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

A look at Valley’s wind turbine

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 24, 2017.)

BY LEAH SANDER
Staff Writer, The Sentinel

Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. Superintendent Brett Boggs says the corporation’s wind turbine has “been a good thing for us.”

Boggs shared his thoughts regarding the corporation’s 325-foot turbine. It has been producing electricity at the middle and high schools for six years.

The turbine provides an average of 1.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year to power the two schools. The amount depends on the wind speed throughout the year. Boggs says that energy covers about 50-60 percent of the total electricity needed at both schools.

Boggs said the corporation saves about $150,000 dollars per year on electricity costs due to the turbine. The corporation also receives $5,000 in energy credits per year and makes a small amount of money if the turbine makes more energy than the school needs.

Fewer state funds

Like the solar project that the Tippecanoe Valley School Board approved last week to install at Mentone Elementary School, Boggs said the corporation opted to get a turbine due to fewer state funds going to rural schools.

“When we put (the turbine) in back in 2011, that’s when the state was really cutting schools’ funds and that was one of the reasons that we went ahead and did that was to help the general fund, and it has helped the general fund,” Boggs said.

He said the corporation pays for its turbine out of its debt service fund just as other schools do for new school buildings.

“So we’re paying for the wind turbine out of debt service. That $150,000 that now we don’t have to spend on electricity is money we can spend on teachers, programs, those kinds of things,” he said.

Boggs did say the turbine has not produced the money that the company initially stated due to it not meeting original energy production predictions.

Maintenance

The corporation also pays about $20,000 per year to Power Grid Partners of Ohio, its wind energy company, to maintain the turbine.

The company had to fix motors on it when lightning struck it during its first year of operation. There were no injuries or property damaged as a result of the strike.

“We had to replace a couple of motors that turned the blades. They worked on it and did a couple of additional things to protect it from lightning and we’ve not had any issues with that since,” he said.

In regards to other commonly cited issues with turbines, Boggs said the turbine has never had a blade breakdown and there is a bit of shadow flicker if the sun is really bright.

“The only thing that we see is if it’s the right time of the day and the sun’s at the right angle, we’ll get a little bit of a flicker from the blades. That will … not necessarily impact our buildings but it might impact the bus garage or the baseball field or something like that out there,” he said.

He said the turbine will make “a whoosh sound” if a lot of rain or snow gets on it, but otherwise does not make a lot of noise.

Little opposition

Boggs said the corporation has not really had complaints from people regarding the turbine.

“We didn’t have any opposition during the planning process up to constructing it, and then we’ve not had any issues with it since then,” he said.

He said the corporation did receive some complaints as the project progressed similar to what was heard when Fulton County leaders recently were deciding on a proposed 133-wind turbine farm in the county.

“We heard all the same things when we were looking into it. We did our homework and we did a lot of research. And a lot of the things (that he had read about the Fulton County project), the opposition is the same thing that you hear every time somebody is talking about a wind farm. And a lot of it is stuff that is … on the internet and I don’t know where it comes from, but as far as them causing health issues, and that kind of thing, I’m not sure where that comes from. I just think there is a lot of false information that gets out and I think it’s intended to scare people to evoke emotion. And I think sometimes the opposition is just that people don’t like change,” he said.

Boggs has had several people approach the corporation to ask questions about the turbine due to the recent debate in Fulton County.

“We had somebody stop by and ask me the other day they said they had heard that we can’t host a sectional football game because of the wind turbine. I said “That’s absolute nonsense. Whoever told you that, that’s not correct,” he said.

When asked about a problem such as ice coming off a turbine, Boggs said he advocates caution in situating turbines.“You know that’s one of the reasons why you put them out where there isn’t anybody around, because that could happen. I don’t know that I’m ever aware of anything like that that’s happened but we don’t have anybody out there either but that’s a reason why you wouldn’t want it close to a home or where people are because that does happen at times where there can be ice on it. When a blade is moving as quickly as those do, it could throw some ice,” he said.

Setback rules

The corporation had to follow the same rules regarding setbacks as any other wind project in Kosciusko County. The setback is one times the height of the turbine, and county rules also state the turbine must be 1,000 feet from any occupied building, such as a house, church or school, excluding buildings on the site of the project.

Boggs said they asked neighbors on the west side of the turbine if they could place it closer to their property line than normal setbacks allow to keep the turbine away from places like the bus garage and football field at the school. The neighbors granted their request.

