As the debate over “Wind Farms” continues, and is now into court, I cannot help but wonder why it has progressed this far dividing neighbors, friends and families. I also reflect on how the whole ordeal, which has put much undue stress on all parties involved, could have been avoided had our County Board followed normal protocol regarding the granting of Special Use Permits. Last fall, when the hearing for Special Use Application was in front of the County Zoning Board of Appeals, there were several long nights of testimony from both sides. After all testimony was heard, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-1 to deny the application. At that point, in normal county procedure, the issue is over and the applicants must wait a year to apply again. However, in this case, our County Board leadership decided to be above the norm and overturn the Zoning Board of Appeal’s recommendation forcing themselves and the county into imminent litigation.
Since that time there has been much controversy over the health and safety, the revenue generation and distribution, real estate values, and the decommissioning of the wind turbines. Our County Board has not done very well in answering these issues or communicating their plans for implementation. It was decided at one point that in order for the “Wind Farms” to proceed with the application for Special Use, a Property Value Guarantee be put in place to guard residents within the proposed Wind Generation Facility footprint from losing value on homes if they chose to sell. This plan was to be a collaborative effort between the opposing residents and the “Wind Farm” representatives. The plan, however as proposed to the County Board Planning Commission, was very one-sided to favor the “Wind Farms” and has since been rescinded by members of the Planning Commission because “we (the County Board) don’t owe those people (the residents) anything.” Here is where I have a real concern about the representatives with that attitude… our County Board members are elected officials voted on by the people and for the people, but there are those who have become self-serving individuals who put their own self interests ahead of the people living in our county.
As the controversy heated last fall never did a County Board member call or stop by to discuss my, or any of my neighbors concerns or to actually see the proximity of the proposed turbine locations to our homes. Then, when we began to call board members to explain these concerns, the Chairman issued a “gag order” which disallowed any further discussion with any board member on matters regarding wind turbines. At first I was angry, then I sort of laughed at how ludicrous and completely cowardly it was. To think that our group of law abiding, tax-paying residents had that much influence that our county leaders had to create a means to limit democracy so their vote would prevail truly disappointed me.
I have also decided to write this editorial to address the many questions that I have frequently been asked about why I am so opposed to “Wind Farms.” Let me preface this by saying that neither I nor any of my neighbors are opposed to wind energy generation.
1. Wind is not “free” energy.
Although wind is “green” or clean energy it is not free energy. The cost to construct the turbine towers and the associated infrastructure is several million dollars. Then there is the added cost for the county to maintain and patrol the dead end access roads which lead to each tower.
2. These “Wind Farms” will not reduce our electric costs.
The energy produced by the wind turbines will be piped into ComEd’s main grid and dispersed where the major need is. In reality, ComEd must buy this power whether needed or not and these additional costs will be passed onto the consumer… a.k.a. all of us. The worst part is that the wind facilities have no way to store electricity for use at peak times so on that hot humid August day chances are there won’t be enough wind to turn the turbines to create electricity to support the need.
3. “Wind Farms” will not create surplus revenue for the county.
The “Wind Farms” may generate some revenue but much of it will be in the form of government subsidies that will go into the pockets of the “Wind Farm” investors. There is still, to my knowledge, no documented plan on how the county and township municipalities are to be compensated by the construction of the wind generation facilities. We have heard “payment in lieu of taxes” but have not seen any detailed plan for dollar amounts or percentages. This is a very important matter especially for school districts that base their fiscal budget on the tax dollars and grant money for each year.
4. “Wind Farms” will not benefit the future generations.
This is a point that most people have overlooked. Many have the belief that we are bettering the world by allowing the construction of the wind facilities. In fact, what we are doing is scarring our county landscape forever. At some point these turbine towers will become outdated or inoperable, then, they must be decommissioned. Once decommissioned it becomes the responsibility of the landowner to deconstruct the tower at their expense. Is that the benefit we want for the next generation? In most cases the cost will be too much for the landowner to bear and the towers (nearly 400 ft. tall) will slowly decay causing health and safety problems.
5. Health and safety concerns.
In Lancaster Township there are over 70 residences located within the wind facility footprint and several more bordering the plan. Many participants are non-resident landowners, some even from out of state. The opposing residents have varying concerns of their health and safety living in such close proximity to the turbines.
There is a noise concern which is regulated by government safeguards and, to my latest knowledge, has not been approved on the turbine model proposed for the Lancaster facility.
There is a sunlight strobe effect which is a real annoyance and can cause severe headaches and nausea especially to those who suffer migraines. An example of this is to blink your eyes every 1.5 seconds for 1 minute… that is what it is like on a sunny day where the shadow of the rotating blades can cast on residences for several hours forcing people into their homes and closing the blinds.
The concern of stray voltage, which is a deep concern of livestock farmers especially those who operate dairy farms. It is true that the wind turbines do not create stray voltage however, the several feet of underground cable that carry the electricity from the towers to the substation will definitely raise the potential for stray voltage.
6. Decrease of residential property values.
During the ZBA hearing last fall the “Wind Farm” representatives brought in experts to say that there is no adverse affect on home values from the construction of wind generating facilities. What we have learned since is that studies for determining these real estate values are done in a 10 mile radius of the wind facility. So, granted , if a “Wind Farm” is built near Dakota residences in Freeport will most likely not be affected. However, other studies have determined that home values within one to three miles of these facilities can decrease 30 percent to 50 percent.
These are some real concerns that have not been resolved and really must be addressed before we should allow our county officials to make judgments on our welfare. If there are others who share these concerns you should exercise your right to express those concerns to the County Board representatives.
Finally, I sincerely appreciate Ron Schrader speaking out to admit he made a hasty decision by signing up for the wind turbines without regard for his neighbors. I only wish that there was more foresight than hindsight in this whole matter.
By Tom Moyer
The Journal Standard
26 May 2007
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