Critics contend plans for Green River Wind Farm Phase I, which call for building nine wind turbines and a substation in Whiteside County, conflict with the county ordinance by failing to specify the size of the wind turbines and failing to include a decommissioning plan, among other issues.
The state Department of Natural Resources report notes that construction and excavation for the turbines and substation “run a high risk of injuring or killing unobserved animals,” including the hognose snakes and box turtles.
In addition, new roads would be built to serve each turbine. Those strips of pavement “pose a significant threat” to turtles, which use the roads as basking areas and pathways. Shank also stated that shadow flicker “may mimic the movement of both aerial and terrestrial predators,” which could stress the snakes and turtles and inhibit feeding and breeding.
The report is a little more general in offering potential threats to the regal fritillary butterfly. Shank states that “fairly extensive areas of potentially suitable habitat” exist in and near the footprint of the Green River project and urges wind turbine developers to restore habitat nearby.
The area where zoning overlaps with environmental issues is what most concerns Greg Wahl and Deb Murphy.
Wahl is chairman and chief executive officer of Wahl Clipper Corp., a company that makes hair clippers and other grooming products. Also an amateur ecologist involved in native prairie restoration, he owns about 143 acres directly across the road from the planned wind farm site. His acreage includes 22 acres considered “virgin prairie,” untouched by settlement.
Among his many concerns about the wind farm proposal, Wahl said Green River has a limited view on the impact. Shadow flicker, noise and other wind turbine effects reach much farther than the company acknowledges, Wahl said.
He opposes the project outright, but as a compromise is asking the county to move the wind turbines and substation at least a half-mile from environmentally sensitive areas. Green River opposes that change.
Wahl also maintains that county officials may be overwhelmed by the depth of issues facing them. They need to “take a deep breath and think about what’s best. There are so many issues,” he said, “that people just haven’t had enough time to sort everything out.”
Murphy, whose family has lived in a farmhouse directly across the road from the wind turbine site for more than a century, said the plan would place two turbines less than a half-mile from her door. A third would be less than three-quarters of a mile away from her home. The substation is about 800 feet from her.
“I’m not just a little dot on the map,” Murphy said. “I’m a person with a house.”
She said she doesn’t understand why the turbines must be placed precisely where they are proposed, and she worries her property values and quality of life will plummet.
“My first gut reaction is tears,” Murphy said. “This place is heaven to me and honestly, all this scares me to death. It makes me so sad, more than anything.”