dealing with an entity in a shaky business who peddles promises in return for taxpayer dollars. In the best case scenario, we will be forced to live amongst these spinning skyscrapers for the next three decades, all while a few landowners benefit and the rest of us suffer (knowing full well our taxpayer dollars are the only reason the monstrosities exist). In the worst case scenario, wind energy falls out of favor of the federal government and nobody is left to operate, service, or decommission our dilapidated rural skyscrapers.

Our three commissioners, Bryan Lewis, Rick Ranstead, and Steve Metzger, will be deciding our future from here.

Their decisions will affect the county for the next 30+ years.

Let’s consider the decision that Bryan, Rick, and Steve are facing. They are weighing whether or not the promises outweigh the costs for Fulton County. The promises are in the future and are in the form of promised money and promised community support and promised infrastructure. And the promisers of these promises live or die by the acts of Congress. But Fulton County’s costs are real and right now.

This project will deface Fulton County, destroying its horizons, upstaging its beautiful reddish-purple sunrises and sunsets with spinning blades and blinking red lights. The county will be tattooed with windmills that will be the size of 60+ story skyscrapers. For visual reference, any one of the proposed windmills would be the second tallest building in downtown Indianapolis.

Our neighbors to the north, Marshall County, already decided they don’t want their residents to be forced to live amongst a wind farm. We should do the same.

But, if our commissioners decide to allow this government boondoggle that causes large landowner’s neighbors to become choice less victims, let’s at least protect the victims by enforcing a 1/2 mile setback from property lines. If the wind farm can’t make that work, fine. They can build one in Utah. I’ve lived there, and it’s not hard to get 1/2 mile from anything.

Thank you, Ryan Mulligan