While they don’t have an official voice in the debate over a proposed wind turbine farm in Union Township, the Champaign County commissioners are getting educated about the issue.
The commissioners spoke with Amy Gombert of Environment Ohio during their regular meeting Thursday and plan to take a trip to Bowling Green to view a wind turbine operation.
“We thought we should see it for ourselves,” said Commissioner Bob Corbett.
The commissioners will depart for the Wood County operation around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 22.
Gombert said Environment Ohio is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization that used to be known as the Public Interest Research Group.
“We spent many years trying to clean up pollution,” she said. “We wanted to find something we could be out promoting.”
Renewable sources of energy, including wind, solar power and biofuels, fit the bill, she said.
“We have pretty significant wind resources, according to the new maps released by the Department of Energy a few weeks ago,” Gombert said.
Gombert said Environment Ohio supports wind power as a way to reduce air pollution and touted it as a “clean, consistent” source of energy.
Commissioner Steve Hess asked Gombert about various concerns that have been brought up in the Union Township discussions, such as light flickering off the turbine blades, noise and property value impacts.
“Those are the things we hear,” he said. “It’s an information gathering process for us.”
Gombert said those topics have been the subject of several researchers as wind turbine operations have become more popular the past few years.
“The best way to understand is to experience it for yourself,” she said. “The technology has improved enormously. Some people are uncomfortable with it because it’s new and anything new is scary. A lot of it is in the eye of the beholder because others see it as taking advantage of a renewable resource in your area. There has been backlash in some communities, but others like Bowling Green have embraced it.”
Corbett said he believes wind power offers the potential to reduce dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.
Commissioner Max Coates said while the county does not have jurisdiction over what is currently a township zoning issue, wind power could become a county or state-level concern, especially if Ohio passes legislation, as some other states have done, to mandate renewable energy sources.
“There has to be some compromise,” Coates said. “We’re open-minded about the issue and open to different points of view. Discussion and compromise is the only way it’s going to be resolved.”
By Breanne Parcels
The Urbana Daily Citizen
18 May 2007
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