Neighboring property owners received letters notifying them of Valley’s wind project. They met with the school corporation at the Kosciusko County Courthouse to receive more information. Boggs also said testing to protect birds and bats in the area was done and the corporation had to receive special approval for the project due to the Mentone Airport being nearby.

An advocate

Boggs mentioned that turbines could help rural school districts due to a lack of funding from the state.

“The thing that I look at I guess that I think is the most important is how (a wind project) could help North Miami and Caston schools. You know if their AV (assessed value of land in their school districts) increases that’s going to help them … gain additional tax dollars that they can use to support their schools. You know small rural school districts right now are dying a slow death and I think any additional funding that they can get is going to be beneficial,” he said.

Boggs also advocated for turbines due to them being a renewable energy source.

“One of the things that bothers me is that we depend so much on foreign oil as a country and if those countries want to, they could pretty well shut us down by limiting our access to that stuff. I think we’ve got to get away from expecting everybody else to meet our energy needs when we’ve got the capability of doing it right here. … I think it is important that we show our kids that there are other ways that we can produce the energy that we need, we can do it ourselves,” he said.

People may find more information on Valley’s turbine, including monthly energy production reports, by going to the school corporation website tippecanoevalleyschools.com, scrolling down to “Additional Quicklinks” and clicking on “Wind Turbine Information.”

Windfarm neighbor: You should know this

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

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

As a Tipton County property owner, I did extensive research on the possible effects of having Industrial Wind Turbines. Our county was the first to attempt to have the turbines located close to residential homes and communities. Recently, I read Wind Watch online regarding Fulton, Miami, and Cass counties being interested in having a wind farm. I would like to pass along some findings of over 1,000 hours of research regarding this situation.

I first thought these things were green, non-toxic, and would be great for the environment. I researched audible and inaudible sounds that the wind turbines produce, underground infra-sound vibration, and what it does to the water aquafers. I looked into the effects of bird migratory patterns.

Some counties have changed their setbacks due to health risks. Whitley County is now a half mile from the property line. Noble County has a 3,960 foot setback, and a noise limit not to exceed 40 decibels at 1,000 feet from a turbine, and requires that a tower’s blinking lights be shielded. Tipton County’s setback is now 2,640 feet from a residence. Many other counties have a complete ban on wind farms. If there were no risks, why would all these counties be putting in stricter ordinances?? The World Health Organization recommends a minimum setback of 5,280 feet for children, elderly, and the chronically ill. The International Standards Organization recommends community noise limits of 35 decibels during daytime, and 25-30 decibels at night. Many European nations with more than two decades of experience with windfarms have setbacks of 3-5 miles. Denmark’s setback is four times the total height, and Holland’s is 3,280 feet.

Our County Commissioners were initially touting that “everyone was happy in Benton County” with the IWT’s. I sent a letter to the editor of the Lafayette Journal Courier stating I would like input from anyone regarding the impact of their turbines.

I received numerous replies (some anonymous) and others asking me not to use their name. The following letter is from an individual who supplied her address in Fowler, Ind. My husband and I visited their home, and experienced all of her claims first-hand. Most people who visit Benton County wind farms have appointments set up for a tour with the Benton County Wind Farm EDC. We wanted to go on our own.

Here is the letter:

“I live in Benton County. Feel free to come to visit us. We are right in the heart of the wind turbines. They surround our house. I DO NOT like having them so close to our house. When they put them in, our road was so busy I could not even go walking that summer. The noise REALLY bothers me, and I have never gotten used to it! Depending on which way the wind is out of, you can hear the noise in the house. It seems worse in the winter. I believe it’s due to the density of the air. This time of the year the “FLICKER” effect is really bad in the morning and in the evening. You feel like you always need to duck as you see the blades going around. When my son-in-law visits, he always asks how we can stand that. We feel we should be compensated. The landowners get paid for the rental of their land but we get no compensation and we were here first! When it is all said and done, the commissioners should have made the set back a lot further from the houses. We would still have the noise but at least we wouldn’t have the FLICKER effect. I wish I had known all this before they were put in. Everyone just kept on saying they will be good for the community. They are, only if you are a landowner. They don’t care at all about homes in the community. Then they wonder why nobody wants to live in Benton County. Don’t know that I want you to use my name because we, as well as many others, have received threats and property damage when we’ve complained, but feel free to use this information.”

Here is another letter:

“In response to your letter to the editor, Thursday, February 14, in the Journal Courier, this information may be what you need. Personal property value will fall like a rock. Benton County houses located within the wind farms are selling for whatever the owner can get. Many land owners where these wind generators are located do not live in the county. The average age of the lease owners is retirement age.

