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Hays wind farm: profits for a few — environmental degradation for all  

The proposed wind farm west of Hays, Kansas (in western Kansas) will represent a nightmare development for everyone living in the area. It is not a project driven by local needs, nor will it represent a net benefit to the Hays community.

It is a project driven by individual and corporate greed that will export both the power and the profits. It is a four-year old conspiracy by a handful of greedy landowners to make huge profits and saddle this community with an ecological catastrophe for perpetuity. Representing only a few families, all inter-related by marriage, these people have been planning and pushing for such a project for at least four years now and they appear about to realize their dream – at the expense of their neighbors and the environment of the Hays community.

The major beneficiaries of this project do not even live on the actual land affected, but they will make substantial annual income from each tower AND get a break on their property taxes while small land holders like ourselves receive absolutely nothing by way of compensation for all the numerous ‘externalities’ associated with this form of energy generation. These negative impacts are guaranteed to reduce property values for everyone else living in the area. Most of this power will probably be sold east to Topeka and Kansas City, so why don’t they build the farm closer to the demand? Because they were run out of town, that’s why.

The term ‘wind farm’ is a deceptive euphemism for an environmental insult – there is nothing ‘green’ about the power they produce. There is not a single community that has ever hosted such a development that has not lived to regret it. Here is some of what I have discovered, with the help of my wife and others.

1. Wind Power is NOT ‘Green Energy’. At least not yet. Although touted by supporters as ‘environmentally friendly’, wind energy is extremely inefficient, and will increase rather than reduce the need for additional coal-fired energy production in the vicinity of Hays due to its need for a reliable backup power supply. Furthermore, diesel engines are required to ‘kick-start’ turbines that have come to rest. A tower must be in operation for 7 years just to recover the carbon footprint of its installation. The lifetime of towers is still a matter for speculation, but abandoned windmills that have outlived their usefulness litter stretches of the California landscape, leaking toxic fluids and heavy metals. No one wants to touch these things.

2. Why Hays Kansas? The selection of this site was not based on what is best for the Hays community but on what is most convenient for the developing corporation – proximity to the Hays power grid for distributing the power. Less populated areas further west are a much more socially acceptable choice for this type of development.

3. Lack of Local Need. The purpose of this development is not to supply local energy needs, but rather to generate income for an out-of-state corporation that will exploit tax breaks for an otherwise unprofitable project and then sell the power to the highest bidder. The bulk of the power and the profits will be exported – except for the blood money that will be paid to the local farmers who have sold out.

4. Property Values. Abundant evidence suggests that wind farms reduce property values in their vicinity by up to 30%. What compensation will be offered to landowners who are negatively impacted by this development, yet have no towers or income from the project? Surveys in Illinois indicate 74% of people familiar with turbines would not build or buy within ¼ mile of one.

5. Lack of Regulations Ensuring Corporate Responsibility. There is a complete lack of federal standards regulating the operation, maintenance, and environmental responsibilities of wind farms. Neither the EPA nor the NIH have established standards for wind farm operation that protect human health and safety. This burden of responsibility rests entirely on the municipalities that host these developments. Any unforeseen problems arising from this development will be a burden for our local government to bear in perpetuity.

6. Inadequate Setbacks. A setback of towers 1,000 feet from existing residences, as proposed, is nowhere near adequate to protect residences from all the externalities associated with wind power generation. Numerous studies of existing wind farms suggest that setbacks from residences should be 1.5 to 2 miles at least. In Illinois, 40% of people living 0.5 miles from a turbine still complain about noise.

7. Noise Pollution. Noise is the No. 1 complaint of those living near wind farm operations. Low-frequency vibrations often penetrate buildings. Even well-maintained turbines create noise, but if not properly maintained even worse noise is generated. There is no legal recourse for residents if operators are lax in maintenance.

8. Hydrological Risks. Towers must be installed on deep foundations with substantial potential for water table contamination. We already live in a geographic region of ‘negative water recharge’ – we are depleting our aquifers faster than they are being replenished – and these installations will further endanger our precious local water supply.

9. Visual Pollution (day and night). Destruction of our prairie landscape by visually intrusive towers is obvious, but nighttime light pollution by flashing strobe lights will also degrade the pristine nighttime experience and make it more difficult to view familiar astronomical features most of us have come to take for granted.

10. Air Quality Issues. Elevated levels of airborne dust result from turbine rotation, increasing particulate air pollution. Airborne dust is already a major health concern in this area and a wind farm can only exacerbate this human health hazard. The location of these towers has the potential to create huge summer dust storms driven by southerly winds that could easily close stretches of I-70.

11. Wildlife Hazards. Numerous hazards to wildlife have been identified, to migrating birds, in particular. Hunting is an important local recreation and source of revenue that could be negatively impacted.

12. Human Health Risks. Numerous direct and indirect impacts of wind farms on human health are being studied all over the world in locations where wind energy projects have been in place for years. Negative impacts on human health can be both physiological and psychological and are still being evaluated. There are allegations of spontaneous hemorrhaging menstrual irregularities, urinary and digestive problems, and infertility.

13. Hazards to Cattle. There are various examples of negative impact on grazing cattle that include weight loss, inexplicable bleeding and spontaneous abortions.

14. Interference with Telecommunication and Satellite Signal Reception. Residents in the vicinity of wind farms consistently report interference with satellite TV reception and loss of cell phone service. This will have both economic and social impact on all affected residents.

15. Lack of Socio-Economic Benefits. Independent research indicates that wind farm projects have a very poor record of development in the communities that choose to host them. Despite promises of local employment, most jobs usually go to out-of-state contractors and there is little, if any, investment in basic infrastructure.

16. Increased Heavy Vehicle Traffic. This will persist for the extended construction period. More than 100 tons of concrete are poured for the base of each tower. By my estimation, some 300,000 tons of rock must be quarried, crushed and trucked for all the access roads and concrete foundations. Additional permanent traffic will be associated with tower maintenance.

Where is the Environmental Impact Plan that any reasonable governmental authority would require?

Where are the studies to assess the social consequences for this region?

They do not exist.

The ‘back-door’ nature of this deal appears to have easily circumvented any reasonable assessment of this project’s impact on the community.

If the Ellis County Zoning Commission approves this project they will be selling out the residents of this community and blighting our landscape for eternity. The $600,000 annual contribution to the county budget is nothing more than a corporate bribe that could evaporate at a moment’s notice. It is a laughable pittance when compared to the negative impacts of this development, and nowhere near enough to offset the permanent damage it will do to our environment. It is precisely the job of the Zoning Commission to defend the interests of the community as a whole – not simply bow to the interests of a handful of greedy landowners seeking personal profit. To those who would whore out their land for this project, we have only one question. What kind of citizen puts their own personal greed ahead of the environmental health and safety of their neighbors and their community? We strongly urge every citizen of Hays with a concern for their environment and quality of living to stand up against this proposed environmental atrocity.

Concerned citizens should sign the petition that simply requests a moratorium on this development until such time as reasonable environmental and economic impact assessments can be made. I should have it up and running shortly on this site.

Posted by J.P. Michaud


26 March 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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