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By courtesy of Rock County Tax-Payers for a Better Renewable Energy Plan
Interview with Larry Wunsch, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. See transcript below (again, thanks to Better Plan).
Q. What can you tell us about your experience of what’s happened here?
This project started about four years ago when they first came into the area here. A lot neighbors in the area got wind of this kind of late. In fact I first found out about this when a person from the company came here on my property and asked me if I wanted to host some of the turbines.
And then we investigated over the course of the next couple of months and found out the size of the project and how close the turbines could be to my property and of course there were a lot of questions and especially there were a lot of issues. And as we got into it we found that the energy company was lying to the board, they had the board bought into the project, it is a state project, in other words it has to be approved by the state public service commission – and it just seemed like we were a small group trying to fight this– it was big money and we just didn’t have the resources or the money to continue the fight.
And, well, as you can see I have one 1100 feet from my house. Issues that we’ve heard about from other people who live in wind farms– shadow flicker, noise,– for instance this one (points to the turbine)
(Interviewer: I can hear the noise, it’s quite loud, I don’t know if the camcorder is picking it up or not– and you say it gets much louder when it’s winder? There’s not much wind today–)
There’s only about ten mile an hour winds and when the winds are like 15 and gusting, it sounds like a jet engine on a taxi way of an airport is what it sounds like.
The shadow flicker– (points to turbine) that is the west direction– and the sun gets right behind it. This time of year it gets right behind it. (Video shows sweeping shadows going over the entire house, outbuildings and surrounding property) So I have a blade flicker that flickers over everything in the house here. I have a sun room off the back of the house where it looks like someone is flashing a camera. Now maybe some people can adjust to that, but I can’t. My wife and I have a real hard time with this. We have a lot of money invested in our property. This our home, everything we have is invested in this property , and I guess the change from that (points to turbine) to what we had is the problem we’re dealing with.
Q: You mentioned that if the windows are open in your house you’d hear this noise on a windy day can you describe when you hear it at night, would it wake you up at night?
Here’s what the difference is. When you walk out in the field you can hear the wind through your ears, but if you stand inside my bedroom which is off the front of the house here, you’re standing in a completely quiet environment. And if I open up my windows (points to turbine) that’s the sound I hear. I don’t wind running through my bedroom. I’m hearing the sound of the turbine. So people will say “Well I went to a wind farm project, and we listened and it wasn’t that bad.”
But you’ve got to be in an environment where it’s quiet and you open up the windows. That’s where our argument is about the noise. And not only this one (points to turbine) but even ones that are farther away– some of those out 2000 feet, I can still hear those today.
Q. How big of a project is this? How many turbines are here?
The project is cleared for over 100 megawatts. The project is 133 wind turbines. They have 88 of them up now, this is Phase One, they are going into a Phase Two. So with the setbacks they could actually put more into our township. I don’t know. I sure hope they don’t do that.
Q: Have you talked to some of your neighbors in the area? How are they impacted and what are their thoughts on this project?
We have a group of neighbors that has pitted [members of] the township against each other. If you drive through our township you’ll see signs that say “Good Neighbors Don’t Put up 400 Foot Wind Turbines” You know, it’s all about money. It doesn’t have anything to do with renewable energy. And I think the people who are hosting them are aware of that. But you know– there are definitely two sides to the township.
Q: How many people would you say are impacted by this development?
There’s probably– I’m guessing in our township– and we have this in the corner of our town– I’m guessing we have about 20 to 30 landowners that are impacted. There are only about eight that are hosting the the turbines. So the rest are non hosters, is what it is. People will argue that we’re “Not In My Back Yard” people, but I would ask that when you go up to someone who advocates wind turbines, especially the developers ask them if they have a wind turbine 1100 feet from their house. Ask them – when they get out of their house, where ever they live, how many wind turbines they see.
Q. What are your thoughts on how issues were handled at the local government level?
The whole board– now remember this– in the town of Byron, Fond du Lac county here, all three board members do not live in the project. They live in the outskirts of the project. The six people on the board of appeals that decides on the project– none of them can see the project, so that gives you a little bit of insight as to how that was decided.
Q. Do you have anything else you want to add insofar as what it’s done to the community or how people feel about it?
My recommendation to anyone looking at wind development is to take their time and study things. Research it out. There’s a lot of stuff out there. Wind development in the country is fairly new. In the state of Wisconsin, this is the first project of this size. They’ve had smaller projects but– this was “Slam, Bang, Boom, sign this, sign this, let’s get this project going, and we never took the time to research property values, which we asked for– a property value protection plan– which they said “We can’t really do that, we’ll never get the financing”– which was a bunch of BS. They could have done that for us. That would have put me more at ease, knowing if I couldn’t sell my property I would have a back up plan.
Q: … There is a big push for a certain percentage of renewable energy by a certain date– what are your thoughts on that?
There’s a leading manufacturer who employs five hundred people in the city of Fond du Lac. They use 20 megawatts of electricity. That’s their normal production need. These are GE 1.5 megawatts and they need a 30 mile an hour wind– almost a 30 mile an hour wind to produce 1.5 megawatts. You need 15 of these, turning in a 30 mile an hour wind operating at 100% efficiency in order to power one leading manufacturer in Fond du Lac. The state of Wisconsin wants 10% of the states electrical to come from wind turbines? It don’t happen.
I researched this stuff. WInd turbines are nothing but a scam– in my vision– the rate payer and the tax payers are paying for this. My electrical went up 8% already, we’re going to be paying for these things and certain small share holders are going to be making millions of dollars.
Q: What about jobs, we hear a lot jobs, about how this is going to be good for the economy– and they’re going to bring a lot of jobs to the area.
This project– the construction started in September. Was pretty much wrapped up by mid-January, February, with one major construction company, and I’m sure there were a lot of jobs, I mean it gave jobs for three or four months. Now it’s done. So they’ll have a maintenance group– and I wouldn’t have an idea how many– I would think a maintenance group to look after 133 wind turbines consisting for about 8 people– so they are providing work for 8 people here with this project?
Q: Are these local jobs? Around the area? Do you know?
That I’m not sure of.
Q: Do you have anything else you want to add?
I willing to give my name and help people out. Like I said, this is going to affect our life and I’m outspoken, I’m afraid to talk about it. I’m not trying to grind an ax here, I just want to make sure people understand that if a wind turbine gets placed 1100 feet from their house– I want them to understand it’s a possible impact not just on their lives but on the lives of [others living ] where they wind turbine is going to be.
Q: So what you’re saying is 1100 feet isn’t far enough away.
No. If it was a mile– I think that I could live with it. Even though I don’t like it– like I said I think it’s a scam– its a fleecing of America to tell you the truth, but if it was a mile away I could probably live with it. But 1100 feet, no. I can’t.
Q: Could they come into a community like this and put them up at a greater setback?
They could but, state statute– now, remember the energy companies in 2001 lobbied to create a state statute that produced a model ordinance that said they could put them up to a 1000 feet [from homes].
Of course the board that put this together was energy company officials. It wasn’t me, or a town chairman or anybody like that.
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