Wildlife has dwindled, but the rep for the company downplays this problem. Any time it snows, we go to where we used to see wildlife and there are no tracks to be found. Mosquito eating bats have disappeared too!

The companies brag that the local economy will boom, but that is temporary until the company is done installing these monsters. They tout that they will create hundreds of jobs, but that is not true either. The companies bring their own machinery operators, and in the end there might be 5-6 people that maintain the turbines, or are guards, or both.

In Benton County, this happened because few people knew about the turbines until it was way too late to do anything about it. This is how the companies manage to get this done everywhere. A decision of this magnitude should be decided after a debate over property values, who is responsible for that loss, and other issues such as blinking lights, noise, which is nauseating, and the strobe effect from shadow flicker.”

I have many other correspondences from people near the towns of Brookston and Fowler. I cannot attend your meetings due to health reasons but will make suggestions on what your citizens should consider, as well as the county officials regarding this very important situation.

Research: Shadow flicker, blinking lights, setback distances, noise related issues, low frequency and infrasound impact and decibel requirements, aesthetics, accidents, fires, wildlife impact, health issues, ice throw, wind turbine syndrome, property values, water aquifer damage, wind disturbance issues, lifeline helicopter landing limitations within a wind farm, bats and protected golden eagles and bald eagle deaths, China’s toxicity of rare earth metals, decommissioning clauses, and aerial crop dusting.

Knowledge is the key for everyone involved.

Nancy Carney
Sharpsville, Indiana

Metzger recuses himself

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

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

BY WESLEY DEHNE
Staff Writer, The Sentinel

AND CHRISTINA M. SEILER

Managing Editor, The Sentinel

 

Fulton County Commissioner Steve Metzger told The Sentinel Thursday he will recuse himself from any future county business related to wind energy development.

 

The reason, he said, was because of “perceived conflicts of interest.” He denied any actual conflicts of interest pertaining to RES’ proposal to develop a wind farm in the county.

 

“Perception matters sometimes more than facts,” he said. “I think I probably should have done it earlier.”

 

He said he’s received direct criticism that his financial adviser is employed by RES and that his wife’s side of the family could potentially benefit from the project.

 

Metzger lives at 831 E. 650 South, which is within the area targeted by RES for as many as 133 wind turbines and $5.9 million in investment.

 

Prior to the Nov. 9 wind energy public forum hosted by commissioners at the Fulton Community Building, Metzger said he and his wife rent the home where they live. It is owned by her grandmother, he said.

 

When asked by The Sentinel if he would benefit financially through potential inheritance of that land because of the project, Metzger scoffed at the question. He said he does not know the details of his grandmother-in-law’s will.

 

Metzger said his relationship with Matt Berry, his financial adviser and a land acquisition manager for RES, was established well before the project was proposed.

 

“They just think I’m trying to get this wind farm project in for the benefit of my family or my wife’s family,” he said of opponents to the proposed project. “Links to corruption are being thrown up, and there is none. … I think they’re just trying anything they can at this point.”

 

He did note that his in-laws, who own land in the proposed project area, were contacted by RES to lease land. He said he is unsure if they signed a contract, adding “that’s none of my business.”

 

He also said some have been critical about his wife’s cousin putting up a MET tower as part of RES’ project.

 

“I’m not getting paid by anyone except the county,” Metzger said.

 

He’s been instructed by Fulton County Attorney Greg Heller not to participate in Monday’s public hearing, in which commissioners will discuss proposed amendments to the county’s commercial wind energy zoning ordinance. That public hearing will take place after commissioners’ 6 p.m. meeting in the Community Building at the Fulton County 4-H Fairgrounds.

 

Metzger is also not to discuss the ordinance or RES’ proposed project with commissioners Bryan Lewis and Rick Ranstead.

 

Prior to announcing his recusal, Metzger was challenged by Lynn Studebaker to provide all documents, copies of emails and phone records related to wind energy conversion projects in the county. Metzger’s personal email address and phone were included in the request.

 

“I didn’t think it was worth fighting it,” Metzger said of the request. “When they start saying civil suits and stuff like that, it’s just not worth it.”

 

Metzger added that he didn’t want to disclose private information.

 

“I have no vendetta against him,” said Studebaker, adding she simply speculated there may have been a conflict of interest. “I did not request any conversations that were personal.”

 

She told The Sentinel her request included Metzger’s personal email address because she learned from a second public records request of Fulton County Area Plan Director Casi Cowles that he was receiving information on county business in that manner.

 

“I really did not feel comfortable with him voting on this issue,” Studebaker said.

 

Metzger denied using his personal email for county business but said he would use his personal cellphone to check emails when away from the office.

 

Lewis and Cowles

 

Lewis and Cowles also have been asked about potential conflicts of interest.

 

Lewis’ father, Bill, owns and operates Lewis Backhoe, an excavating contractor. Should a wind farm gain approval from county officials, there will be excavating required for road, culvert and drainage building or repair.

 

Lewis thanked The Sentinel for the question and said he did not believe there would be much, if any, benefit to his father because much of the work Lewis Backhoe does now involves directional boring, or cutting trenches for conduit and small pipes.

 

A citizen called Cowles out because there was reaction from her Facebook page to calls from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 to get members to attend public meetings pertaining to the wind rules and project.

 

“This is a strong conflict of interest,” the woman said over the telephone. She would not give her name.

 

Two posts by James Gardner, the Local 150 business representative, were liked by the Facebook account Troy and Casi Cowles.

 

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Cowles said Thursday. “I rarely get on Facebook.” They do, she said, share an account.

 

“My husband is in the Local 150. He’s been in the local 150 for many years,” Cowles said. “He’s allowed to express his opinion. Some families don’t allow their members to voice their individual opinions. In my family, that’s OK.”

 

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.

 

Officials side against wind farm

STRONG EMOTIONS The crowd’s reaction after Commission President Bryan Lewis announced that commercial wind energy conversion systems would be stricken from the county’s zoning ordinance. More than 300 people attended the public hearing Monday night in the Community Building at the Fulton County 4-H Fairgrounds. The Sentinel photo/Shelby Lopez (Read article)

Noise from Industrial Wind Turbines

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

Noise is the most common problem with industrial wind turbines. The noise from industrial wind turbines is far different than other types of noise–it is low frequency and constant, like a hog exhaust fan which is then punctuated by rumbles and thumping as the blades swoosh past the tower. Wind turbine noise is often likened to “a jet engine which never lands”.

Wind turbines cause issues and dangers at far lower decibel readings than other common noise generators such as cars and farm machinery. In addition, those items “come” and “go”, yet
neighbors are subjected to wind turbine noise 24/7/365.

Excessive noise results in sleep disturbance, which is noted by ALL medical research as a serious health risk. Noise, especially nighttime noise, is associated with an increase in stress hormones leading to hypertension, stroke, heart failure, and immune problems.

The currently proposed decibel level for Fulton County is 50. This is equivalent to standing
directly beside a running clothes dryer 24 hours a day. Do you want your dryer running beside your ear while you watch tv? Do you want your dryer running beside the headboard of your bed? How about while you read to your child?

Because the sound generated by industrial wind turbine is low frequency, it can actually be worse inside of your house, since the walls and windows act as conduits of the noise.

Fulton County needs to set their wind turbine decibel level so that IT PROTECTS HE
HEALTH, WELFARE, AND SAFETY OF ITS CITIZENS. The current nighttime average in
quiet, rural Fulton County is 25 decibels or less. A level of 50 is far too loud and will harm and
endanger the health of our residents.

The National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization, along with many other
medical researchers, recommend a noise level no higher than 30 decibels inside the home, and no higher than 40 decibels outside the home. 50 decibels is NOT safe!!

Submitted by resident of Fulton County

Fulton County turbines taller than all skyscrapers in Indianapolis…

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

Aaron Ault, resident of Liberty Township of Fulton County presented on behalf of Fulton County, IN Property Rights group at the Public Meeting held by the County Commissioners on Thursday, November 9, 2017 in Fulton, IN. Mr. Ault is a Distinguished Alumnus of Caston School Corporation. This video was recorded by Nanette Sherrick and originally posted on her Facebook page and is republished here with her permission.

 

Take the time to watch!

Posted by Nanette Sherrick on Friday, November 10, 2017

Former commissioner tells about wind farms

(This was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 3, 2017.)

Voice of the People

To the Editor; I recently read that Fulton County was presented information about a possible wind farm project. Tipton County went down this path in 2011.

We visited White and Benton Counties and heard nothing but great things. We also visited Iroquois County, Illinois to look at their roads. As a county commissioner, I was able to secure many positives for the county, but I missed a few things.

Setbacks: I did not take into account that the “standard” towers in Benton & White counties at 350’ in height with an ordinance setback from non-participating landowners of 1000’ should not apply ‘across the board’ in other counties where turbine heights were going to be 500’ and over. The taller the tower, the greater the setback should be and it should always be from the property line and never from the residential structure, as that limits the property owner full use of his/her property for outdoor use. A local government should never use a non-participating land owners’ own property as part of the setback (as in measurement from the structure) because a person should be protected via a setback from all locations of their own property. The non-participating citizens who are affected by the presence of the towers should not have to bear the ill effects of the turbines without compensation. Since I have now experienced first-hand the noise and shadow flicker in the homes of non-participating landowners at distances of even 1500 feet away, I would recommend a 1/2 mile setback from the property line of any non-participating land owner. A zoning ordinance allows people to do things on their own property, but it is also to protect adjacent owners. Some say that disallowing wind farms deprives a property owner of economic use of the land and is thereby an unconstitutional taking of private property without just compensation. However, that concept must be balanced by the fact that zoning regulations governing adequate setbacks are in place due to an obligation to insure public health and safety. Because this “economic development project” covers such a large geographical area of your county and affects numerous citizens, you cannot treat it the same way as another project that is confined to a few acres and affects only very few people. Protection of neighboring property values and enhancing the livability of your residents are the primary objective of the zoning ordinance and are of paramount importance to the overall “general welfare” of your county. In this case, you have many property owners affected by the project and their welfare should be prioritized over the deprivation of a few property owners’ land use for financial gain.

Property Values: The property values of the fields where the turbines are located will increase since the lease payment would be a ‘given’ every year. Shockingly, the wind company pursuing you is offering landowners far less per turbine than

what our landowners received! However, the property values of the non-participating landowners within even a mile of the turbines will decrease. It may not show in the “assessed value,” but the stark reality is that the pool of people interested in living in a home close to the turbines is far less than those interested in homes far away from the turbines.

Jobs: No one in our county was qualified for the permanent jobs and the 200 “local” jobs were given to union workers 50 miles away.

Community Partnership: The first year the company gave some sizable donations to various not for profits and philanthropies, but after that were absent from the community.

Tile Ditching: In the project area, tile ditchers experience laser and GPS equipment failure due to the magnitude of the voltage that is exuding from the underground cables. While trenching, they find that the dirt is an eerie gray “fried looking” color. If the location maps of the cables are not perfect, and because the high voltage disables the equipment’s technology, the safety of the crews installing the tiles is at risk. It is a problem we never anticipated.

Other Facts: We have 69 turbines. Investment was $175 million. With abatement, company will pay $3.5 million over ten years in property taxes and $7 million in the next ten. Our financial consultant conveyed that for the average “Joe”, this would amount to a $25 per year decrease in their property tax bill. Even those living in town who do not have a constant visual of the turbines, this was not worth a complete change in their landscape. You can see the towers in the daylight easily from 8 miles away. At night you can see the red blinking lights from 15 to 20 miles away.

The truth is that the turbines affect nearly everyone in your county in some way and it will most assuredly divide your community because the presence of the turbines are a constant reminder of the strife.

We have had three blade breaks in the 69 turbines. Our ordinance of a 1,000 foot setback was inadequate in protecting our non-participating citizens and their testimonials of despair are real. After seeing what this project did to Tipton County both aesthetically and to the quality of life for some, Clinton County, which has the highest wind speeds in the state, tabled turbines. Howard and Grant Counties voted to terminate their relationship with the same wind company for “Phase II”. Marshall and Hamilton Counties banned turbines. Many other counties increased setbacks to one-half mile for non-participating land owners. These neighboring counties learned a valuable lesson from our experience. Remember that you cannot “lose” money you never had coming into the county.

We were the guinea pig for the taller towers locating in a county with a weak ordinance. The company knew that many non-participants would be affected but they would never have to live in the same community with these folks and witness how the turbines have ruined their lives.

But I DO remain amongst the towers and live amongst the people who are adversely affected by them and deeply regret having signed the documents enabling the construction of the wind farm.

This is why I am sharing my experience with you all … so that you will not have to regret being a part of facilitating something that is a “windfall” to a few, but a curse to many. If you feel that the positives will outweigh the negatives for your county, then by all means at least incorporate greater setbacks to protect your non participating landowners who were “there first,” and make sure other aspects of your ordinance are “airtight” with respect to how complaints are handled and how and who enforces the provisions of your ordinance. Our ordinance was extremely weak, and our naivete was taken advantage of.

I wish you all the best in what may lie ahead. I reach out to you for only one reason: I wish someone had done the same for me.

Respectfully, Jane Harper
Tipton County Commissioner 2009-2012